Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fascism Redux

Christianity has understood itself to be the religion of the Logos, to be a religion in keeping with reason. When it identified its forerunners, these were primarily, not in the other religions, but in that philosophical enlightenment which cleared the road from the various traditions that cluttered it in order to turn to the search for truth and to turn toward the good, toward the one God who is above all gods. As a religion of the persecuted, and as a universal religion that was wider than any one state or people, it denied the government the right to consider religion as part of the order of the state, thus stating the principle of the liberty of faith.

Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 47-8

Reflection – We live in a time of creeping fascism. I know, I know—this is something I tend to harp on a bit on this blog, and it may get a bit tiresome. I promise I won’t mention contraception this time, OK?
I also know that the word ‘fascism’ has been devalued in recent decades to become a synonym for “I don’t like you very much, you poopy-head!” A mere term of invective drained of any positive content.

But fascism is an actual political philosophy, and it is a growing one in Canada, the States, and Europe. It is, simply put, the philosophy of the exaltation of power of the state over all other social entities. Mussolini summed it up as “Nothing but the state, nothing without the state, nothing outside the state.”

In other words, the government has the right to call the shots in virtually every area of human life, without exception, and virtually every area of human activity is to be guided and governed by government policy, without exception.

The fascist regimes of the 1920s and 30s were ‘hard fascist’—jackbooted repressive regimes, brutally imposing the state’s authority by the most violent and thuggish means. And a ‘strong man’ at the head of it, making the trains run on time and promising peace and security through an all-powerful state apparatus.

The increasingly fascist regimes of the 21st century are ‘soft fascist’—made up of ever-expanding thickets of regulations and ministry policies crafted by faceless nameless bureaucrats in back rooms and enforced not so much by prison camps and executions as by a system of punitive fines and fees and inspections that force us all to live our lives under the constant watchful eye of our state overlords.

Well, this is the world we live in, and it is unclear how we can change it at this point. Simply voting for a different political party next time doesn’t seem to do it; they’re all in on it, apparently! And the courts seem to be on the side of the state most of the time (witness the recent Canadian Supreme Court decision that all families in Quebec must allow their children to be taught that all religions are equally true). Violent rebellion is not an option for a Christian—which I guess leaves us with prayer and fasting!

But we have to be clear: the two bulwarks against fascism are, and always have been, the family and the Church. The family is prior to the state and has inalienable rights that the state must not transgress; the Church is not an organ of the state, and must vigorously resist government incursions into its operations.

As governments continue to overstep their boundaries in more and more intrusive ways, this means we have to be willing to accept persecution. It’s unfortunate, and we don’t welcome this. We wish that those faceless nameless bureaucrats and their elected bosses would come to their senses and realize the grave harm and evil done by fascism to basic human flourishing. But they don’t seem to be doing that.

In all this, though, the Church has a great opportunity to emerge as what it truly is: the great defender of human liberty and the rights of individuals, families, and other social groups against the state. And in this defense of liberty, to proclaim the gospel of Christ with renewed vigor and appeal—we are to be free in political society because we are made eternally for the freedom of love and truth, and this is vouchsafed to us by the revelation of God in Christ of his plans and purposes for human life.

So the crisis (and I do believe it is just that) of fascism in the 21st century, painful and unpleasant as it is, is a moment of hope and an opportunity for evangelization for the Church. So let’s take this opportunity, with prayer and fasting for sure, but also with bold proclamation of the freedom of the Gospel and the kingdom of God which surpasses all earthly kingdoms and stands as their eternal judge.


  1. I would also mention that Fascism saw itself as a mass movement. "The Nation in Movement" was and is a slogan in (neo)-fascist countries.

    Where does the word fascism come from? Well, it comes from fasces, the bundle of rods. As one rod is breakable and becomes unbreakable within the bond with others, one man alone is invincible if he is bound to a mass movement.

    Doesn't this describe the protest movements, this mood democracy nowadays perfectly? These huge, agressive, dominant actions within the internet or on the streets... doesn't they have the same self-perception? "We are Legion" "We are the 99%"... They are huge movements who either take the individual with them or roll over him - not in Form of physical violence but eg in form of mobbing.

    Here in germany a lot of people are sick and tired with the current form of democracy . Yes, this representative democracy has not only its flaws but with the current set of politicians its in a severe crisis. So, one party ("die Piraten") are emphasizing direct democracy (and coin it then liquid democracy because of the use of modern communication). As far as I can understand the critique concerning the modern crisis of democracy, I am very suspicious about direct forms of democracy on a larger scale (i.e. on a federal scale), simply because I can see these fascist mechanisms, these dynamic movements appear within the course of direct democracy.

    Not that I am totally against direct democracy, but I think such a form of government, if not restricted to local levels, would be very vulnerable for current trends, for current emotions - and finally for neo-fascist movements.

  2. Yes, I agree, and thank you for making that point. Oppressive government always plays on the psychology of the mob and its desires.

  3. Father,

    I'm with you on the need for fasting and praying, but if it came down to it, why is violent rebellion not an option? Is it because just war calls for a likelihood of success, or is it just on principle? I've been reading about Mexico's Cristero War of the 1920s, and wondering if that rebellion in the name of the Church was illicit. If so, what is the Church's stance on the American Revolution? Thanks in advance, Father, as these types of questions have troubled me.

    1. Your question is an important and searching one... I am (mostly) away from the blog over the Triduum, but will be back to address it after Easter. Just wanted to post this so you know I'm not ignoring your comment! Peace of the Risen One with you.


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