The May issue of Harpers Magazine (I didn't find it on their website), is terrific. Three articles in particular stand out: "Inside the Nation's Most Powerful Megachurch," by Jeff Sharlet; "Feeling the Hate with the National Religious Broadcasters," by Chris Hedges; and, "Let there be Markets: The Evangelical Roots of Economics," by Gordon Bigelow. Here is a little synopsis of each one.
"Inside the Nation's Most Powerful Megachurch": Sharlet focuses on New Life Church in Colorado Springs. The pastor is Ted Haggard, who speaks with Bush or his advisers every Monday. Haggard's church has over 11,000 members. Haggard is also president of the National Association of Evangelicals. New Life has a hierarchical cell-group structure: each member is in a small group; small group leaders report to section leaders, who report to zone leaders, etc. One of Haggard's favorite books is The Lexus and the Olive Tree. He thinks free market economics is a truth and the globalization is a vehicle for the spread of Christianity. He also supports bloody, preemptive war.
"Feeling the Hate with the National Religious Broadcasters": Hedges reports on the National Religious Broadcasters' annual convention--a group of 1,600 Christian radio and television broadcasters who claim to have an audience of 141 million. The most crucial part of his account is the way that previously disparate groups (Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, etc) are uniting under a doctrine of Dominionism--"a belief that America is destined to become a Christian nation, led by Christian men who are in turn directed by God." "Under Christian dominion, America will no longer be a sinful and fallen nation but one in which the Ten Commandments form the basic of our legal system, Creationism and 'Christian values' form the basis of our educational system, and the media and the government proclaim the Good New to one and all." Hedges closes by recalling the words of his ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, James Luther Adams, who predicted that the rise of Christian fascists. Hedges writes:
He [Adams] gave us that warning 25 years ago, when Pat Robertson and other prominent evangelists began speaking of a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all major American institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government, so as transform the US into a Christian empire. ... fascism, Adams warned, would not return wearing swastikas and brown shirts. Its ideological inheritors would cloak themselves in the language of the Bible...Adams had watched American intellectuals and industrialists flirt with fascism in the 1930s...Adams told us to watch closely the Christian right's persecution of homosexuals and lesbians. Hitler, he reminded us, promised to restore moral values not long after he took power in 1933, then imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations and publications.
"Let There Be Markets: The evangelical roots of economics": Bigelow describes the basic failures of mainstream (neoclassical or orthodox) economics, primarily their faulty account of the choices of economic actors (that is, that their formulae and calculations presuppose rational actors making rational choices on the basis of full and adequate information) and the way that they ignore social and cultural factors. There is a terrific passage where he cites Marshall Sahlins to the effect that the entire structure of US agriculture would change overnight if we ate dogs. He refers as well to the French students' recent call for a post-autistic economics.
Bigelow also situates the rise of political economy in England in the 1820s and 1830s in the context of emerging evangelicalism. They liked the free market--it rewarded good Christians and punished sinners. Poverty was divine retribution and should be addressed by concentrating on the sinner's soul. In fact, evangelicals are in part responsible for the decimation of the population of Ireland during the famine--the Whig government consisted of evangelicals who thought that the threat of starvation would force the Irish to atone, and to develop a more modern economy. This was a bad idea. After that, economics moved to present itself more as a 'science'--and in so doing became autistic as well as cruel.