Christo-fascism and power is knowledge

Joseph Orosco today posts some good thoughts on Carolyn Baker’s review of Chris Hedges’s new book American Fascism: The Christian Right And The War On America.

Joseph ends his post by asking, Is there such a thing as Christian Fascism? Is there a way to talk about the sacred that is not tainted by empire or dismissed as irrationality?

This is particularly important with the humanist backlash against Christian Fundamentalism that Orosco discusses. I think this backlash is partially fueled by a the Christian Fundamentalist movement’s own reaction against the the Enlightenment, against the age of (hyper?)rationality. I’ll agree with most humanists that certain forms of Christianity are whacko, but equating a belief in god with a belief in the Easter Bunny is a bit (very) logocentric.

I certainly believe that there is a way to discuss the sacred without dismissing it as irrational. Unfortunately, that’s not the mode of Enlightenment, which rejects the non-empirical. Although I don’t have her book in front of me to reference, Gloria Anzaldúa’s excellent book Borderlands / La Frontera has a great discussion of the sacred and spiritual in her (and many people, particularly marginalized ethnic groups, such as Latinas and Chicanas) and how that sacred/spiritual nature is denied and rejected by mainstream (white male) society. I think that once we get truly rational — that is, once we listen and accept others, and listen and accept our bodies — that perhaps there is room for a rational spirituality. Certainly, some fundamentalist Christianity is not rational, but there are rational aspects that need to be explored, and many wonderful Christians who are very rational and loving people.

Baker asks in her review, In answer to the question of what is to be done, I would assert as I usually do: Knowledge is power. I would assert the reverse, ala Foucault: Power is Knowledge. Unfortunately, with such corporate and governmental control backing Christian Fundamentalism, they definitely have the power-knowledge (hegemony?). What does marriage mean? What does citizenship mean? What does freedom mean? What are our country’s values? These are terms defined by those in power. Knowledge that our country is becoming Christo-Fascist doesn’t do much good, as Baker proposes it might, if our society is as fully of cynics and nihilists as Frederick Jameson and Cornell West claim. The answer to such knowledge becomes “so what? there’s not much I can do.”

Baker also notes that rational discourse is not usually an option with Christian fundamentalists (have you tried to argue gay rights with a fundamentalist? [and I hate asking that question, because it creates a false monolithic creation of fundamentalists]).

I agree. So what is to be done? How can we create a society where all forms of living (as long as they are not build on domination and oppression) are valid? This begins, I think, on the libidinal level: how do we listen and what do we desire? Do I, as a queer radical young man, truly value being listened to? If so, then I too need to listen to the conservative Republican Christian businessman and father. And by truly listening to each other, I think we need to listen to each other’s stories, each other’s hopes, each other’s dreams, each other’s fears.

My friend Luke and I had a great conversation the other night about hate. As a (although not well-read) fan of Zizek, I was proposing that hate might have some validity. As he states in The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For?:

…confronted with ethnic hatred and violence, one should thoroughly reject the standard multiculturalist idea that, against ethnic intolerance, one should learn to respect and live with the Otherness of the Other, to develop a tolerance for different lifestyles, and so on – the way to fight ethnic hatred effectively is not through its immediate counterpart, ethnic tolerance; on the contrary, what we need is even more hatred, but proper political hatred: hatred directed at the common political enemy. (11)

For the longest time, I was thinking about hate and hating the “common political enemy” (the system, as I read it), and proposing that this was a good way to think about things. But Luke brought up a great point, which actually might have changed my mind (I’m still mulling it over): Hate is totalizing. It is ignoring the complexity of a situation and instead putting into a very constricting box. To hate capitalism is to hate all the advances to have come along with it. And I thought of Hannah Arendt’s book on Eichmann, on the banality of evil (the title escapes me): Evil is banal, it is cliché. Isn’t hate, too, cliché?

To hate Christian fundamentalism is to miss its valid aspects: its fear of a changing world, and its rejection of such an unhealthy insistence on rationality. To hate Christian fundamentalism is, in effect, to not listen.

Wow, I think I got off on a few tangents here, and I’m not even sure if this post has much cohesiveness, but eh, that’s okay.

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One Response to Christo-fascism and power is knowledge

  1. Doug says:

    Hate is not the answer. It is a tatic; find a greater and common enemy and people who are normally opposed will bind together. It is much the same as how political parties will work together during a war situation and the graver the war the more they cooperate. However, it is only a short term measure as fights against any enemy do no last forever. I would suggest that instead of a common enemy, find a common purpose. That is more lasting and more constructive. Also, address the underlying issues. Why does our culture contain so many homo-phobes? I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure that fear and mis-education are the two primary roots. Correcting either is hard, but addressing the root cause of issues is the only real way for a long-term solution.

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