Sunday, April 05, 2015


My godless parents brought me up to have no religion. Never having assumed any formal religious affiliation, I have largely agreed with them - except for one thing. That is that they neglected the role of religion in inspiring major works of art, literature, and music in the Western tradition. I sought to grapple with these themes in my university teaching of the history of art. Moreover, my avocation is classical music, especially its early manifestations, which in such composers as Machaut, Palestrina, J.S. Bach and many others is hugely concerned with setting Christian religious texts. 

Because of these two interests - art and music - I feel most affinity with Catholicism - if I had to choose. Evangelical Christianity in particular leaves me cold, especially in its latest, hard-nosed form, so obnoxiously evident in recent homophobic outbursts in Indiana and other places. 

By the same token, however, nothing is gained by name-calling, in particular by asserting that these narrow-minded individuals are "Christofascists." The term Christofaschismus was first proposed by a German theologian in 1970 to describe the churches in the Nazi era that had slavishly accommodated themselves to the Third Reich. With that specific meaning, it seems appropriate. Recently, though "Christofascist" has been revived as an epithet by such polemicists as Chris Hedges. Yet even in its most restrictive forms, evangelical Christianity has little in common with historical fascism - no single maximum leader, no posited master race, no unique party and so on. It is best to avoid such name calling.