Christofascism (a portmanteau of Christian and fascism) is a pejorative neologism coined by Dorothee Sölle in 1970. Sölle, a Liberation theology proponent, used the term to describe her critics in the Christian church, who she characterized as totalitarian and imperialistic.
The use of the term as a pejorative label became popular in the American left in reaction to right wing politicians using the term Islamofascism.
Interpretation of Soelle
Tom Faw Driver, Paul Tillich Professor Emeritus at Union Theological Seminary, expressed concern "that the worship of God in Christ not divide Christian from Jew, man from woman, clergy from laity, white from black, or rich from poor". To him, Christianity is in constant danger of Christofascism, stating that "[w]e fear christofascism, which we see as the political direction of all attempts to place Christ at the center of social life and history" and that "[m]uch of the churches' teaching about Christ has turned into something that is dictatorial in its heart and is preparing society for an American fascism".
Christofascism "disposed or allowed Christians, to impose themselves not only upon other religions but other cultures, and political parties which do not march under the banner of the final, normative, victorious Christ" - as Knitter describes Sölle's view.
George Hunsinger, director of the Centre for Barth Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, regards the conception of Christofascism as being an attack, at a very sophisticated level of theological discourse, on the biblical depiction of Jesus. He equates what is viewed as Christofascism with "Jesus Christ as depicted in Scripture" and contrasts it with the "nonnormative Christology" that is offered as an alternative by some theologians, which he characterizes as extreme relativism that reduces Jesus Christ to "an object of mere personal preference and cultural location" and that he finds difficult to see as not contributing to the same problems encountered by the Christian church in Germany that were noted by theologian Karl Barth.
Douglas John Hall, Professor of Christian Theology at McGill University, relates Sölle's concept of Christofascism to Christomonism, that inevitably ends in religious triumphalism and exclusivity, noting Sölle's observation of American fundamentalist Christianity that Christomonism easily leads to Christofascism, and that violence is never far away from militant Christomonism. (Christomonism, accepts only one divine person, Jesus Christ.) He states that the over-divinized ("high") Christology of Christendom is demonstrated to be wrong by its "almost unrelieved anti-Judaism". He suggests that the best way to guard against this is for Christians not to neglect the humanity of Jesus Christ in favour of his divinity, and to remind themselves that Jesus was also a Jewish human being.
American history and politics
American historians and political commentators have also used the term to refer to politico-religious tendencies in American society.
Chris Hedges and David Neiwert contend that the beginnings of American Christofascism was during the Great Depression, when Americans espoused forms of fascism that were "explicitly 'Christian' in nature.":88 Hedges writes that "fundamentalist preachers such as Gerald B. Winrod and Gerald L. K. Smith fused national and Christian symbols to advocate the country's first crude form of Christo-fascism." Smith's Christian Nationalist Crusade said that "Christian character is the basis of all real Americanism." Hedges also considers another prominent advocate of Christofascism was William Dudley Pelley.:88
By the late 1950s, followers of these philosophies became the John Birch Society, whose policy positions and rhetoric have greatly impacted modern dominionists. Likewise, the Posse Comitatus movement began with former associates of Pelley and Smith.:90 The 1980s saw the Council for National Policy and the Moral Majority carry on the tradition, while the patriot movement and militia movement represented efforts to mainstream the philosophy in the 1990s.:90
Episcopal priest Carter Heyward, professor of theology at Episcopal Divinity School, uses the term to describe political and social policies that exclude nontraditional families in the name of Christianity, a practice she described as "arrogant and blasphemous."
Incidents of anti-abortion violence, including the Atlanta and Birmingham bombings committed by Eric Robert Rudolph and the assassination of George Tiller at his Wichita, Kansas church in 2009, have also been called Christofascism.:90–91
The term caused controversy in 2007, when Melissa McEwan, a campaign blogger for then-presidential candidate John Edwards, referred to religious conservatives as "Christofascists" on her personal blog.
- American Fascists (book)
- Clerical fascism
- Alois Hudal
- Culture war
- Dominion theology
- Forcible conversion to Christianity
- Religion in Nazi Germany
- Religious nationalism
- Neo-völkisch movements
- Ustaše, Iron Guard, National-Christian Defense League, Rexism - Christian fascist movements in Europe during World War II
- Dorothee Sölle (1970). Beyond Mere Obedience: Reflections on a Christian Ethic for the Future. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House.
