In This Review

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America
By Chris Hedges
Free Press, 2007, 256 pp

In this passionately argued and deeply felt but ultimately unconvincing book, the former "New York Times" foreign correspondent Hedges argues that the Christian right is a danger to U.S. democracy. At his best when pointing to examples of charlatanism, hypocrisy, and greed among the wackier televangelists, Hedges is less successful when he argues that the leadership of the Christian right is a powerful, centralized organization poised to impose a totalitarian dictatorship on the United States in the wake of either more terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11 or a great economic depression. In fact, this leadership is a good deal less influential than Hedges supposes, and it faces strong opposition inside the world of conservative Christianity by far too many influential and respected figures to control conservative American Protestantism, much less to impose radical views on a society in which evangelicals of all descriptions remain a distinct minority. Hedges also appears not to have studied the history of religious revivals in American life. From the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century through the waves of religious enthusiasm that repeatedly washed over the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, religious movements have ultimately strengthened rather than undermined the democratic and pluralistic character of American society. That is not always what the religious leaders of the day intended or hoped, but the small-"d" democratic values of American popular religion are one of the most durable features of American life.