Journalist and author Chris Hedges ’79 spoke on campus on Tuesday about his new book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.
Published in January 2007, Hedges’ book discusses the presence of two Americas: the radical Christian Right and its followers, and everybody else. Hedges primarily focuses on this dichotomy and the growing right Christian sect in America. This group, he says, misconstrues religion and preaches only that which is convenient to them.
The talk consisted of a lecture heavily based on the book and a question and answer session. Hedges said that through rightist Christian media, these “ideologues” control a large portion of the American population who live in desperate situations. They use their “magical” preaching as a way to escape a “fear of being in a reality based world.”
The radical Christian Right also, Hedges says, does not tolerate those who are unlike them, homosexual individuals in particular.
Hedges has always been a big proponent of social tolerance and gay rights. Hedges’s father, a minister, had a gay brother, and so the topic was relevant and important in his family.
Hedges’ father forced him to bring the first gay and lesbian speakers to Colgate when he found out there was no such activism already.
He emphasized that, in order to preserve America’s democratic ideals, Americans who are not followers of the radical movement must stop tolerating those who do not tolerate others. He says that they “threaten the helm of the republic” and must be challenged with rational argument so that they are stopped.
This claim was met with intense interest from audience members with differing opinions in the question and answer portion of the lecture. Some questions challenged Hedges’ statements regarding the radical Christian Right, while others shared his views. This blend of stances made for a heated and thought-provoking environment.
Hedges graduated from Colgate University in 1979 with a B.A. in English Literature and later went on to pursue a career in journalism and writing. Among various other publications, Hedges has worked for The New York Times as a war correspondent, Harper’s and The Christian Science Monitor. Hedges has also written three books related to politics and religion, topics he has been involved in both professionally and personally.
Hedges’s background is also deeply founded in the Christian religion; he was raised in a very religious household, his father was a Presbyterian minister, and then attended Harvard Divinity School following his undergraduate studies at Colgate; however, in American Fascists: The Christian right and the War on America, Hedges approaches religion and American politics with a critical eye.
During his time overseas, Hedges was held hostage by the Iraqi Guard. For eight days as a prisoner in the middle of combat, Hedges turned back to his Colgate education. He was able to recall passages from poems he had read in school and by doing so, he said, he was able to maintain his sanity.
“From his writing you can tell that he has never stopped immersing himself in languages,” said Professor Margaret Maurer, in her opening comments at the lecture on Tuesday. (He speaks Arabic, French and Spanish, besides English, and he has studied Latin and Greek.) “And in the major philosophical questions and traditions that define the liberal arts. This makes it all the more heartening that he is so profoundly engaged in the important issues of the contemporary world.”