Christophobia is marching through movie theaters and onto the pages of books.
One much-discussed documentary, "Jesus Camp," concerns a fringe-Christian program in Devil's Lake, N.D., that the filmmakers suggest is representative of the evangelical world. The film has small children praying before a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush and swinging swords while dressed in combat fatigues.
One typical attack book, James Rudin's "The Baptizing of America," argues that "Christocrats" desire compulsory daily prayer sessions in every workplace and preferential treatment for Christians seeking "home ownership, student loans, employment and education." These tyrants-in-waiting would allow no opposition: "the mainstream press and the electronic media would be beaten into submission."
Another screed, Michelle Goldberg's "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism" also sees some Christian extremists as typical rather than, well, extreme. Instead of writing about Rick Warren or other laid-back pastors, she describes big churches as "temples of religious nationalism" and "tightly organized right-wing political machines." Even a Christian libertarian like myself cannot escape the dragnet: Since I was a Marxist before becoming an evangelical 30 years ago, in Goldberg's fantasy, I am "drawn to totalitarian ideologies."
The fear-mongers are not just at the publishing fringes. Kevin Phillips' rant -- "American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century" -- hit the bestseller lists earlier this year. Nor is it surprising that the creators of these projects imagine crosses turning into swastikas, because they're drawing on writers a generation ago who thought that Nazism grew out of Christianity -- so why shouldn't it happen again?
That's why it's good, in this year of popular culture paranoia, to have a scholarly book that shows how those who developed the Nazi religion "were decidedly anti-Christian because they saw Christianity as a Jewish phenomenon in the 1920s to the 1940s to be anti-Semitic meant being anti-Christian and vice versa." This book by University of Calgary professor emeritus Karla Poewe, "New Religions and the Nazis," shows that influential pro-Nazi ideologues saw Christianity as "a foreign faith and psychology imposed on Germany."