When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. –Sinclair Lewis, 1935.
This article is going to be dark. I wasn’t looking forward to writing it, but I must do so. Dark as the subject matter is, it’s the light within most of us that makes us able to know when darkness is descending and take the necessary action to avoid being annihilated by it.
Education and science are under attack by an unholy alliance between right wing evangelical Christianity and far right politics. This has been going on since the late 1970s (The Moral Majority was the first obvious sign this was beginning to happen), but only now has the situation in America become critical, so critical we are fast losing our democracy and becoming a fascist state.
Protecting democracy and liberty is the primary reason why the Founding Fathers made sure the Constitution protected the separation of church and state. It’s not because these men regarded religion as a bad thing. In fact, some of them were personally quite religious. It’s because mixing the two always corrupts both. Enter politics into religion, and religion becomes authoritarian and punishing; enter religion into politics and government becomes the same way. Religio-fascist, authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan became that way because religion (in their case, Islam) was allowed to infiltrate politics without regulations to keep its excesses at bay. Islam itself became corrupted due to the influence of radical Islamists (ISIS and the Taliban) who wanted to make their religion about politics and use it as an excuse to control the people. The same thing is happening in America with certain factions of evangelical Christians (dominionists) who believe their Godly duty is to force others to think and behave the way they do.
I realize not all conservatives are like this — if I made this table, I would substitute the term “Trumpist GOP and Dominionism” for “Republicans and Conservatives.” I’d also leave out the term “Muslim” since most do not support ISIS and Sharia Law.
Unfortunately — but not surprisingly, given their belief that they have been chosen by God to “take dominion” over other mortals and the planet itself — the highest echelons of government are now populated by toxic dominionist Christians who believe tyranny and oppression is the God-ordained way to rule a nation and the only way to bring about God’s kingdom on earth. I’ve come to believe the real reason so many right wing Christians hate Muslims is because they see radical Islam as competition for their own desired Christian Taliban — it’s the same damn thing with a different name! Trump and his cronies don’t seem to hate Saudi Arabia or its richest, most powerful rulers at all (Trump seemed to be having the time of his life when the Saudis treated his arrival last spring like the arrival of a beloved king) — they only hate powerless Muslim refugees coming to America to escape from that oppressive regime. Radical Christian extremists and malignant narcissists like Trump who crave and admire only power and wealth have far more in common with regimes like Saudi Arabia’s than they do with western democracies where the people have a say in how they are governed.
Authoritarian religion –whether Christian, Islam, or some other faith system — tends to attract people with narcissistic or sociopathic personalities, and research has shown that people with these personality types also score high in authoritarian traits. Authoritarian religion provides a handy way for people without a conscience or with sadistic tendencies to justify their abuse and judgment of “the Other” — anyone who they believe is inferior to them — or anyone who threatens to shine the harsh light of the truth on them. It’s easy to say, “Well, it’s what God wants” or “it says right here in the Bible” (which more often than not, is a faulty interpretation of Scripture anyway) than to say, “I’m a sadistic SOB who wants to control you and make your life a living hell.” Malignant narcissists do not want to take responsibility for their inhumanity; they’d much rather blame it on someone else. If they can “blame” it on God, that’s even better, because then they can tell you “it’s for your own good.”
A few years ago, I had a falling out with another blogger who wrote about narcissistic abuse. We are still not on speaking terms, and probably never will be again, but recently I started to read her blog again, not just because she happens to be a good writer, but because during the past few months I’ve actually found her blog inspiring. I won’t go into all the details of what led to the falling out, but one of the reasons was because of the woman’s religion. She had made some critical — even cruel — comments about and to me, using what I felt to be her fundamentalist Christianity as a weapon of judgment and intolerance. From what I could observe from her older writings, she appeared to be stuck in a victim mentality, unable to move forward in her recovery due to her tendency to judge others harshly because of her fundamentalist Christianity. I saw no evidence of any real self awareness or willingness to self-criticize. So, at the time, I dismissed her as a covert narcissist masquerading as someone with “only” C-PTSD.
