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The Theology of Fascism

Mussolini should be called the patron saint of 20th century humanism. His ideas have been widely adopted but without acknowledgment... Fascism is, of course, a form of Marxism: it is in origin national socialism, but its basic philosophy is as readily usable for international socialism. Biographers of Mussolini stress his faults and avoid dealing with the implications of his life, because it strikes too close to the heart of modern man.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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A social order is a reflection of the life of a people and their faith, and laws on a statute book are on the whole meaningless unless they first of all are written in the hearts of a people. 

A statement such as the above will commonly incur and arouse hostility. Men are children of Adam: when confronted by the consequences of their actions, they regularly resort to the excuses offered by Adam and Eve: Adam and Eve saw themselves as victims, not sinners. Adam blamed Eve and God, and Eve blamed the serpent (Gen. 3:7-13). Both insisted on seeing themselves as the victims of their environment and of a conspiracy. If Adam and Eve in paradise could see their environment in these terms, we should not wonder that modern man, in a less favorable environment, is very prone to blaming his environment or a conspiracy for his plight. This ploy removes the burden of sin from man, and it is a strategy dear to the heart of anti-Christianity, whether it be conservative, liberal, or radical in its philosophy. 

A social order is a reflection of the religion of a people. If the religion is a false one, his social order will not only be false, but its nature will reflect the nature of that false faith.

Faith that Moves Mountains

Man in the 20th century is humanistic man, but the humanism of our day has characteristics which mark it, even as the humanism of the Enlightenment had its own particular emphases. The characteristics of an age are products by and large of the faith of an age. Benito Mussolini declared, early in his career, “It is faith that moves mountains, not reason. Reason is a tool, but it can never be the motive force of the crowd. Today less than ever.”

Mussolini, although much maligned, should be called the patron saint of 20th century humanism. His ideas have been widely adopted but without acknowledgment. National Socialist Germany used Mussolini’s ideas, as have the democracies. In the United States, the postal service, Amtrak, and much, much more represent borrowings from Mussolini. Fascism is everywhere condemned since World War II, but everywhere imitated, even in Marxist countries. Fascism is, of course, a form of Marxism: it is in origin national socialism, but its basic philosophy is as readily usable for international socialism. Biographers of Mussolini stress his faults and avoid dealing with the implications of his life, because it strikes too close to the heart of modern man.

Mussolini lacked a radical commitment to anything other than himself. He recognized this same trait in other men. He knew that an either-or commitment is what men flatter themselves into believing they hold, but he knew that in truth he and other men wanted to eat their cake and to have it too. Men were practical atheists while practicing churchmen. They defended the free market while seeking socialistic subsidies. They championed freedom while asking for a benevolent slavery. They wanted socialism with freedom, religion without the responsibilities of faith, and private property with all the imagined benefits of socialism. The meaning of such a desire is fascism.

Fascism is growing progressively everywhere precisely because of the hostility to an antithesis. Like Israel of old, men halt between two opinions. They refuse to make the choice called for by Joshua:

Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt: and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:14-16)

Two Alien Faiths

The characteristic sin of the united Israel, and, later, of the northern kingdom, was syncretism, the attempt to join two alien faiths into one under the pretense of Jehovah worship. It is this unwillingness to be either one thing or the other which leads to religious syncretism and to its political analogue, fascism.

In theology today, men profess to believe in the God of Scripture while denying His sovereignty and His predestination. They are thereby trying to affirm both God and Satan, the principles of the fall and of salvation, at one and the same time.

In philosophy, for example, Walter Kaufmann, in Without Guilt and Justice, affirms the radical autonomy of man. He proclaims the death of God and sees therefore the necessity of abandoning the concepts of guilt and justice. Guilt and justice are in essence theological concepts which presuppose the existence of the God of Scripture, and Kaufmann is logical in rejecting them in favor of autonomy. Do we have here a clear awareness of the antithesis between God and apostasy from God? Far from it. Kaufmann believes that we can accept the tempter’s offer in Genesis 3:1-5, and abandon God, justice, and guilt, and still have integrity, honesty, and morality! A Christian world without Christ is an impossibility. A moral world based on autonomous man is a contradiction. Prof. Kaufmann should affirm de Sade, logically, but he wants all the comfort and order of Princeton University, a product of Calvinism, without that faith. Kaufmann’s world is an impossible one, but it is the world of fascist premises, the attempt to have the best of all possible worlds.

Fascism governs current economics, which operates on the premise that a mixed economy, part socialist, part free, is the happiest solution.

In Mussolini, this spirit of fascism was called opportunism. Mussolini was a practicing atheist who worked for the church, and planned to die a Catholic, although, up to the last, he postponed even a formal reconciliation with the church.  At the same time, he spoke eloquently about the importance of the faith, declaring, nine months before his death:

We are Catholics by conviction. I am a Catholic by conviction, because I believe that Catholicism is the religion which possesses a doctrine capable of resolving all the problems of life, individual and social, national and international; and in the conflict between the spirit and materialism it sustains and desires the primacy and the victory of the spirit.

In their associations with Evangelist Billy Graham, a generation of American political leaders have taken a similar stand.

Because politics is the outworking of the faith and life of a people, we cannot have genuine and valid changes in political life without having first of all a change in their faith. Fascism, as a compromise philosophy, is a form of Marxist socialism which seeks to preserve the façade of freedom. Property remains nominally in private hands, but by taxation, regulations, and controls, it becomes state property in which liabilities remain with the nominal owners.

Paul, in writing to Timothy, spoke of an ungodly generation marked as “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5). Men with such a faith will call false pastors; they will vote for politicians who, in the name of freedom, institute socialism. Politics is an expression of faith. Fascism is the mark of a people who want syncretism, but want it bearing the label of freedom. A syncretistic faith begets a syncretistic politics.

The 20th century began with an extensive socialist movement throughout the Western world. That movement had a popular following before 1917; later, its followers were the intellectuals. The grim realities of the Russian Revolution did not sit well with the workers. German and Italian socialists revised their Marxism: if the people wanted the form of ownership and freedom with the results of Marxist socialism, then the two could be combined. The result was fascism. The name, fascism, was discredited after 1946. The democracies have adopted its reality, however, combining the forms of freedom and ownership, with the reality of statist control, sovereignty, ownership, and power. Fascism is socialism for the hypocrites.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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