I may as well start by giving the game away, right at the top. The central peril regarding the subject of evangelical fascism will be the mistake of coming to believe that there is such a thing.
I have been raising the alarm — and will continue to raise the alarm — about the coming attack on evangelical believers in the United States. I believe that it is coming regardless, but I also believe that if Trump is reelected, and if evangelical support continues to be a significant part of his base, then that coming assault is a near certainty. The attack will be concerted, unrelenting, and fierce. The Russian collusion story came up a dry hole, and they will have to blame somebody.
Evangelicals will be the natural (and I think inevitable) target. Look for a rash of books, documentaries, television exposes, and articles, all of them revealing what a threat evangelical fascism presents to our democracy. Apparently, that’s how one threatens true democracy as the left envisions it — by voting in elections in such a manner as to impede what the left desires. A threat to democracy is apparently what we call it when the left loses elections.
But what about that pesky word fascism? What is that doing here?
What Is Fascism Anyhoo?
A number of years ago, I went to a press conference that our congressional representative was going to hold (her name was Helen Chenoweth), up on the University of Idaho campus. She was a stalwart conservative, but she was also running late, so when I got there I was confronted with the spectacle of a bunch of protesters standing around the room with signs. Nobody was doing anything, just standing there waiting. There was a young man across the way from me who, if memory serves, looked a lot like Napoleon Dynamite, and he was holding a sign that said something like “Down With Fascism.”
Well, you know how idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and there we all were, burning daylight, so I went across and stood next to him. At an appropriate moment, I leaned over and asked him, “What is fascism?” That question, truth be told, totally flummoxed him. Fascism was certainly something that he wanted to see go down, and he also apparently believed that it had something to do with Helen Chenoweth’s limited government conservatism. So much could be inferred from the fact that he was there at that event holding that particular sign. But after that point, it soon appeared that he had nothing. He eventually managed to get out the fact that it was when the government did “bad things.”
And of course this is nonsense. Bad things have been done by every form of government known to man. So what is fascism then? Fascism is when the government allows the means of production to remain in private hands, but wants authoritative control over what happens. Communists are internationalist collectivists who want the government to own the means of production. Fascists are nationalist collectivists who want an autocratic government to control the means of production. In modern parlance, we like to call such things government/business partnerships. Calling it that fixes everything. By way of contrast, limited government conservatism, of the sort that Rep. Chenoweth represented, was a mortal foe of all that kind of stuff, fascism included.
So in the coming onslaught against “evangelical fascism,” what will the term mean then? We live in a time of economic illiteracy, and so it will of course have nothing to do with what the term actually means to informed people. It will no doubt mean something like this — evangelicals will be convicted of still maintaining what everybody in the world believed until about twenty years ago, to wit, that a boy cannot become a girl just by wishing upon a star for it.
And we will at that point descend into the Orwellian linguistic maelstrom. War will be peace. Up will be down. Black will be white. Boys will be girls. Sanity will be madness. Threats to democracy will be all those recalcitrant voters expressing their unapproved opinions.
An Evangelical Susceptibility
I have said, just above I said it, that there is no such thing as evangelical fascism. But there is such as thing as evangelical susceptibility to it, and this is in fact the reason why we are now confronted with an epidemic of wokeness. That particular commie trick was made as effective as it has been in certain evangelical circles by the propensity that many pious souls have had which is the desire to rush to experience and application — before finding out what the text actually says.
For a long time now, many well-meaning evangelicals have been sitting in Bible studies where someone would read the passage, and then the first question asked by the leader was something like “now what does this verse mean to you?” What could I say that might persuade the people of God to stop doing this sort of thing? Perhaps I could adjure them by the beard of Zeus. Maybe they would listen then.
From “what does this verse mean to you?” to “what does this verse mean to you as a black single mother?” or “same-sex-attracted Navajo?” or “menopausal skateboarder?” was a very short intersectional step. And because it was such a short step, a number of people took it. This was a natural extension of that misguided evangelical practice of cultivating an “experiential hermeneutic.”
