In the 38th paragraph — 38th! — of his long Christian Post report on a recent Washington DC event, Samuel Smith writes this:
Orbán’s government has received much criticism because of its “anti-immigration” stance and rhetoric as over 25 million people throughout the world are living as refugees in search of safety from violence in their homelands. Critics argue that Orbán’s administration is promoting a narrative of “ethnocentrism.”
And that’s it. That buried snippet is all the context and background on Viktor Orbán and Hungary that the Christian Post provides for its readers. Those unnamed, argumentative critics are never quoted in the article — the only quotation marks Smith allows them are the dismissive scare-quotes he places around “anti-immigration” and “ethnocentrism.” And the substance of any such criticism is quickly dispatched in the following paragraph — which cites a story from Breitbart News.
The rest of the report — “‘Make Families Great Again’: Hungary seeing more babies, fewer abortions through pro-family policies” — is a glowing love letter to the glorious “pro-family” policies of Hungary and its faithful, visionary leader. All presented for white evangelical readers through a lens of The Politicians We Approve Of Approve Of These People, So We Should Approve Of These People Too:
White House officials, Republican members of Congress and evangelical leaders gathered Thursday for “Making Families Great Again,” a conference on family policy hosted by the Hungarian Embassy at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Led by President Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz Party, Hungary has become a poster child for passing nationalist pro-family policies over the last several years.
With nearly a decade-worth of data, Hungarian officials claimed Thursday that policies instituted over the last several decades that have incentivized marriage and childbirth have helped boost marriage and birth rates in Hungary at a time many countries struggle with those issues.
The rest is basically a lightly edited press release from Orbán’s government, touting the successes of his glorious programs and policies to revitalize the ethnic purity and ethnic strength of his nation’s Herrenvolk democracy.
For a more honest and accurate assessment of Orbán and his ideology, let me recommend some background reading:
• “Viktor Orbán’s Far-Right Vision for Europe” by Elizabeth Zerofsky in The New Yorker
• “‘The Most Dangerous Man in the European Union’” by Paul Lendvai in The Atlantic
• “It happened there: how democracy died in Hungary” by Zach Beauchamp for Vox
Here is a taste of Beauchamp’s piece:
Over the course of his eight years in power, Prime Minister Orbán has chipped away at the foundations of Hungarian democracy. It has been replaced with an authoritarian regime that wields a cynical interpretation of the law as a weapon; the country is governed by rules like the border journalism permits, regulations that can seem reasonable on their face but actually serve to undermine essential democratic freedoms.
Elections there are free, in the sense that the vote counts aren’t nakedly rigged. But they are unfair: The government controls the airwaves and media companies to such a degree that the opposition can’t get a fair hearing. Orbán’s party, Fidesz, stands up bogus opposition parties during parliamentary elections as a means of dividing the anti-Fidesz vote. In April 2018, Fidesz won the national elections, cementing Orbán’s hold on power; international monitors concluded that the opposition never really had a fair chance.
Hungary’s civil society looks free and vibrant on paper, but a patchwork of nonsensical regulations makes it nearly impossible for pro-democracy organizations to do their work. The economy seems to be growing, but a significant number of corporations are controlled by Orbán’s cronies.
An unending drumbeat of propaganda, from both official state outlets and the private media empires of Orbán allies, demonizes refugees and Muslims, warning of an existential threat to Hungarian society and culture — and touting the Orbán regime as the only thing protecting the country from an Islamic takeover. This trumped-up crisis serves as a legitimation tool for Fidesz’s authoritarianism, a pretext for the government to pass laws undermining its opponents.
Call it “soft fascism”: a political system that aims to stamp out dissent and seize control of every major aspect of a country’s political and social life, without needing to resort to “hard” measures like banning elections and building up a police state.
This is what the Christian Post is praising. It’s what “White House officials, Republican members of Congress and evangelical leaders” were celebrating at the event Smith’s “report” celebrates.
Orbán’s authoritarian rule is based on the false promise of Herrenvolk democracy — a system that promises rights and freedoms exclusively for the chosen ethnic in-group, while excluding those same rights and freedoms from everyone else. It is a false promise — in Hungary now and everywhere else it has ever been practiced — because any regime with the power and legal authority to deny rights and freedoms to ethnic/religious/sexual minorities also has the power and legal authority to deny them to anyone else if they so choose. It is a false promise because the rights it offers to the ethnic elect are not rights at all, but privileges. And privileges, unlike rights, can be rescinded at any time, for any reason.
Herrenvolk democracy is also false because it is based on the lie that all people are not created equal, that only some particular ethnic groups are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights. Those other people are demonized as a threat to freedom and prosperity and as the source of every problem facing real, true, ethnically pure citizens. For Orbán, the Other includes immigrants — Muslim refugees especially — and of course Jews, because the demonic Other of Herrenvolk democracy always includes Jews.
Why do white evangelicals in America find Orbán’s ideology of Herrenvolk democracy so appealing? Because their religion is, itself, a Herrenvolk religion — a white faith, a faith of, by, and for “white” people. Their religion and their Trumpist politics, which are indistinguishable from that religion, does not concern itself with rights or freedoms, but only with securing cultural control and privileges (“religious liberty,” “salvation”) for the select ethnic elite.
Here are some other, related, recent headlines:
- “‘Lord, Uphold Him. Protect Him From Evil’: CBN’s Pat Robertson Prays for Brazilian President Bolsonaro at Meeting with Evangelical Leaders“
- “Religious Right Excited by White House Visit of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, ‘Trump of the Tropics’“
- “Why was Franklin Graham schmoozing with a sanctioned Russian official this month?“
So, yeah, white evangelicals’ admiration for Orbán-style soft fascism is getting harder to ignore.