But apparently I was wrong. It seems like Trump’s election changed her in a positive way. She wrote about what she saw happening with politics and the religious right, and became increasingly critical of both. She began to realize that her fundamentalist church was infested with malignant narcissists who judged her negatively for her poverty and health problems, believing, as they did, that wealth and good health were proof of God’s approval. It wasn’t long before she ditched her fundamentalist church and began to seek answers outside religion. This actually didn’t surprise me, since I always got the impression her religion was a bad fit and she was miserable within its confines. This woman was clearly intelligent and well educated, but it was almost as if she had been trying to force herself to adapt to a restricting mold that didn’t allow her to grow as a human being. She was telling herself lies that she knew were lies, because of the fear of Hell and judgment. Freed of that, suddenly she was exploring and seeking answers in secular fields like science and psychology, and her mind seemed to blossom. At the same time this happened, she seemed to develop more tolerance and empathy toward others. Most impressive of all, she began to develop an ability to self-reflect and as a result, began to make changes to herself. Her writings indicated a new insight into herself I hadn’t seen while she was under the thrall of toxic religion. She seems happier than she ever did, and a lot less angry in general. She’s exploring old interests and talents that she had neglected while she was in that church, and more positive things seem to be happening to her now too. I’m sure being happy and using one’s mind to question and explore the world aren’t sins, and God is not judging us harshly for doing so. If God didn’t want us to ask questions or think critically about things, he would not have given us brains!
I won’t link to her blog here or even name it, due to the fact we stopped speaking several years ago, but her most recent article about the religious right’s war on science was one of her most enlightening and insightful. It was also very dark and unfortunately all too true. In it, she criticized the religious right’s scorched-earth mission of squelching all independent thought and critical thinking, which has led to an all out war on secular education itself and an accompanying celebration of ignorance and superstition.
Religio-fascist societies always attack education and science as the enemy, because the ability to think and ask questions challenges their belief system. This always leads to the decimation of civilized society and overpowering oppression, premature death, human suffering, and covert or overt genocide to “purge” the society of undesirable populations (I believe the current GOP’s tax bill and attempts to destroy the social safety net is a covert attempt to dispatch the elderly, poor, disabled, and sick). Such rigid and cruel regimes held power during the European Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church doubled as government and forbade the questioning of religion and condemned scientific thought, even sentencing scientific thinkers to be burned at the stake (the Catholic Church has since renounced and repented for this dark period in its history, and today embraces science, and since Vatican II, this includes the acceptance of evolution). It happened more recently in countries of the Middle East, with radical Islam taking over government and leading to the oppression of women, expansion of the death penalty to include personal or sexual “immorality” like homosexuality, abortion, contraception, adultery, and even a child’s disobedience to their parents; and other human rights atrocities.
Any religion whose dogma regards the fight for human rights as a sin (as dominionist Christianity and radical Islam both do), is one where God isn’t benevolent or good, but is a false entity made in the rulers’ own image: their God has become a malignant narcissist who does not care about the well-being of his creation, demands adulation and worship, and only approves of and rewards narcissistic or sociopathic behavior. Leaders of such religions shift the blame for their society’s ills to their most vulnerable or powerless members (the poor, women, immigrants, or others), gaslight their followers and those under their rule by saying that we, as humans, are unable to determine what God deems good because we are so “depraved,” and hence the means, no matter how cruel, always justify the ends. Dominionists believe that only certain “elect” (God’s “golden children”) have been given dominion over creation — with wealth and power being proof of God’s favor — and must do whatever it takes to destroy the old ways (which includes jettisoning empathy for the vulnerable) in order to usher in God’s kingdom. Apparently, they forgot about God’s grace and mercy and the earlier fundamentalist belief in free will.
The 7 “mountains” of the New Apostolic Reformation (dominionism)
There are two glaring problems with this doctrine. First of all, if humans are so depraved, why is the cruelty of certain powerful religious people okay to God but not the benevolence of others? Second, their doctrine flies in the face of everything Jesus taught in the New Testament. It’s interesting the dominionists rarely quote from the New Testament, unless it’s from the missives of Paul, who lived after Jesus and seemed to have harsher views toward women and sexual behavior than Jesus himself did. They justify cruelty by misinterpreting Scripture to fit their harsh narrative. As one example, they often use the verse, “Those who do not work do not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) as proof that Jesus was a Republican who didn’t believe in helping the poor. What Jesus actually meant was that if you are an able bodied person who can work, you shouldn’t sit on your ass expecting handouts. This is common sense! But Jesus never said we shouldn’t help people who truly are in need — in fact, the New Testament (and even parts of the Old Testament) are full of verses instructing us to care for the “least among us.” Dominionist evangelicals cherry pick from the Bible and conveniently ignore the many passages telling us to be inclusive and loving toward the most vulnerable members of society, while glorifying the the most punishing parts of the Old Testament as God’s true nature.
