Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Faith-based Fascism

If you assume that the goal of the new "Religious Liberty Task Force" recently announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be to find new and better ways to discriminate against the LGBT community, you probably are underestimating the Attorney General and the administration he serves.  Rest assured that the Task Force also will investigate new ways to justify restricting women's reproductive rights, expand federal funding for religious schools, and aggressively erode the separation of Church and State.

Political authoritarians and religious hierarchies enjoy a natural partnership.  Both are essentially conservative, demanding that followers  accept the immutable rules and mythologies they hand down.  Neither can tolerate opposition based on anything so heterodox as rational thought, and both perceive those from outside their networks of believers as threats to be resisted, repressed, and demonized.  Working together, they keep their followers unquestioning and compliant.

Such partnerships may be as old as human civilization, but there are plenty of contemporary examples.  Conservative Islam, either Sunni or Shi'a, dominates the autocracies of the Middle East.  The Orthodox parties in Israel recently cooperated with Netanyahu's Likud to enact legal changes that make Muslims and Druse second-class citizens.  In India, Modi's Hindu nationalists stay in power by persecuting Muslims, and the generals of Myanmar have solidified Buddhist support by doing the same.

Of course, the relationship that most resembles Tr*mp's alliance of interests with Evangelicals is Putin's alliance of interests with the Russian Orthodox Church; and in Russia, too, the effort to strengthen church-state solidarity began by attacking homosexuals.  Perhaps "moral" considerations motivate religious conservatives to endorse and facilitate authoritarian political leadership, but the process is inevitably corrupt.

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