Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Thursday, June 9, 2022

A Clear and Present Danger

The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious NationalismThe Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism by Katherine Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,” uncovers a clear and present danger to the United States and may well presage the destruction of our representative democracy.

Katherine Stewart’s deep dive into the world of Christian Nationalism — a form of fascism to be sure — exposes the actors and the money trying to turn back the clock of the country’s progress since the Great Depression. The right-wing’s key is to contaminate our understanding of the First Amendment’s notion of separation of church and state, so clearly articulated by Thomas Jefferson, with the claims that the U.S. was founded as a Judeo-Christian nation and the purpose of the First Amendment is to protect the church from the state.

From this false foundation, she bares the right-wing’s plans to take over the country’s public school system and replace it with a combination of private religious schools — all teaching the conservative version of Protestant Christianity. These right-wingers attack the progress of our nation by claiming public schools’ indoctrination of our children with sinful and perverted ideas such as climate change, evolution and science in general. Never mind that it’s the right-wing that wants to do the indoctrination. The Christian Protestant view on health care focuses on reproductive health — that is, abortion and contraception, of course; and on LBGT issues as well — a war Texans are seeing waged by right-wing leadership.

As for financing this the implementation plan was to get like-minded politicians elected and pliant judges appointed that shared the Protestant Christian view of the First Amendment and governance she names names: Charles and David Koch, the DeVos family, the Mercers and all the usual suspects of the billionaire plutocrat class. But, and this is really my only quibble, she mentions, almost in passing, the libertarianism in the Christian Protestant takeover of the economic system making, again in passing, reference to the Austrian school of economics. She was right to attribute the political traction to the rise of the “Moral Majority” in the 1970s and the political kickstart with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. But, as she points out, there was far more going on than the public knew.

In fact, this movement started in the 1950s, with Charles Koch’s interest in the public choice theories of one James McGill Buchanan, a Nobel laurate economist who not only wanted to return the United States to John C. Calhoun’s racist 1850s but also to the total free market economy by tearing government out at the roots. Buchanan’s theory and his tactics and strategy were well documented in “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America” by award winning Duke University historian Nancy MacLean. In fact, MacLean’s book on Buchanan along with Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” are essential companion reading to Stewart’s incredible journalism.

Stewart’s book came out during the disastrous term for Donald Trump and here is where she makes points to show how the clear and present the danger is ow for the United States and other world democracies. The Christian Protestant leadership admires the dictators of the world. In fact, she “blows the lid” off the Trump and his defenders about the Russian alliance with the movement and electing Trump. For example, she exposes Franklin Graham’s defending Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and having multiple meetings with Putin. Further, with Vice President Mike Pence’s “blessing,” Graham met with Russian Orthodox Church leaders “for the purpose of strengthening relationships between the U.S. Congress and the Duma.” How this treason hasn’t been investigated isn’t clear to this reviewer.

Stewart ends the book on an optimistic note, saying that while the right-wing has made immense progress, the good people on the other side of their issues still can thwart this fascist takeover. I wish I shared that optimism.

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