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Why We Shouldn’t Use The Term “Christo-Fascism”

In Chris Hedges' New York Times bestselling, Oprah-endorsed book American Fascists, Hedges repeatedly uses the term 'Christo-fascism'. Hedges essentially equates fundamentalist Christians in the deep South with Nazis and Japanese fascists. I have no love for Evangelicals — especially given … Read More

By / March 25, 2008

In Chris Hedges' New York Times bestselling, Oprah-endorsed book American Fascists, Hedges repeatedly uses the term 'Christo-fascism'.

Hedges essentially equates fundamentalist Christians in the deep South with Nazis and Japanese fascists. I have no love for Evangelicals — especially given my time among them — but it's obvious that Hedges has not read any Yukio Mishima. Fascism was directly connected with racial purity and physical prowess. Christian fundamentalism is not. If it's not okay to use the term 'Islamo-fascist' because Islamists aren't corporatists, then it's not okay to use 'Christo-fascist' because fundamentalist Christians aren't concerned with biology.

It's sad that men like Rove and Bush, who cared nothing for Evangelicals, have given Evangelicals such a bad rap that you can now reach bestseller status by calling them names. But 'Fascism' is a term with a particular meaning and reference, and shouldn't be inflated to include just any extremist movement.

It certainly shouldn't be inflated to include a movement that is not universally malign. There are some great Evangelicals like Jim Wallis, and even Mike Huckabee is intellectually honest (as per his appearance on the Tyra Banks show). During the Pastor Wright flap, Huckabee said that it was unfair to read too much into Obama's connection with Wright. That doesn't sound like the making of totalitarianism.

Those who (like me) oppose using the term 'Islamo-fascist' and opposed "Islamo-fascism Awareness Week" ought to have the intellectual consistency not to use 'Christo-fascist'. (Encouragingly, another Muslim writer, Shadi Hamid of the Project for Middle East Democracy, agrees.)

The case is different with the terms 'Islamist' and 'Christianist', frequently used in in political parlance as synonyms for 'Islamo-fascist' and 'Christo-fascist'. That conflation is mistaken. Islamism is political Islam of the non-violent variety, i.e the sustained political program by conservative Muslims to acquire — not impose — theocratic rule within their nation-state.

It is unhelpful, even from a pragmatic perspective, to collapse 'jihadism' (which refers to a violent movement) and 'Islamism'. The reason is that equating Islamism with violence ruins the opportunity to encourage post-Islamist groups — who are roughly akin to Germany's Christian Democratic Party and represent a case of Islamism defeating itself using self-evaluation. On the same grounds, if Hedges had been more careful with his language, he would have used the term 'Christianism' to apply to the Evangelicals in his book, since by his analysis, they too are seeking to acquire — not impose — theocratic rule using non-violent means.

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