I have some comments on a few books that caught my interest.
Chris Hedges, a Divinity graduate from Harvard, has written a small volume-" American Fascists, The Christian Right and the war on America" which has received some publicity.
He starts with a quote from Blaise Pascal: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." And from FDR: "If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land."
The book shows how those who fall by the wayside of the economy, who are abused by their parents, whose life is bleak and hopeless, who give in to despair, find relief in the preaching of Timothy La Haye and James Dobson and Pat Robertson. The virtual disappearance of manufacturing employment provides a reservoir of candidates. The result is a fusion of Christian and national symbols and the formation of a new state religion.
Hedges provides an interesting view into the workings of these movements at the individual level, the power of massive rallies to entrain people, the selective use of the Old Testament to form a new political religion which would take over all institutions of government with a stated goal to use the United States to create a global Christian empire. Patriotism and the pages of the Bible provide the necessary mask.
His fear is that any significant national crisis will provide the impetus for further reduction in freedoms and individual liberty and choice and the rapid rise of a totalitarian regime.
Writing on a similar theme, Kevin Phillips in "American Theocracy, the perils and politics of radical religion, oil, and borrowed money" provides an overview of the political strength and of the various Christian groups. He identifies these as the Southern Baptist Convention which dominates the Confederate States, Mormons in control of several mountain states and Lutherans in the mid-west. He also identifies the Pentecostals as a rapidly rising force in the west and south. Catholics who are not enchanted with the secularization of their Church are displaying attitudes similar to those of the Christian fundamentalists. All support the Republican party with money, campaign workers, publicity and momentum. He calls this an incipient Republican Theocracy.
Phillips' initial chapters deal with the role of oil in politics. The final ones detail the deteriorating financial posture, the enormous rise of national and individual debt and the resulting vulnerability of the economy. He draws comparisons with previous empires-Rome, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain showing common routes to ultimate decline and collapse.
Kevin Phillips is a long-time Republican strategist and thinker. He wrote "American Dynasty", a story of the Bush family which received wide acclaim.
I'm still plowing through Tony Judt's "Postwar, a history of Europe since 1945." Half-way through its 850 pages it is still interesting and fresh and very informative.
I picked up a copy of Chalmer Johnson's "Nemesis, the last days of the American republic" after reading a few chapter's in a copy from the Edmonton library. Its footnotesare extensive and will serve as a source of future reading as many are from the web. Johnson is especially concerned about the militarization of the US nation and the effective shredding of the Constitution. He quotes Dutch writer Micha F Lindemans' description of Nemesis as "..the goddess of divine justice and vengeance...(She) pursues the insolent and the wicked with inflexible vengeance.... She is portrayed as a serious looking woman with in her left hand a whip a rein, a sword, or a pair of scales."