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The recent attack on a French satirical magazine renewed Americans’ pass to keep talking seriously about Islam as a threat. In America’s arena of religious intolerance, Muslims are the easiest targets imaginable. So easy, in fact, that another religious movement can chime in on the bigotry of such attacks while keeping a straight face. In light of the political gains being made by the Christian Right, it’s clear that the religious fanatics who should be stopped can less often be found in a mosque than in Congress. The movement does not deserve our tolerance. It’s fascinated by violence, ferociously intolerant and it has little to do with Christianity anyway. It doesn’t deserve to be ignored either. Gains will be made by whoever is politically active, and the crazies are voting.
Last month, twelve people were killed by two Muslim gunmen at the Paris headquarters of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. It was an atrocity that French President Francois Hollande rightly called a “terrorist attack of the most extreme barbarity.” The usual discussions followed in the U.S., where commentators threw their hands up and concluded that something must be done about Islam. Surveillance of Muslims as well as stocking up on arms was the prescription from Fox News analysts and hosts. It’s not surprising that violence and bigotry are already on the agenda. Just look what the base of the Republican Party has become. The Christian Right, a major political force in the U.S. since the 1970s, is coming back in a big way. It applies a certain interpretation of Christianity to the political realm—one that has found a cozy home in the form of the Tea Party and various right-wing activist groups.
Republicans, making up the majority party in both houses of Congress, are getting excellent approval ratings from Christian Right groups. The Family Research Council is one of the heavy hitters in that arena. It hosts the annual Values Voter Summit, where big names like Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz can vocalize their less coherent thoughts for a friendly crowd. Said Cruz at the 2013 Summit: “Our foreign policy is détente, which I’m pretty sure is French for surrender.” (Hint: it’s not.). Michelle Bachmann started her 2012 speech by mentioning “the so-called war on women” before diving into the evil alliance between President Obama and Muslims. A dizzying blend of militaristic nationalism and opposition to women’s and minority rights comes from groups like the FRC and their politicians. Their beliefs are case studies in fascism.
The Encyclopedia Britannica lists the characteristics of fascist movements throughout history. One of these traits is sexism based on women’s roles as child bearers. Concerned Women for America, which gave $300,000 to conservative candidates in 2010, has got that one covered. The group has nothing to do with women’s rights except opposing them. It’s moved from fighting the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1979 to lobbying against abortion and sex education. Homosexuality—apparently a threat to almighty fertility—is also an easy target. Opposition to gay rights seems to be a calling card for fascist movements. Hungarian LGBT people are being harassed at an astounding rate since the fascist Fidesz party took the presidency in 2010. Since then, the party has passed the Family Protection Bill that aimed to put heterosexual family life into school curricula.
Maybe the most obvious trait our right wing shares with fascist movements is its aggressive nationalism—brought to the surface by its obsession with Islam in America. Fascist movements in the past taught that national identity “should not be corrupted by foreign influences, especially if they were left wing,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The Muslim population in the U.S., being mostly immigrants, is automatically a threat. Cue outrage from Republican representatives about Islamic law taking over the United States.
If you are a Christian and consider yourself a conservative, don’t assume this piece is about you. College has allowed us to meet all kinds of admirable Christians who are probably embarrassed by the nonsense coming from Capitol Hill. Chris Hedges, one of the most energetic opponents of the movement, is a Presbyterian minister with a Master of Divinity from Harvard. Even he is at a loss of words, as he wrote in an article, “All debates with the Christian Right are useless… It cares nothing for rational thought and discussion.”
Besides, if fascism happened to come to the U.S. under the banner of Buddhism, dubstep or hockey, there would be a Buddhist or Dubstep or Hockey Right that would deserve our scrutiny. If we care about women and minorities, and if we enjoy taking part in rational political discussions, then we have to recognize the Christian Right for what it is: politicized hatred that’s Christian in name alone. American politics will only be influenced more by the movement in the coming years if we choose to ignore or tolerate it.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jared Conner at firstname.lastname@example.org.