Whence the Rise of Christian Fascism

Where the church has been joined to the state, the state becomes the church and political reality is the determiner of reality. In displacing the kingdom of God and Christ, the state shapes thought and practice, determines the nature of truth, and the church is rendered an instrument of state. Rather than the church discipling Christians in a peculiar apprehension of truth and ethics, faith is primarily a private affair. There is no expectation of moral transformation, world-view shift or change in life-style, for one who is shaped by the ethic and reality of liberal democracy. No training is necessary in being a Christian, as Christianity is not so much a practice as a system of private belief.

There is no practical notion of the truth of Christ and the kingdom of Christ being pitted against the illusion of the world and its kingdoms. Truth is presumed to be an immediately accessible category, founded on and provided through human autonomy.  The truth of Christ is part of a larger frame of truth, determined through an autonomous rationalism and proven (through apologetics) on the basis of this shared foundation. Just as the church supports the state, so too the truth and ethics of the church are not distinct from a shared understanding.

The church and Christ do not have a distinctive witness as regards truth or ethics, but Christian faith is distinctive only in its claims surrounding Christ, but these claims appeal to an already shared understanding so as to establish the truth of Christ. His truth, his peace, and his redemption serve an already existing reality to which all people have access. Christianity might aid the state or even critique the social order, but the liberal social order establishes the only real-world peace and only the state can implement enduring social justice in this world.

Christian ethics cannot be applied in the public square and Christian politicians cannot employ Jesus’ ethic of loving the neighbor, turning the other check, or going the second mile. Jesus’ nonviolence is an impractical and unworkable ethic given the primacy of death and the state monopoly on killing in war, capital punishment, and the legal deployment of violence. Justice can only be accomplished through violence and those who would act responsibly accept this reality. Pacifism renders one irrelevant, irresponsible, and unrealistic. God himself uses violence in a variety of ways: he deploys violence to save people in the atonement, and judges people by means of eternal violence.

This picture of God and the overall picture of Christianity is based on the criteria of its effectiveness. Only a violent God, a violent Christ, and a violent Christianity can be deemed effective.  In other words, God, Christ, and Christianity are true to the degree that they meet the criteria of truth according to effectiveness. Truth is power and what is true works. Only a God and Christianity which gets results in terms of health, wealth, and power is true. What works is true, thus for God and Jesus to be intelligible, nonviolence would render them ineffective, and thus is patently false.

In this sense the freedom provided by the state is a primary, rendering the freedom of Christ (like the truth and peace of Christ) conditional and dependent. The state secures religious/Christian freedom through its deployment of armies, weapons, and violence. To enjoy this freedom, the price is the limitation of Christianity to a sphere that in no way competes or interferes with the domain of the state – the right (in every sense) of violence. (Thus, Christian pacifism exceeds its proper bounds, should it critique state violence).

Transcendence in this perspective takes on a new meaning, in that the domain of Christianity does not transcend or trump the importance or reality of state purposes, but it is transcendent in that it does not directly pertain to the immanent order. One might speak of a transcendent truth, a transcendent power, or a transcendent peace, but it pertains in a different order of reality, and does not intersect or interfere with the reality of the immanent frame. Transcendent truth then, or the truth of Christ, is not a particular truth or a historical truth, but is an abstract or universal truth. It is part of the eternal trues of reason, which does not pertain to embodiment in a given historical/relational realm.

The resurrection, for example, does not constitute a new order of truth, but we must deploy autonomous trues of reason, which are determinative of the truth (or not) of the resurrection. The truth that underwrites the conviction of faith in the resurrection is gained through a shared theory of truth. Proofs for the resurrection and the truth that fosters faith is the greater truth. Before we worship Christ we must be thoroughly grounded in the autonomous trues of reason afforded by the freedom of thought granted in a liberal democratic state.

Any means of supporting the authority of this reality, whether by hook or crook, deserves the full support of every Christian. Raw violence, pure authoritarianism, full deployment of power, may in fact be the best and only means of protecting the truth of the state. A privatized Christianity subordinate to state purposes is the only means of insuring religious freedom. The state that most effectively protects this privatized religion, in turn, is the state this religion will uphold. Thus fascism is the most effective means of upholding the prevalent form of American Christianity and this form of Christianity is inherently fascist.

Author: Paul Axton

Paul V. Axton spent 30 years in higher education teaching theology, philosophy, and Bible. Paul’s Ph.D. work and book bring together biblical and psychoanalytic understandings of peace and the blog, podcast, and PBI are shaped by this emphasis.

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