Magical thinking and Christian Right

Chris Hedges on Truthdig unpacks the magical thinking of many evangelicals.


I once asked a prominent joutrnalist if he ever heard of The Late Great Planet Earth, the best selling religious book in US history. He was clueless. This piece of magical thinking and crude phantasmagoria and its follow up The Left behind series is classic magiacla thinking and a horrible manifesdtation of Christianity.




Tens of millions of Americans are already hermetically sealed within this bizarre worldview. They are given a steady diet of conspiracy theories and lies on the internet, in their churches, in Christian schools and colleges and on Christian television and radio. Elizabeth Dilling, who wrote “The Red Network” and was a Nazi sympathizer, is required reading. Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, is ignored. This Christian propaganda hails the “significant contributions” of the Confederacy. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who led the anti-communist witch hunts in the 1950s, is rehabilitated as an American hero. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, is defined as part of the worldwide battle against satanic Islamic terror. Presently, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. public believes in Creationism or “Intelligent Design.” And nearly a third of the population, 94 million people, consider themselves evangelical.


Those who remain in a reality-based universe often dismiss these malcontents as buffoons. They do not take seriously the huge segment of the public, mostly white and working class, who because of economic distress have primal yearnings for vengeance, new glory and moral renewal and are easily seduced by magical thinking. These are the yearnings and emotions Trump has exploited politically.



Those who embrace this movement need to feel, even if they are not, that they are victims surrounded by dark and sinister groups bent on their destruction. They need to elevate themselves to the role of holy warriors, infused with a noble calling and purpose. They need to sanctify the rage and hypermasculinity that are the core of fascism. The rigidity and simplicity of their belief, which includes being anointed for a special purpose in life by God, are potent weapons in the fight against their own demons and desire for meaning.
“Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty,” Simone Weil wrote.



These believers, like all fascists, detest the reality-based world. They condemn it as contaminated, decayed and immoral. This world took their jobs. It destroyed their future. It ruined their communities. It doomed their children. It flooded their lives with alcohol, opioids, pornography, sexual abuse, jail sentences, domestic violence, deprivation and despair. And then, from the depths of suicidal despair, they suddenly discovered that God has a plan for them. God will save them. God will intervene in their lives to promote and protect them. God has called them to carry out his holy mission in the world and to be rich, powerful and happy.


The rational, secular forces, those that speak in the language of fact and evidence, are hated and feared, for they seek to pull believers back into “the culture of death” that nearly destroyed them. The magical belief system, as it was for impoverished German workers who flocked to the Nazi Party, is an emotional life raft. It is all that supports them. The only way to blunt this movement is to reintegrate these people into the economy, to give them economic stability through good wages and benefits, to restore their self-esteem. They need to live in a society that is not predatory but instead provides well-funded public schools, free university education and universal health care, a society in which they and their families can prosper.



Time is running out. If we do not act, American fascists, clutching Christian crosses, waving American flags and orchestrating mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance, united behind the ludicrous figure of Donald Trump, will ride this rage to power.



  1. 1
    mushafta Says:

    Thank God for Hedges! But who reads him? Not too many Americans, sadly!

    Ted you do us all a great service with this nutritious diet of good reading!

    Keep ’em coming good brother!

  2. 2
    mushafta Says:

    How timely this post Ted following the mayhem of racial violence this weekend.

    The far right fascist neo nazi bigotry and racism has been far from many people’s radar.

    But it’s right here under our nose. I recall attending a rally in downtown Toronto organized against the KKK in 1977 or ’78. We were confronted by extreme racists and bigots, no different in tone from this weekend in the States.

    Mike Pence! Where was his voice this weekend? The fascist right was silent. Check out the many far right conservative Catholics who voted for Trump. And there’s just as many here in Canada pushing a similar if not extreme position.

    While thousands of unwanted migrants from the Middle East and Haiti flee the U.S. for Canadian sanctuary, check out the degree of hostility they confront from the many provincial borders, not just Quebec.

    Wait a minute. Wasn’t there a Canadian Cardinal a front runner for Pope some years ago? Oulette was it? He’d look good these days as Quebeckers denounce the migrants entry.

    Just where are these moral voices of authority in times like this? Much easier to denounce abortion and get good headlines there. The moral voice of the Catholic and evangelical churches is mute once again. And their churches filled with hipocrits. What better leadership can you have in the silent voice of Mike Pence?

  3. 3
    mushafta Says:

    Russel Moore in Today’s Washington Post puts all this in very clear prose:

    “As we watched the televised images of the noxious, violent white nationalist protests in Charlottesville this week, many of us felt our blood pressures rise. Many of us were, and are, angry. Many of us have been for some time about the resurgence of white supremacy and anti-Semitism we see all over the world.

    In a time like this, Christians might ask whether we should, in fact, be angry. Should we not instead just conclude that this is what a fallen world is like and pray for the final judgment to come? If you are feeling distressed and heated, you have reason to be. White supremacy makes Jesus angry.

    One of the many remarkable things about the picture we get of Jesus in the Gospels is how relatively calm he is. When his disciples are panicking in a life-threatening storm, Jesus is asleep. When villages reject the message, the apostles are angered but Jesus is not. Threatened with arrest and even execution, Jesus meets his accusers with tranquility. The Scriptures show us two things that make Jesus visibly angry: religious hypocrisy and racial supremacist ideology.”

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