America today is extremely narcissistic, and celebrates narcissistic, even sociopathic, values. It’s become an orgy of malignant narcissism, and its associated traits and values (lack of empathy, arrogance, coldness, racism, sexism, sadism, bullying, dishonesty, cheating, unchecked power, greed, revenge, war, division, destructiveness, and hatred) have become synonymous with both the Trumpian Republican Party and far right Christian extremism. These two groups, thanks to Trump and his far right evangelical supporters and donors, have become increasingly merged to the point it is sometimes hard to separate one from the other. This, of course, is part of their plan — destruction of the separation between church and state would allow these sociopaths to carry out their plans to destroy or punish anyone they dislike, all in the name of God. It’s heresy of the highest order, but there are people who really believe a white, conservative, Christian society is the only kind of society acceptable to God. To them, science is a creation of Satan and critical thinking or questioning of any kind is flirting with the devil. That’s why they hate education and science so much: because only the gullible and uneducated will unquestioningly believe — and obey — such a toxic and destructive doctrine. They want obedient sheep without working brains. That’s the most effective weapon they have, and the one that will catapult us into the new Dark Age.
The “prosperity gospel” used to be a seemingly harmless, feel-good vaguely Christian doctrine that gave people permission to not feel guilty or ashamed of achieving great success or wealth, or about their desire to have those things. It held that God wanted his people to be successful in life and in fact it was their duty to strive for that. While I can’t argue that there’s anything wrong with ambition or wanting to be successful (who wants to be a poor failure?), the real problem started when the prosperity gospel (and other “positive thinking” belief systems) began to regard the emotions of guilt, remorse, and shame as something shameful in themselves. Anything went, even if to get what you wanted, you had to exploit or hurt others (which is why Ayn Rand became so popular in recent years). It wasn’t okay to feel guilty — unless you felt guilty! But guilt, though unpleasant (and unhealthy when excessive) is necessary for civilized society. The ability to feel guilt (and the related ability to feel empathy) is what separates sociopaths and narcissists from people who care about other people.
At the same time the more new-agey positive thinking movement (which also eschewed guilt and shame) was gaining steam, the prosperity gospel (basically a Christian version of the positive thinking doctrine) and Christian evangelism/fundamentalism were beginning to merge. It wasn’t long before having great power or wealth, rather than being a sign of a Pharisee or false prophet, became a sign of God’s favor. Christianity as taught by Jesus in the Gospels was turned on its head into its polar opposite! Given that sociopaths and malignant narcissists tend to be attracted to any religion that tells them their power or wealth is holy, soon the prosperity gospel took on a dark cast by demonizing those without such power or wealth as somehow sinful or even evil. The Christian Dominionist/Reconstructionist movement (which had been considered “loony fringe” ever since Rousas Rushdoony published his Institutes of Biblical Law in the 1960s), now known within evangelical circles as the New Apostolic Reformation (don’t read late at night if you don’t want nightmares), exploded into the upper echelons of the Republican Party. Suddenly, it was perfectly okay for a narcissistic sociopath like Roy Moore to run for Senate, regardless how immoral his personal behavior (in his case, alleged pedophilia and stalking teenage girls) because he also promoted the extremist Christian doctrine that fit in so well with far right Republican politics.
