Date of Award

Spring 5-2010

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

College

College of Theology, Arts, & Sciences

Department

Theology

Degree Name

Theology, BA

First Supervisor

Dr. Richard Hill

Abstract

The research for my thesis centers around the behaviors and philosophies of a group which I define as American Right-Wing Christianity and whether or not those behaviors and philosophies are adequate to define the group as a fascist movement. The term is generally inclusive of much of the American right wing, regardless of whether a given group beneath that umbrella is an explicitly religious organization; my analysis of this group, centered around an analysis of Fourteen Principles developed by Umberto Eco which characterize fascisms in general, begins with an analysis of the Cult of Tradition, which for the American Right includes the centrality of Christian values and beliefs.

My methods in Part I involve examining various definitions for fascism, in an attempt to develop a consensus for the evaluation of fascistic tendencies. Two major scholars: Robert Paxton, a historian of fascism, and Umberto Eco, an Italian professor of semiotics who grew up in Mussolini’s Italy, furnish this consensus; Eco’s definition, as laid out in his essay “Ur- Fascism,” provides a much more rigorous and systematic method of evaluation than Paxton’s. As such, Paxton’s definition is used as a sort of fact-checking method, to ensure that the method which I use the Fourteen Points of Eco’s essay for analysis remains effective in identifying fascism.

My methods in Part II involved analyzing each of the Fourteen Points as a separate entity (although at points there is significant overlap, as many of the behaviors they describe can easily flow into one another,) and then to use primary sources from American Right-Wing Christianity to demonstrate those points. Occasionally I will invoke an outside observer, such as Jeff Sharlet, who lived with and researched a powerful right-wing Christian group known as the Family and rigorously documented his sources, or a reputable news organization, when a particular conservative behavior cannot be found in a primary conservative source.

My results found that American Right-Wing Christianity lacks only one major identifying factor of Fascism: apocalyptic, redemptive violence. As such, I have significant misgivings about the growing belligerence and innuendo toward violence adopted by the right wing, and by the tea-partiers specifically, as well as worries about the possibility of the emergence of a genuine American fascism.

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