It’s a scary thought, but true. To quote the Nazi, Joseph Goebbels, “If you tell a big lie often enough and keep repeating it, people will come to believe it.” A full 60% of Republicans today believe that Biden is not the President of the United States. 60%. This has nothing to do with conservative principles. It has only to do with susceptibility. Hitler himself understood quite well that “the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie…” [Mein Kampf]
In addition to the election lie, we now have another big lie beginning to circulate, and that is that America was founded as a white Christian nation and must remain so. General Flynn is calling for “one nation under one religion”, and a group called Project Blitz is planning to replace democracy with Christian theocracy. Any quick glance at the history of religion reveals plainly that intolerance is deadly, and plans for an American theocracy should terrify all of us. Not a new idea, theocracy has appeared all over the world since time immemorial. It was instituted in 1555 by John Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland, who burned the “heretic” Servetus at the stake while the patrols wandered the streets looking for those violating the morality code. Although not theocracy per se, religious intolerance ravaged Europe and killed 8 million Germans alone during the 30 Years War [1618-1648]. One nation under one religion is a hideous and murderous concept.
That does not mean, however, that it could not happen here in America. The big lie has had a history in Christianity almost from the very beginning. If one looks at the unfolding of 1st c Christianity, one discovers a startling and disturbing development. It was a time of extreme wealth disparity wherein the rich and powerful oppressed the poor. Jesus of Nazareth gathered a group of followers, about 25 men and women, forming what might be called a family of friends, sharing what they had and caring for one another. This model of human life together challenged the predominant system of exploitation and selfish greed, threatening those in control, and as this Jesus movement began to grow, Pilate had the troublemaker crucified. Unfortunately for the rich and powerful, the Christian movement continued to expand.
As it grew, impossible as it seems, its revolutionary message was buried under its exact opposite, and as epitomized in the New Testament book of 1 Timothy, slaves were warned to obey their masters, no matter how cruel, wives were told to obey their husbands, the church members were told to obey the priests, and everyone was told to obey the governing authorities, who no doubt represented the rich and powerful. How this transition occurred is a matter for historical research [See my series on the Subversion of Jesus by the Rich and Powerful], but the demolition of Jesus’ message is drastic. The key to the change was the promulgation of a new role thrown onto Jesus, no longer the one who offered a new and equitable model for living, but now one who had “died for your sins”. This to me represents the big lie of Christianity, that one who was crucified in the attempt to liberate the poor was transformed into a sacrifice to an angry god. This lie today is bolstered by another lie rampant in America, that the Bible is the literal word of God, and the Bible proclaims that Jesus was a sacrifice.
For over 2000 years, the masses of Christian believers have held that Jesus died for their sins even though the original disciples had no such idea. They were encountered by a person of love who changed their lives. And the concept of biblical literalism, arising only after the Reformation with the rise of Protestant Orthodoxy, projects the halo of an eternal truth accepted by all Christians even though it is a recent and fallacious bit of nonsense, a heresy as Bishop Spong put it. The history of the big lie in Christianity frighteningly exemplifies the power of falsehood to get a grip on the imagination of the masses and grow exponentially under its own power.
We today are witnessing a mass exodus of former mostly mainline church goers, about whom much has been observed and written. However the movement is analyzed, we must not make the mistake of assuming that all these people are rational secularists searching for truth. They could just as easily be leaving the old big lie behind in search of a new one, and the idea that we are one powerful nation with one powerful religion could be exactly the power for which people search, individually and collectively, “in the deeper strata of their emotional nature.” This is one dimension of human nature of which all fascists seem to be aware.