Both dominionist Christianity and Trumpian Republicanism are fascist movements that believe anything they do is alright, as long as it achieves their desired ends: unlimited accumulation of wealth and power (which includes unbridled corporate power), ending the right to vote for anyone who isn’t a white male property owner (this is actually part of their overall plan and explains why they don’t seem to care anymore what the public thinks), repealing the First Amendment, putting women back in the kitchen without access to contraception, removing laws that protect women and children against abusers, decimating the social safety net (getting rid of Medicare and Social Security is a big part of their agenda), denying facts and science, rolling back all protective regulations, including those that protect our planet; building walls to separate us from our allies, revising history so it supports their fascist agenda (the insistence that the Founding Fathers intended to create a Christian nation is one example of revisionist history used to justify the legislation of
Sharia biblical law), denying access to education unless it’s fundamentalist religious education, privatizing all public goods and infrastructure so nothing is free (anyone like toll roads or for-profit prisons and fire departments?), and oppressing, punishing, deporting, and killing anyone who isn’t rich, Republican, Christian, or white. How very Christ-like of them.
The means to achieve their nefarious ends simply don’t matter, no matter how immoral or how many people they hurt. It’s okay to lie, cheat, steal, break the law, deride the FBI and the Justice Department, collude or conspire with hostile foreign powers, even to the point of treason; accumulate obscene amounts of wealth on the backs of the working and middle class, emotionally harass and abuse, gaslight, blame-shift, project onto, mislead, arrest without due process, and inflict draconian punishments on others who don’t fit their ideal or who dare to speak out against such harsh treatment. They talk about “small government” but that only means small government for them — they are above the law, you see. They want to inflict a Big Brother government on all the rest of us lowly ingrates.
This is all incredibly sad and scary, but what’s even more tragic is that one third of the country is seemingly so ignorant they support Trump and his billionaire, white supremacist, and evangelical cronies’ vision for America and the world. I don’t really think they are as ignorant as they seem. I think they are perfectly well aware of the fascist hell on earth that Trump and his minions are aiming for. It’s even beginning to dawn on a few of them that maybe Russia was involved in the 2016 election, and maybe Trump did collude with them. But that doesn’t faze them one bit: now they say that maybe Russia is better than America, and that Trump was in his right to collude with them. Far right extremists and trolls are still promising civil war against the rest of us if he is removed or impeached.
No, Trumpists are not all ignorant. After reading many comments on right wing websites and studying the right wing mindset in depth over this past year, I have come to believe that people who like Trump and the new Republicanism are attracted to it precisely because it is so sociopathic. They love it for the same reasons the rest of us hate it. They don’t care if they lose their healthcare or their rights — as long as they get to see the people they hate suffer. Trumpists are people who are either narcissistic or sociopathic themselves (how else does one explain the preponderance of Internet trolls and neo-Nazis among them?), or who have severe codependency issues and look up to narcissists and sociopaths as viable leaders. They want a strongman leader and admire dictators, either because they don’t want to have to think for themselves and gain a perverse sense of security from being told exactly what they have to believe and do, or because they are narcissists and sociopaths who regard higher human values such as empathy, kindness, fairness, compassion, civility, generosity, and love as “feminine” or weak. On the contrary, it’s the strongest and most spiritually evolved people who are able to embrace these higher values and act on them. If Jesus, the embodiment of these virtues, were to walk on Earth today, he would be despised by the religious right. I’m pretty sure they would persecute him all over again.
It is not too late to nip this cancer in the bud and return to America as the land of freedom and democracy, even improving on what we had before — preferably with some new checks and balances put in place to prevent anything like this from ever happening again. But the hour is getting late and the cancer is metastasizing. One positive effect of Trumpism and the carnage it’s creating is that finally, higher human values like I mentioned in the last paragraph are being given the respect due them again. There is a general recognition by two thirds of Americans — even by traditional Republicans (both Bushes are among them) — that these values have been devalued for so long that they are now are nearly nonexistent in American politics, and demonized where they appear (compassion and kindness are now “socialism”). Narcissism has run amok, ignorance is admired, and greed has been glorified. Sociopathy is now becoming acceptable. Over time, these vices have been turned into virtues instead of the destructive forces they really are. But there’s a painful awareness now, a passion for truth, and a desire to repair or reclaim what has been lost or damaged that I see now among most people. Two thirds of us strive to be rid of the invasive cancer of societal malignant narcissism, a desire that wasn’t evident before 2017. In addition, like the narcissism blogger I discussed in the beginning of this article, some of us have been transformed spiritually in the face of this existential darkness, and in spite of the ominous threat of being silenced held over us, we are finally finding our voices.
I have to believe that good will always “trump” evil (pun intended).
It always does, in the end.