Fascism is a death cult. It does not matter what form or name it takes. It seeks absolute order and promises once achieved, if ever, every true citizen will have peace and prosperity. The other, those who seek to harm, the true citizen must be neutralized. Death is the ultimate goal. Authoritarianism cannot give life. It cannot live in peace either. There is always an enemy to be fought and destroyed. Dictatorship is the most efficient way of accomplishing it. Dictatorship held by one person or a small group of people seeks absolute obedience in the guise of loyalty. Fascism draws its power from fear by promising security. Yet, fear is enhanced while a culture of death reigns.
The Christian Masquerade
Authoritarian regimes masquerade as religion. A friend recently described her crisis of faith to me because of Christian Nationalism. Her home church does not practice or endorse any of these doctrines. But the costuming is so well done, she cannot tell the difference between the faith she has practiced her entire life from Christian Nationalism. I spent an entire career among people that left me with the thought that if they are Christian, then I am not. And yet, I realize they may be just as Christian as me. It provides no comfort.
The present model of successful churches centers on the Pastor. The CEO of the megachurch is called a shepherd. It makes me think. People do not want pastors who will force a plan or program they do not want. But they want a pastor who will use the same methods to get what they want. It is bizarre. But it explains why pastors in mega-churches are sociopaths. A desire for adulation leads to keeping the people who matter the most happy. Do what they want. Say what they want. Use their authority to manipulate them and others.
Death Cult Trappings
Violent images are the trappings of death cults. The fasces is a bundle of wood to show the strength of unity. They corrupt the cross to be a symbol of overcoming and conquering physical enemies. In the United States, it is common for anti-abortion advocates to use the images of dead fetuses. People pose and walk around with weaponry as though guns are props or jewelry.
Recent rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States, has supported these efforts. Others they have ruled in favor of appear religious. Forced prayer by public school authority figures and tax payer money going to religious schools is merely indoctrination efforts to harm those who disagree. Such measures hamper spirituality and religious life. People seek alternatives. Destruction is the result for fascist actions. Nations with a history of authoritarianism struggle to overcome it.
Fundamentalism has opposed all serious efforts at environmental conservation. James Watt, Secretary of the Interior in Ronald Reagan’s first term, argued preserving the environment is unnecessary. Jerry Falwell argued global warming was merely a plot to destroy the free enterprise system. Others claim living with less dependance on fossil fuels will be lives of deprivation.
Science is skeptical of new assertions. Experimental results and observations must be retested and replicated. While this sounds like common sense, it is actually the thought-step that gave us modernity. The fuels and methods of using them more efficiently also come from this understanding. So why do fundamentalists dismiss the findings of global climate change from the temperature increase due to burning carbon? It is because of a modern theological belief.
Surrendering to Death
The idea of Creation as a divine gift for our use is not an ancient concept. It is a modern one. Ancient people saw themselves as taking what was provided. They did not assume farming methods were guarantees of success. Many religious practices were developed by ancient people to enhance the chances of success. Ultimately, they chose to think of divinity as wise in ways they did not understand.
The scientific revolution allows modern people to see reality as elements and combinations of them. We understand a lot about the natural world because of this way of viewing. We know combustion is a chemical process. Like all chemical processes, there is residue made up of various other chemicals and elements including carbon. A whole theology of gift and use grows from this. God put fossil fuels in the ground for us to use. The same thinking extends to other forms of natural life. “What is the purpose of a cow if not for eating?” And thereby deny any sense of natural history, processes, and the changes we might make to them. All that comes from this way of thinking is death. Use and die. Let live and let die.
Theology of Life
Anti-abortion advocates claim to seek a culture of life. Well, so do I. But I disagree with how they think about it. A theology of life is possible. There are many different approaches to it. I can not add to it here. John Cobb, Jr., Sally McFague, Thomas Berry, and Leonardo Boff are good people to start with if a reader wants to learn more.
The treadmill is now thought of as a piece of exercise equipment. Most people talk about ignoring theirs. The 19th century thought of a treadmill as a means of harnessing the energy of the poor, prisoners, and orphans to do production work. The treadmill is the symbol of working life in Industrial societies. Treadmill work often killed the worker. The society that gives rise to the culture of death means to use human beings in the same way as any other resource. It always has. The death cult makes these methods more efficient. It will never make anything better.
The good news is that more people seek life than death. Churches can begin to offer life-giving community if we decide to stop controlling community.