Interminable Rambling has been around, in various forms, since 2015. Over the course of these seven years, I’ve published about 715 posts, around 1,000 words per post. That means, I’ve written over 715,000 words during that period. That is hard for me to fathom. At the end of the year, I typically either do a most read posts roundup or a roundup of some of my favorite posts from the year. The last time I did this was 2020. I’m not sure why I didn’t do it last year. Today, I want to look at a few of my favorite pieces from 2022.
Over the past couple of years, I have been looking at Christian nationalism and fascism separately, and as I delved more into each, I really started to see the overlap between Christian nationalism, “an ideology that,” as Samuel Perry and Andrew Whitehead define it, “idealizes a fusion of Christianity with American civic belonging and participation.” Jemar Tisby adds to Perry and Whitehead, noting that Christian nationalism works to uphold white supremacy.
As I read Robert Paxton, Jason Stanley, Timothy Snyder, and mores on fascim and its rise during the early 1900s and its continued impact today, I began to think about the intersections between Christian nationalism and fascism, particularly in the ways that Christian nationalism plays up the idea of victimhood and persecution. Candida Moss’s The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martydom helped me with this because she points out the historical trajectory of martyrdom and how that played a role throughout the ages but also continues to influence Christianity today.
Victimhood is not the only aspect of Christian fascism that we need to think about. We need to think about that ways that Christian fascism works to shape legislation that would oppress others simply because they do not adhere to the beliefs of Christian fascists. We see it in the ways that Christian fascists fight to teach the “true” history of the United States or society. One need only look at the American Patriot’s Bible: The Word of God and the Shaping of American for more about this. Christian fascism seeks to maintain power through draconian measures that do not include everyone and that punishes those who do not view the world in the same manner that they do.
All of this reminds me of Paul Tillich, who in Dynamics of Faith (1956) writes, “If a national group makes the life and growth of a nation its ultimate concern, it demands that all other concerns, economic wellbeing, health and life, family, aesthetic and cognitive truth, justice & humanity, be sacrificed.”
A colleague and I were scheduled to lead a study travel trip to Poland last May to teach about the intersections between Jim Crow and the Holocaust. The trip, ultimately due to various circumstances, didn’t happen; however, one of the students who registered for the trip still wanted to take the course. So, over the summer I did a directed study entitled “Jim Crow and the Holocaust.” As we planned the course, the student told me that people she knew questioned what the purpose of the course was and why she would even want to study the intersections between the United States and Nazi Germany. Those questions led me to write “Education and the Confronting of the Past,” looking at the importance of knowing and understanding these connections and this history.
The questions that the student encountered brought to mind discussions surrounding various legislation, specifically Senate Bill 377 here in my state, against teaching “divisive concepts” in school or Senate Bill 226 keeping material “harmful to minors” out of schools and libraries. These bills, along with countless others across the country, sought to restrict the dissemination of knowledge, specifically historical knowledge that would challenge the myth of the United States’ greatness and its role as the protector of democracy in the world.
Diving into connections between Jim Crow and the Holocaust over the past couple of years led me in a lot of directions, namely into Hitler and the Nazi’s use of Jim Crow laws for the Nuremberg Laws and into the role of the German American Bund in the United States. It led me to the Civil Rights Congress’ We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People (1951). It led me to books such as John A. Williams’ Clifford’s Blues, a novel, in the form of a diary, that follows a Black, gay, American musician Clifford Pepperidge as he survives internment in Dachau from its opening in 1933 to its liberation in 1945. It led me to Rachel Maddow’s Ultra podcast which details how some in congress, during the 1930s and 1940s, worked with Nazi government to overthrow the United States government.
Our failure and inability to confront our history tells us a lot about ourselves. It tells us we are afraid to confront not just the history of our nation but also ourselves. It tells us that if we choose to look at this history that means we must look at our own complicity in the atrocities of that history, the atrocities that we seek to cover up with myths about our ultimate greatness. It’s not necessarily a fear of the truth. It’s a fear of what that truth reveals about ourselves because that reflection in the mirror doesn’t lie. It tells us the truth, and we must look at it, and confront it, in order to move forward.
As James Baldwin put it, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” Knowing and criticizing that history isn’t bad. In fact, it’s more patriotic than blindly accepting the myths. It’s patriotic because it shows that you want to learn from the past so that you won’t repeat it. It’s patriotic because it shows that you want to make a better world for all, not just for yourself.
In the next post, I’ll write about two more of my favorite posts. Until then, what are your thoughts? As always, let me know in the comments below. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @silaslapham.