- "Confessing Christ in a Post-Christendom Context.". The Ecumenical Review. July 1, 2000. Retrieved 2007-12-23.
...shall we say this, represent this, live this, without seeming to endorse the kind of christomonism (Dorothee Sölle called it ‘Christofascism’!...
- Pinnock, Sarah K. (2003). The Theology of Dorothee Soelle. Trinity Press International. ISBN 1-56338-404-3.
...of establishing a dubious moral superiority to justify organized violence on a massive scale, a perversion of Christianity she called Christofascism....
- Beverly Wildung Harrison (2004). Justice in the Making: Feminist Social Ethics. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 136. ISBN 0-664-22774-0.
- John Charles Hoffman (1986). Law, Freedom, and Story: The Role of Narrative in Therapy, Society, and Faith. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. pp. 127–28. ISBN 0-88920-185-4.
- Tom Faw Driver (1981). Christ in a Changing World: Toward an Ethical Christology. Crossroad. p. 19. ISBN 0-8245-0105-5.
We fear Christofascism ...
- Paul F. Knitter (July 1983). "Theocentric Christology". Theology Today. 40 (2): 142. doi:10.1177/004057368304000204.
Dorothee Soelle can even describe much of Christology as "Christofascism" in the way it has disposed or allowed Christians to impose themselves upon not only other religions but other cultures and political parties which do not march under the banner of the final, normative, victorious Christ
- Wildman, Wesley J (1998). Fidelity With Plausibility: Modest Christologies in the Twentieth Century. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-3595-4.
Driver argues that traditional Christology fosters what he calls ‘Christofascism.’ He means by this, first, the absolutizing of the past in order to...
- George Hunsinger (2001). "Where the Battle Rages: Confessing Christ in America Today". Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth. Wm B Eerdmans Publishing. p. 99. ISBN 0-8028-4940-7.
- Douglas John Hall (November 6, 1999). "Confessing Christ in a Post-Christendom Context". 1999 Covenant Conference, Network of Presbyterians. Atlanta, GA: Religion Online.
- Helen Rhee (2005). "Superiority of Christian Monotheism". Early Christian Literature: Christ and Culture in the Second and Third Centuries. Routledge. p. 80. ISBN 0-415-35487-0.
- Douglas John Hall. "The Identity of Jesus in a Pluralistic World" (Microsoft Word).
- Neiwert, David A (2009-05-01). The eliminationists: how hate talk radicalized the American right. pp. 88–90. ISBN 978-0-9815769-8-5.
- Hedges, Chris (2008). American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. Simon & Schuster. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-7432-8446-2.
- Welch, Sharon (2007). "Dangerous Memory and Alternate Knowledges". In Lawrence, Bruce B; Karim, Aisha. On violence: a reader. Duke University Press. p. 364. ISBN 978-0-8223-3756-0.
- Sölle, Dorothee (1990). The window of vulnerability: a political spirituality. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-2432-3.
- Walker, Laurel (October 8, 1992). "A different take on family values — Priest blasts 'Christo-fascism'". Milwaukee Journal.
- Zerbisias, Antonia (June 2, 2009). "Doctor's killing is domestic terrorism". The Star.
- Broder, John M. (February 9, 2007). "Edwards gets lesson in reconciling Internet culture with presidential campaign". The New York Times/IHT.
- Cooperman, Alan (June 2, 2007). "Obama Web Site Seeks to Rally The Faithful". Washington Post.
- Carter Heyward (1999). Saving Jesus from Those who are Right: Rethinking what it Means to be Christian. Fortress Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-8006-2966-3.
- Ann Loades (2007). "Christian Focus: Radical Christocentrism in Christian Theology — By Clive Marsh". International Journal of Systematic Theology. 9 (3): 365–368. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2400.2007.00279.x.
- Mary Grey (2005). "Diversity, Harmony and in the End, Justice: Remembering Dorothee Soelle". Feminist Theology. SAGE Publications. 13 (3): 343–357. doi:10.1177/0966735005054916.
- Daniel Webster (2006-11-16). "Pre-emptive War and False Security — Remarks to the Hudson-Mohawk, N.Y. chapter of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship". National Council of Churches.
- The dictionary definition of christofascism at Wiktionary