The reason we have such a swamp of corruption in Washington is because there is a such a swamp of sentimentalism in the hearts of the people. “How do you feel about this?” has been made into an all-purpose substitute for careful thought. In evangelical circles, it has been accepted as a substitute for exegesis.
So we should not care what this verse means to you or to me. Our task as interpreters is to find out what the verse would have meant had you and I never been born. What does God’s Word say? Once that is determined, and only when that is determined, it is then permitted (and necessary) to inquire what we intend to do about it.
Notice that when we make this shift, we are placing ourselves under the authority of Scripture. When we rush to what we call “application” first, we are placing Scripture under the authority of our misguided experiences. But that passage meant what it meant long before you were born, which means that the meaning was objective and externally fixed and settled before the first person who ever misunderstood your feelings did so.
And this is the point of linking to C.S. Lewis’s great essay The Poison of Subjectivism. It really is poison, and those evangelicals who have been poisoned by it have ceased to be evangelicals. The first thing the poison reaches is the evangelicalism, and kills it dead. Unfortunately, it does not kill the lingo of evangelicalism. That soldiers on.
The Locus of True Inerrancy
This intersectional rot, this canker of critical theory, this diseased leprosy of the mind, operates by changing how all definitions work — which is why the people who are advancing these things are getting away with it. So far. They can affirm inerrancy, for example, thus securing their continued employment at the seminary, for have they not said the magic word? And they can do this because of course the Word is inerrant after they have jiggered with all the words.
After the Word has had an intersectional hermeneutic applied to it, and has received what we like to call The Treatment, such that we can learn to ache with the horse and rider that were thrown into the sea, and can empathize with the mothers of Sisera’s men who would never see their boys return home again, and can lament the hegemonic impulses that caused Joshua to undertake his genocidal rampage through the Canaanitic First Nations, and can learn to wrestle with the fact that King David, a man after God’s own heart, was Bathsheba’s rapist, we can come to the point where we can let the healing begin. This is what all these passages mean to me, and is not my heart inerrant? Have I not confessed my complete faith in inerrancy?
The confusion is understandable. Inerrancy and inerrant me do rhyme.
In this new order of things, the god of the system is the god of the feels. If I feel that the apostle Paul said some hurtful things, then this is my inerrant filter. Anything my feelings touch are sanctified by them, and thus I can confess that Paul’s writings are inerrant, by a sort of reverse osmosis. After I have done all that I want to his words, I can then receive them as edifying to me personally, as properly understood.
Not Woke Is Not the Solution
As necessary as it may be for all of us to be not woke — and it is a basic moral duty of every Christian to not be woke — that is no solution to the emotional warp spasm we see happening all around us. I will no doubt write more on this in the days to come, but let this short statement suffice for now.
Believers who are looking aghast at a world gone mad need to cultivate, in the power of the Holy Spirit, three basic attitudes. We are to fight, and we are to fight with a whole heart, but those hearts need to be filled with gratitude, confidence, and joy.
Christ died and rose so that enemies could be made into friends. The death, burial and resurrection happened two thousand years ago, transforming everything, and nothing whatever can be done to reverse it. If we have believed, then this necessitates deep gratitude for the past.
God sent His Son into the world to do this, and He did not send Him on the basis of a gambler’s hope. The world will be brought to Christ, and He will be honored, from the river to the ends of the earth. Filled with eschatological hope, we must cultivate confidence with regard to the future. God knows what He is doing, and His gospel will prevail. Confidence is fitting whenever we think about the future.
And with gratitude and confidence in a hot fusion, this will enable you to fight with joy in the present. We are to fight, and fight fiercely, but not like a racoon trapped in a dumpster.
Rather, with gratitude for the gospel of grace, and confidence in God’s promises for the future, we are to fight in a state of joy, with joy as a glittering weapon, like we were Puritan cavaliers.