Why Are So Many Christians Clinging To Fascism?
The other day a friend wrote to me and asked me why I think so many Christians are eager to follow Trump when they claim to believe in Jesus. It's been a decade since I left the church and went my own way, but the beliefs from those days still linger in the back of my mind like a rotting stench I can't deterge. I can still put on my Christian hat and revert back to the way I used to think when I wore a cross around my neck. Many of my family and former church community still hold tight to these beliefs. Over time, their Baptist ideals have morphed into a false patriotism that is Christian Nationalism. Most of them don't know it, and wouldn't hear it if you tried to tell them.
I've heard it all, though; Rumors about an elite group of Satan worshipers that secretly run our country. The government working endlessly to eradicate freedom of religion. Mask-mandates as a method of governmental control. The democratic party that is littered with pedophiles and the sexually depraved (despite the fact that the majority of sex scandals come directly from the Republican Party). Gas will triple in price and peanut butter will go up to $20 a jar. Hollywood is running a lucrative sex trafficking ring. Socialism is government control. Vaccines have microchips- which are actually the mark of the beast as outlined in Revelations. Scientists are involved in the deep state. Powerful men "behind the scenes" are working tirelessly to obtain world domination, soon enslaving us all and forcing us into give up our individuality. Nobody but those who claim the name of Jesus can be trusted. The world is full of sin and destruction and chaos.
A small part of me feels bad for those who hold these ludicrous beliefs. It has to be exhausting going through life so paranoid and untrusting. To be so afraid of the government, of the opposing political party, and of the world in general. I know what it feels like to be riddled with anxiety. It was the church who first taught me how to be so.
When you're raised in the church and they tell you to be afraid of the world, you listen to them. When the pastor hits the pulpit on Sunday with a spirited warning of the dangers lurking outside the church walls, you take those words to heart. You find security in stained glass and comfort in choir songs. You're warned every week that there are false prophets waiting to trick you on the outside- waiting to snatch you up and defile your soul. You don't want to go to hell. You don't want to fall into a path of destruction. You want to be free to live as a Christian believer. Every hostage, when in captivity long enough, will find freedom in their chains.
For a religion that is supposed to be rooted in "faith not fear", fear seems to be the driving force behind every belief, decision and ideal. I'm not surprised, as fear has been the primary tool for keeping Christians in line from the very beginning. Church leaders have used hellfire preaching to scare congregations into adhering to "Christian Values" since the inception of the Church. Satan has been propped up as the monster in every Christian's worst nightmare to keep them in line (in public, at least). From the time they are small children, many Christians have been indoctrinated to be afraid of anything that doesn't look like their cookie cutter, biblical fantasy life. As they've aged, the fear has grown with them.
So when you leave the church every week after hearing the Pastor warn of the world outside, you log into Facebook and see reposts about child trafficking in Hollywood, videos about satanic imagery used by the illuminati or reports of vaccines containing microchips, your confirmation bias kicks in and you feel as though the fears that have been placed inside you are valid. You feel a sense of superiority because your beliefs about the world are coming true right before your eyes. You don't have to wonder if your pastor is lying because his words align with the "truth" you found in a Facebook comment section. Your friend shares an opinion article from an unknown source about Hollywood elite parties featuring satanic rituals and it confirms what you already think you know inside. You don't need to look into the sources. You don't need to research the information for yourself. You don't need to fact-check because this information confirms the truth you already hold inside. You have a leg-up on everyone else; secret knowledge of the future. You feel a sense of security in having it all figured out. Everyone knows that the unexpected cultivates fear. You don't have to fear the unexpected, because you already know what's to come. The liberal party- full of Hollywood elite, mask wearers, and vaccine supporters- is the enemy; wolves in sheep's clothing; placed by Satan to trick and deceive you. You must defeat them no matter the cost. Your only focus now is on the greater good. But where have we heard that before?
This is how Christians fall so easily into the trap of fascism: fear. They are terrified of the world around them because they've been programmed to be. They convince themselves that no matter how badly the republican party messes up, it could never be as destructive as the Satan-worshipers on the other side. Trump can toss around "locker room talk" or call a woman a pig or publicly and unashamedly attempt a coup, but at least he's not "killing babies". It doesn't matter if he never made any strides toward banning abortion. It doesn't matter that he never attended church before the presidency. It didn't matter that he never once mentioned faith or belief in Jesus before becoming president. He chose the right side. The side that represents Christian values. The side that speaks out against the "destructive" actions of the opposing party. Christians have been trained to believe that evil wraps itself in good in an attempt to deceive. When democrats want to help the poor, feed the hungry, and release children from border cages, the republicans see this as a sort of distraction from all the evil they want to commit; a cloak used to conceal their bad intentions. This makes it a lot easier to support republican leaders, even when they are blatant in their disregard for the people and the constitution.
I always shake my head when I see Christians claiming that those on the opposing side are fascists, but I know it's just a form of projection. Fascism, by definition, is a form of far-right authoritarianism characterized by dictatorial power and suppression. One of the more notorious fascists in history was Adolf Hitler, who used right-wing propaganda and instilled a fear of communism within the people of Germany to promote Nazism (Sound familiar?). In one historical report, an average German citizen was quoted saying "I feel bad for the Jews, I really do. But I do wish they would become Christian."
Today's Christian nationalists would have been yesterday's Christian Nazis.
It is the fear of what they do not know and a desire for the greater good that leads good, Christian people into destructive political paths. They can only see one end goal, which is making Christians out of every single one of their fellow Americans. And if they can't do that, they make them their enemies. They want freedom for themselves, but not for those that disagree with them. Freedom for Satan isn't freedom at all, they think. So they close their eyes and turn their heads when republicans do bad things. When republicans trample on the freedoms of Americans in an attempt to promote Christian-based laws throughout the country, they pretend not to notice or find a justification for the action. They've been trained not to question those in authority, so they don't. They think that if they can just get us all on the same page, believing in the same biblical "truths", earth will become a sort of paradise. Which, when I think about it, would actually make the prophecies erroneous. Their work is futile, because if they succeed, they've proven the bible wrong and defeated the biblical notion that all will be sin and chaos before the return of Christ. So what, then, are they working for? Fear.
I don't know how to combat the growing Fascism in America. I am afraid that it will only multiply as Christian conspiracy theorists dig their heels deeper into the soil of fear and lies. It takes bravery and humility and a lot of introspection to question your beliefs and the beliefs of those that have raised you. But once you choose to step outside your own bubble and see the world through a clearer lens, you'll soon after realize that the fear inside you doesn't have to exist. The world isn't such a bad place, after all. We can combat evil with empathy, not political dictation. We don't have to control others to cultivate peace. We don't have to make enemies of those who think differently. We can move forward together as friends, not as adversaries, if we're willing to think rationally, logically and with empathy and love. Which is exactly what Jesus taught. You don't have to live in fear. There is freedom waiting for us all if we're willing to overcome fear and work together to find it.
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