Reading either of my blogs will quickly tell you that I'm no great fan of religion, but this book is by a Christian, a who describes his upbringing this way: "We took the Bible too seriously to take it literally." He quotes a professor of his in saying that when fascism comes to America, it will not call itself as such (if only this were true!) but will hide behind the cross and the flag. Hedges' problem is with the manipulation of religion to eliminate or demonize dissent, to entrench leadership, to discourage critical thought -- exactly the goals of fascism.
He treats the followers of the movement with forbearance and forgiveness. Many of the people he interviews have had histories of abuse, multiple abortions, unemployment, or poverty. They are vulnerable, he says, to the message of a better life just around the corner. Just wait a little while longer for the rapture. In the meantime, to prepare for it, do everything we say, and give us all your money. It makes you wonder what the results of an American recession are going to have on the national psyche -- ring-wing evangelists were doing pretty well already.
For the leaders of the movement, he spares little criticism. The bigotry, greed and moral hypocrisy is laid bare. Their false memory of a "Christian America" and their goal of a new one is called for what it is: theocracy.
It helped me to understand why certain issues are such a hot-button to some religions. Homosexuality, for example, and especially gay marriage. I've always wondered, what's the big deal? Why should I care if men like men? But seen through the eyes of the Christian right, homosexuality is a threat, because it needs a threat. Hitler loved to talk about the poor persecuted ethnic Germans in Austria and Czechoslovakia. Loved to talk about the insidious Jewish enemy bent on destroying everything Germans held dear. For the Christian right, homosexuals and "secular humanists" serve as the monster that reinforces leaders' grip on the minds of their followers. Homosexuality becomes a "movement" that, since it cannot reproduce, is growing by stealing the children of decent Christians. Scary stuff! Who will protect us?
Well read by the author in some parts, and far better by an actor named Eunice Wong in the main. Especially when quoting sermons at length, her voice captures the venom the words are laced with, and it's actually frightening sometimes.