The radical Christian right has no religious legitimacy. It is a mass political movement. It is interchangeable, in many ways, with other traditional political movements ranging from fascism to communism to the ethnic nationalist parties in the former Yugoslavia. It shares with these movements an inability to cope with ambiguity, doubt and uncertainty. It also embraces a world of miracles and signs and makes war on rational, reality-based thought. It condemns self-criticism and debate as apostasy. It places a premium on action. It dismisses those who do not bow down before its godâ€”and the leaders who claim to speak for Godâ€”as heretics and traitors.
This movement shares with corporatists, who are busy cannibalizing our society for profit, the belief that there are a chosen few who know the truth and therefore have the right to impose it. The citizen, the individual, no longer has any legitimacy in this new world. All legitimacy is assumed by groups, whether they are corporate groups herding us over the cliff of globalization or religious groups that give popular vent to corporate-generated despair through faith in the Christian utopia. In this paradigm-corporate and religious-we become disempowered, afraid, passive and easily manipulated.
Apocalyptic visions like this one have, throughout history, cowed populations and inspired genocidal killers. They have enticed societies into collective suicide. These visions nourished the butchers who led the Inquisition, the Crusades and the conquistadors who swept through the Americas converting and then exterminating the native population. These visions sustained the SS guards at Auschwitz, the Stalinists who consigned tens of thousands of Ukrainian families to starvation and death, the torturers in the clandestine prisons in Argentina during the Dirty War and the Serbian thugs with heavy machine guns and wraparound sunglasses who stood over the bodies of those they had slain in the smoking ruins of Bosnian villages. Those who promise to purify the world through violence, to relieve the anxiety of moral pollution and despair, appeal to our noblest sentiments, our highest virtues, our capacity for self-sacrifice and our utopian visions of a cleansed world. It is this coupling of fantastic hope and profound despair, along with visions of peace and light and absolute terror, of selflessness and murder, which frees the consciences of those who call for and carry out the eradication of those they have banished from moral consideration.