George W. Bush, speaking words the so-called Christian Right wants to hear, is not the first national leader to use family and Christian morality as a rallying cry. Nor is he the first whose actions do not correspond to his words. Consider the following: "The national government will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built up. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life."
When are we going to learn that words like this are typical of populist demagogues rather than truly strong leaders? The two quoted sentences were spoken February 1, 1933 by Adolf Hitler during his first radio address after coming to power.
According to Hitler, speaking in the same years, it is the purpose of the government "to fill our whole culture once more with a Christian spirit, and that not only in politics. We want to burn out the harmful features in our theater and our literature."
Hitler railed against the excesses of "theater and literature." Our new cultural saviors rail against the immorality of Hollywood and the "decadent" secular values of our universities. It's the same old rallying cry.
Hitler hated "liberalism," "liberal excesses" and the "harmful features" of modern culture. Hitler himself turned out to be the most harmful feature of modern culture. But he seemed a good choice to conservative Christians not fully aware of the paranoia and lust for power driving his policies and attitudes. He seemed to have at high and honorable purposes. High and honorable purposes are easy to fake.
"The government, being resolved to undertake the political and moral purification of our public life, is creating and securing the conditions necessary for a really profound revival of religious life," Hitler said.
"The struggle against materialistic views and for a real national community is just as much in the interest of the German nation as in [the interest] of the welfare of our Christian faith."
"The government of the Reich ... regards Christianity as the unshakable foundation of the morals and moral code of the nation."
Don't you feel much safer now, knowing that our current administration also promises to promote Christian morality, defend the family, "burn out" harmful influences? "Burn" is a very good word for what the Nazis did to Germany and Europe in the 30's and 40's. Yes, the time, place, and names are different, but I believe it is the same human nature at work, and, oddly, the same kinds of political gestures that are being used to rally the masses. The idea that we need to "purify" our nation, that the state must become a buttress to faith under threat (the idea that Christianity is under threat in America is absurd); the appeal to "family values" from a government that meanwhile enacts policies serving an elite rather than the interests of most taxpaying families; the way "national security concerns" are used simultaneously to increase presidential powers and slowly erode privacy and the freedom of the press.
We will regret it profoundly if we ignore the fundamental--and very Christian--fact that human nature doesn't change.
Quotations are from The Speeches of Adolph Hitler, 1922-1939, Vol. 1, pp. 369-72 (London: Oxford University Press, 1942; 1969 edition)
This article, slightly modified, comes from
I think it would be an exaggeration to say that the point of my article is that "Bush is another Hitler." Of course that's not the case. Anyhow I personally am not so concerned with Bush himself, his personal morality, as with what happens to societies when they start down this path of national consolidation and purification. American society already has gone too far in this direction.
It's obvious that demagogues tend to make hay out of "church, family values, national security"--these are the planks of many a nasty regime. They are the same issues Bush evokes to rally his base. It is a mistake of the public to be herded by politicians who revert to this kind of language. Such language almost always masks a more concrete political agenda, one that turns out to be not exactly in the public interest: neither of family, church, or even security.
In America we believe our courts and Constitution will stand in the way of things getting ugly. But the question of how much our Constitution can be subverted--for instance by appealing to national security--remains open. How many Americans are paying attention to what is being undone by the clauses of the Patriot Act?
Some of the reader responses posted to the article at the web site:
1. Anonymous Says:
January 23rd, 2005 at 12:50 pm
I'm not sure about all of them, but the conservative Christians I have run into who embrace this perverted view and/or misuse of family values are really praising and worshipping themselves for following this 'wisdom', rather than praising God, even if they don't realize it. I personally believe this contributes to the apparently un-Christian behavior that we've all seen in one form or another (I recently read an article where it was characterized as a 'take no prisoners' form of Christianity). Their attitude isn't biblical because Jesus said that it was better to love and serve God when someone praised his mother, and spoke of people leaving their families to follow him. Obviously, I don't believe this means that Jesus was anti-family, but he wanted people to realize that it should always be God first.
The experiences I had with those I met were a real learning experience for me. I learned that anything can become a form of legalism, and just how easy it is for us to think we are following God when we may not be.
2. Anonymous Says:
February 24th, 2005 at 10:45 am
If America is ever to fall into a dictatorship, it seems it will be by an Oligarchy from the "right", meaning a group power of money, corporate elite, and politicians using religion and patriotism, as a means of their own to that end. History can repeat itself.
4. Anonymous Says:
March 29th, 2005 at 11:22 am
I hate to slap you with reality, but we are already most of the way there as the laws are being put in place, and it will only be one more scare on American soil before they start to implement them. And the mass of citizens will find themselves powerless and politically impotent to resist the will of the "authorities".
Because of WWII (and post-WWII) propaganda, Americans today are unaware that the German people believed they too were a "free" society in the 1930's. And everything Hitler did was legal under the German laws his regime had instituted. Today, the people who recognized the truth, or fled Germany for safety are regarded as either victims of his crimes or heroes who opposed them (Einstien, Shindler, etc.).
George Monbiot has an interesting brief essay on the question of Bush and fascism:
But see also:
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