Is America on the verge of a holy war?
One writer seems to think so. In a provocative Esquire article, John H. Richardson detects an increasingly radical – and potentially violent – stream of religious-political activism afoot in the United States.
Says Richardson, "Over the last few years, it has become increasingly clear to me that what we are witnessing is nothing less than the birth of a new religion. Cobbled together from old parts (fundamentalism, gun rights, excessive reverence for capitalism and The Founders, paranoid talking points from the good old liberal-hating John Birch Society, this new decidedly American religion has finally achieved critical mass under the pressure of a president whom its most extreme adherents call — by no accident — the Antichrist."
Richardson focuses on an eighth-grade public school teacher in Oklahoma City whose views are troubling to say the least. Mike Austin is popular with students, seems to be a great teacher and bakes bread for the principal who serves as his supervisor.
But, according to this profile, he has called President Obama "evil" and "malignant," and he believes that America is "rapidly becoming a Socialist dictatorship."
In Austin's blog posts, he rails against liberals who are allegedly trying to disarm Americans, charges that Obama is on a "Marxist crusade" to turn the country into a "socialist dependency" and warns that president wants to "allow sodomites in the military." He's reading a book called the The 5000 Year Leap (celebrated by Glenn Beck) that says American freedoms are all based on Christian morality and the Constitution doesn't mandate church-state separation.
Austin owns two guns and has a concealed-carry permit, but says he doesn't want to use either weapon. Still, on his blog, he notes, "We are going to learn whether it is true that 'all power flows from the barrel of a gun.'"
Is the Esquire article unduly alarmist?
It's hard to say. But it's also hard to see all the shrill and unreasoned rhetoric bandied about by the Religious Right, the "birthers" and the "tea party" crowd and not be deeply concerned about where our democracy is headed.