Friday, January 07, 2005

Theocracy Rising: Fritz Stern issues a warning 

Warning From a Student of Democracy's Collapse
By Chris Hedges - Jan 6, 2005 [NYTimes - link requires log-in]

FRITZ STERN, a refugee from Hitler's Germany and a leading scholar of European history, startled several of his listeners when he warned in a speech about the danger posed in this country by the rise of the Christian right. In his address in November, just after he received a prize presented by the German foreign minister, he told his audience that Hitler saw himself as "the instrument of providence" and fused his "racial dogma with a Germanic Christianity."

Adolph Hitler: "The greatness of every powerful organization as the incorporation of an idea in this world is rooted in the religious fanaticism with which it intolerably enforces itself against everything else, fanatically convinced of its own right. If an idea is right in itself, and if thus armed it embarks on the struggle in this world, it is invincible and every persecution will lead to its inner strengthening.

The greatness of Christianity was not rooted in its attempted negotiations of compromise with perhaps similarly constructed philosphical opinions of the old world, but in the inexorably fanatical preaching and representation of its own doctrine. ~ Mein Kampf, chapter XII "Development of the NSGWP", pages 486-487.

"Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics," he said of prewar Germany, "but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas."


...Dr. Stern, 78, the author of books like "The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology" and university professor emeritus at Columbia University, has devoted a lifetime to analyzing how the Nazi barbarity became possible. He stops short of calling the Christian right fascist but his decision to draw parallels, especially in the uses of propaganda, was controversial.


"When I saw the speech my eyes lit up," said John R. MacArthur, whose book "Second Front" examines wartime propaganda. "The comparison between the propagandistic manipulation and uses of Christianity, then and now, is hidden in plain sight. No one will talk about it. No one wants to look at it."

Dr. Stern was a schoolboy in 1933 when Hitler was appointed the German chancellor.


"There was a longing in Europe for fascism before the name was ever invented," he said. "There was a longing for a new authoritarianism with some kind of religious orientation and above all a greater communal belongingness. There are some similarities in the mood then and the mood now, although also significant differences."

HE warns of the danger in an open society of "mass manipulation of public opinion, often mixed with mendacity and forms of intimidation." He is a passionate defender of liberalism as "manifested in the spirit of the Enlightenment and the early years of the American republic."

"The radical right and the radical left see liberalism's appeal to reason and tolerance as the denial of their uniform ideology," he said. "Every democracy needs a liberal fundament, a Bill of Rights enshrined in law and spirit, for this alone gives democracy the chance for self-correction and reform. Without it, the survival of democracy is at risk. Every genuine conservative knows this."

...for Americans to be ignorant of what is going on in their country's churches is dangerous. Had we been more knowledgeable about this subject, none of us would have been surprised by the rise of the Religious Right. Had we been more knowledgeable, we would have a better understanding of what made this rise possible, of how we should feel about this rise, and what can and must be done about it.


...the category of religion to which twentieth-century Americans have found their way in increasing numbers - a religion whose public faces today include those of Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell - is not a setting in which intelligent, serious people can expect to work out meaningful and responsible answers to ultimate questions. Nor is it something that the earliest followers of Jesus would have recognized as Christianity. I don't think it's an exaggeration, in fact, to suggest that if the first Christians were exposed to the rhetoric of Robertson, Reed, Dobson, Falwell, and company, they might well ask, in astonishment, "How did these vicious people manage to steal the name of Jesus?" ~ Bruce Bawer, Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity; 1997; pages 27-28.

One Nation Under Biblical Law:
Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness. But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after.

World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less... Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land -- of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ. ~ George Grant, former Executive Director of Coral Ridge Ministries, The Changing of the Guard, Biblical Principles for Political Action; pages 50-51.

Further Resource Link | Expert blog:
FREDERICK CLARKSON, author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Read Theocracy vs. Democracy in America - Friday, December 31, 2004.


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