We now come to my really-and-truly second least-popular Amazon review of all time. My last review came in at Number Two on the scorecard, but that is only because I couldn't confine myself to just ten hated reviews.
The author is New York Times journalist, Harvard Divinity School graduate, and all-around shmuck, Chris Hedges. Sorry, I shouldn't say that latter -- he may be a very nice fellow, when he's not writing this book. (I don't think I can endure reading any of his other books, to see how they compare.) But here we go, the review speaks for itself, and also explains why Hedge's fans seem to hate it:
Christopher Hedges, American Fascists
51 + / 99 -
"Why, Oh Why does my Flesh Creep?"
Of the some 300 books I've reviewed at Amazon -- and I disagreed with half of
them -- this may be the worst. Let me (begin to) count the ways:
writing is pure schlock. Hedges makes bold assertions -- Dobson is a fascist,
evangelicals are totalitarians, conservative Christianity is all about mind
control and subjugation of women -- gives a single anecdote, then fills page
after page with meandering psycho-babble. How does a graduate from the Harvard
Divinity school become an authority on Freud? Don't they teach them to qualify,
specify, or avoid sweeping generalizations at the New York Times?
like rigorously defined claims, backed up by strong evidence and clear logic,
this book will drive you crazy.
Want an ill-informed hatchet job on
Christianity? Read Harris or Dawkins: their books are at least
(2) Hedges accuses the "religious right" of hatred, but
I've never seen anything so one-sided and uncharitable from any Christian writer
that I can recall. Hatred radiates from every page of this book.
Hedges defines "fascism" so vaguely (admitting up-front his definition is
self-contradictary, as if to pre-empt criticism), that it could apply to anyone
or no one. Whole chapters of this book seem to have nothing to do with his
thesis. So what if James Kennedy teaches people to use canned evangelistic
techniques? Fascism is supposed to be about storm-troopers and concentration
camps, not campy religious come-ons.
(4) Hedges makes liberal use of the
"heurmeneutics of suspicion." "Anything you say can and will be used against
you." Mother Theresa would come out looking like a Nazi after he was done with
Full disclosure. I am (broadly speaking) one of Hedges' targets. I'm
Christian, vote Republican, and am fairly conservative. I grew up
among conservative Christians -- I've visited over 300 fellowships of one kind
or another around the world, and my family and friends all belong to this
You might take that as a reason to reject my review as "sour
grapes." But it also means I know this group of people -- what they think, what
they want -- far better than Hedges, Goldberg, Harris, Phillips, or Dawkins do.
While I am not objective of course, I have reviewed many books by atheists,
communists, Buddhists, Hindus, gays, Muslims, and all sorts of other people, and
usually find something good to say. I certainly don't deny that there are flaky
Christians. But as a generalization about the Christian community, this book is
the vilest slander. It is demogogic, paranoid, and deeply dishonest. It is also
one of the most tedious books I have ever opened -- like listening to a sermon
by a malevolent elderly pastor who thinks he is profound because he is vague,
and thinks he is charitable because he uses words like charity, even while he
tries (in his vague way) to cut the throats of people he hates.
I can't help
thinking of the Grimm story of the boy whose flesh would not creep, try as he
might. "Why, oh why, does not my flesh creep?"
Read this book, kid.