Being an alarmist has never appealed to me, and I have usually taken a rather negative view toward those who seemed to be alarmists. There are highly reputable people, though, who now assert that we in the U.S. should be alarmed about the nation’s drift toward fascism. Is such fear of fascism ill-founded?
Warnings about Fascism
Two important books published last year stressed the looming danger of fascism in the U.S. In September 2018, Random House published Yale professor Jason Stanley’s small book How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.
In his book Stanley (b. 1969) identifies three essential features of fascism: invoking a mythic past, sowing division, and attacking truth. Guess who he sees as blatantly doing that in the U.S. now?
Stanley’s main points are summarized in a video you can see here. It is titled “If You’re Not Scared About Fascism in the U.S., You Should Be.” It's well worth five minutes of your time.
Earlier last year, Madeleine Albright’s book Fascism: A Warning was published. She, too, is highly critical of DJT. In the last chapter of her book she writes,
Trump is the first anti-democratic president in modern U.S. history. On too many days, beginning in the early hours, he flaunts his disdain for democratic institutions, the ideals of equality and social justice, civil discourse, civic virtues, and America itself (p. 246).
And things have only gotten worse in the year and more since Albright wrote her powerful book—just consider DJT’s deplorable tweets about “the Squad” last week and what he said in North Carolina on Wednesday evening.
Are there significant similarities between the U.S. as it is now and Germany as it was in 1934? Both Stanley and Albright seem to think so, although they realize there are many differences also.
In opposition to the rise of fascism in Germany under Hitler and the Nazis—and most German Christians who supported them—a group of perceptive Christians formed what was known as the Confessing Church.
Led by Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in May 1934 they and their colleagues produced what was titled (in English) The Theological Declaration of Barmen. (Barmen is the name of a city in Germany.)
This Barmen Declaration was drawn up in opposition to the political situation in Germany under Hitler and the Nazi Party. But it was primarily a statement of opposition to the state church, which affirmed the actions and leadership of Nazi Germany in order to ensure its privileged place in society.
Certainly, one of the major failings of 20th century Christianity was the failure of most German Christians to stand against Hitler and the Nazis—and to stand up for the Jewish people who were so hideously mistreated and killed.
Just about a year ago, Richard Rohr as well as faculty and students of the Living School at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, created a petition on Change.org. The petition’s title is “Barmen Today: A Contemporary Contemplative Declaration.” As of this morning, more than 19,200 people, including me, have signed it.
After giving a brief introduction to the Barmen Declaration of 1934, the Barmen Today petition states,
In contemporary America, we face parallel threats and affirmations as prominent and privileged leaders of America’s Christian churches choose to closely and publicly support the policies and actions of our nation’s leadership – policies and actions irreconcilable with the pursuit of peace and justice. Many of these policies and actions demean people of color, support hate-filled speech from white supremacists, ostracize gender minorities, demonize refugees and immigrants, and ignore climate change realities.
One alarming similarity between the U.S. now and Germany in 1934 is the overwhelming support of the current President and his Administration by so many conservative evangelical Christians.
Will You Sign, Sign On?
Here is the link to where you can sign Barmen Today. I hope many of you will do that. Unfortunately, the fear of fascism in the U.S. certainly does not seem to be ill-founded.