Saturday, August 25, 2007
Guess Who's "Illegal" Now?
-- by Sara
I welcomed last week's three-part CNN series, "God's Warriors," as a positive sign that the mainstream media is finally starting to understand -- and take seriously -- the threat fundamentalism poses to modern secular democracies around the world. In particular, I was pleased that the series drew such strong parallels between the impulses that drive Muslim fundamentalism, those that feed Jewish fanaticism in Israel, and those that inspire the anti-Constitutional excesses of our own home-grown religious right.
In making clear the links between these three movements, Christiane Amanpour gave us a framework to understand that there is a culture war gripping the globe -- but it's not Islam against the West, as the conservatives would have us believe. Rather, the real battle we're facing is a rising tide of fundamentalism, in several forms, trying to overwhelm secular society in many parts of the world at once.
If you go over to Youtube and do a search on "God's Warriors," a disproportionate number of the video clips will show the segment covering Ron Luce's "Battle Cry" movement (which we've discussed at length here in the past). This isn't surprising: "Battle Cry" rallies are designed to have all the visual drama of the Nuremburg Rally -- an apt analogy on all too many levels. The sight of America's own nascent Hitler Youth movement raising their arms and declaring their commitment to the war against secular society makes for great TV. It's also a spectacle that every American should find chilling.
But absolutely nobody has picked up on another little segment I found at least as horrifying -- even before I found out it had a local Seattle angle.
The clip above is Rev. Joe Fuiten, pastor of the Cedar Park Church in Bothell, WA. In it, he carefully explains that Christian-based social conservatism is the way it's always been in America. And anyone who disagrees with that assertion or thinks it should be otherwise, is, he says -- flat out -- an "illegal alien here."
Considering how the GOP has been using "illegal immigration" as an excuse for the demonization of brown people and the suspension of all kinds of civil rights, this characterization should give us at least as much pause as the "Battle Cry" footage does. We've been arguing recently that the Christian right no longer even tries to make a secret of the fact that it considers itself a master race, endowed by the Creator with rights and privileges that exceed -- and even negate -- those of non-believers.
Now, we have the pastor of a large regional mega-church right there on national TV, asserting that those who disagree with his theology are defacto aliens in their own country. Yep. That's right. If you're not a born-again fundamentalist Christian, you can just turn in your passport and your sample ballot now. And don't bother trying to collect on any of the public services your taxes pay for, either. You don't have any more right to be here than someone who spent two days and nights crawling across the Rio Grande to pick strawberries. In fact, according to Rev. Fuiten: you have no rights worth respecting at all.
Of course, this tortured conclusion is based on gross historical revisionism. Many contemporary writers noted with astonishment that America was startlingly unchurched up through the 1840s Great Awakening. Furthermore, several of the most enduringly famous people of the 19th century were secular activists and reformers (like atheist Robert Ingersoll, Jewish activist Ernestine Rose, not to mention Stanton and Anthony and Douglass -- for decades, these people packed 'em in like rock stars wherever they spoke, and their ideas were read and debated in every household in the country. And all were devoted secularists). Fuiten also ignores the fact that other religions have always had a strong presence here -- by the conscious design of the Founders. And, finally; the Christian morals he insists have been the "native" state of Americans have been mostly honored in the breach. Like most moralists, he's referring back to some imaginary golden Mayberry that never existed anywhere except in the minds of scandalized would-be reformers. (And this utopian image, too, has a history almost as long as that of the nation.)
But it's not just a bad interpretation of the past that makes Fuiten's statement so dangerous. It's what this kind of logic can lead us to in the future. Fascism requires purity crusades against an out-group that's seen as polluting the national body politic. The line between pseudo-fascism and the real deal is crossed at the point where the state sanctions the use of violence in furthering that crusade, as it did on Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany.
Asserting that non-fundamentalists are "illegal aliens" in their own country -- the one that our own ancestors fought, paid taxes, and worked all their lives to build; or risked everything to get to and start over in -- is a potent statement of that exact kind of purity crusade thinking. It's the same libel Nazis told the Germans about their native Jews: We are something other, something less than, something not-American (and thus potentially treasonous), and perhaps not even quite human. We are not like the good volk of the heartland; we are decadent urban intellectuals who seek to corrupt all that is good. Our very presence desecrates the pure soul of the nation. We have been ejected, in their minds, from the protection of American law and the community of American citizens.
For that reason, we don't belong here; and this country does not belong to us. And, underlying it all, there's the hint of a threat that as soon as the theocrats consolidate their grip on power and finish dismantling those pesky rights (they're oh, so close now), they will be fully justified in putting us behind barbed wire, removing us from "their" country by force, or simply dispatching us on sight like the vermin we are.
To put it bluntly: Fuiten's little toss-off statement is giving his fellow-believers a fresh rationalization -- pre-loaded with more connotations that I can reasonably list here -- for a cleansing campaign of eliminationism targeting anyone who doesn't share their beliefs.
As I've been noting, this kind of remark is hardly an isolated incident. If they're willing to talk like this on national TV, you know that whatever they're saying in private among themselves is far, far worse. This is a meme that's already covering the countryside -- softening the ground for those Battle Cry/OSU - trained Christian soldiers, who are actively preparing themselves to take back the country for God, and transform our democracy into a theocratic kingdom by any means necessary.
He said it. Right out loud on CNN, without even trying to make it sound PC.
We'd best start taking these people at their word.
Posted by Sara Robinson at 4:21 PM