One of the most recent claims chookwatchers advance is that of ‘christian fascism’. This strange and seemingly oxymoronic phrase have consistently surfaced posts and commentary. Now they are attempting to apply it both to C3 churches and Hillsong.

Under the suggestive heading ‘C3 Church and Christian Fascism’, the chookwatchers claim that:

‘A concerning paradigm that has crept into the rchurch is a form of fascism. Through time, we will explore if C3 and Hillsong also push these fascist like elements in the content of their teaching, their behavioural control methods and in their overall crowd control dynamics.’

Well the title tells us straightaway that they have already made up their mind and will push this theory at every given opportunity.

They follow this claim with a piece from an obscure website run by a couple of siblings called ’Sola Sisters’ which produces an extraordinary attack on youth ministry in the US titled ‘Christian Fascism Targeting Our Youth?’

The question over the question mark

Notice how they finish the heading with a question mark. This is discernment site code for ‘we don’t know, we’re speculating, but we think we might have a good rumour for critics to run with’.

Unperturbed by their lack of evidence, the Sola Sisters press on into their speculation and claim that Judah Smith, who runs a great church mostly populated by young adults, is promoting community. Yes, that’s what they consider to be a sign of Christian Fascism. The concept of ‘community’.

From here they come up with the astonishing statement that:

‘A Utopian community is what the Soviet Union and other high-minded Marxists have long sought to enforce through Communism. But does this really work on earth? And more importantly, is that what God commands of us?’

So, in one fell swoop, the Sola Sisters have gone from accusing a successful pastor of promoting community, as if it is wrong to do so, considered this to be ‘Christian fascism’, and followed up by calling it Marxist and, therefore, Communism.

Meanwhile, the chookwatchers swallow this contradictory series of claims hook, line and sinker. Of course, fascism is diametrically and philosophically opposed to communism. They have fought wars to eliminate one another as ideologies.

Christian community has nothing whatsoever to do with the concepts of either fascism or communism. In fact, communism sought to wipe out all traces of Christian belief wherever it established a foothold.

Meanwhile, fascist regimes set up their own forms of romantic dogmatic religion and many Christians have been martyred, severely persecuted or had to bow under threat to their totalitarian rule.

Unity in community

What Judah Smith  proposes is the Biblical principle of unity in the Body of Christ, beginning with the ideal represented in the Godhead. He was calling on youth to build on the foundations of Christ as the Household of God, and as members of the Body with distinctive functions working as a whole.

Both the Sola Sisters and the chookwatchers then draw on the services of Chris Rosebrough.

Chris is regarded by Reformist commentators to be the number one discernment ministry in the blogosphere. He is a Lutheran. Evangelical, perhaps. Loves God, apparently. He is not a church leader per cé, although he does pastor a small Lutheran Church with a handful of people in attendance at meetings.

Rosebrough runs a blog which he calls Christian Pirate Radio, even though, strictly speaking, it is not a radio program on the accepted sense. He is amusing, talky, dedicated, sometimes right, often wrong, and has an appealing personality. He is a professional critic.

Sermon dissector

What Chris likes to do is take a sermon and dissect it ‘on air’. He is not a Pentecostal or a charismatic. He likes especially to take the messages of mega-church pastors and take them apart.

He does so in what he would consider to be a satire although he often drifts into caustic sarcasm. It is very hard to listen to his broadcasts because he doesn’t allow the listener to really grasp the context of the message he is critiquing, especially with the constant interruptions, but his fans love his confrontational style.

Which means that Chris is very popular amongst the anti-charismatic, anti-mega-church groups, so he was invited to give a presentation at one of their conventions, and this is where the theory of ‘christian fascism’ actually begins to take hold.

Rosebrough’s conspiracy theory

In this presentation, which he admits at the beginning is complex (understatement), Chris somehow manufactures this theory that churches such as Saddleback and Willow Creek (notice that C3 and Hillsong are not mentioned) are displaying fascist undertones simply because they preach community.

I will not get into the whole of the theory Chris presents, because it is so conspiratorially ridiculous and time-wasting that I would feel guilty for frittering away your time.

The basis of this rather speculative and confusing talk is that there was the Enlightenment and the Counter-Enlightenment, and the latter interfered with the former, and out of it came fascism, which is a complete load of twaddle which no modern commentator would agree with. In fact, it is more likely that fascism came out of Enlightenment than Counter-Enlightenment, but that is another story.

The problem for the casual observer is that ‘Enlightenment’ sounds so…enlightening, but it was a theory of life which in many ways elevated science and reason and diminished the role of Christianity. However, it, like many philosophical ideas, has many branches, and has good as well as troublesome qualities, and has led to positive and negative outcomes.

The basis of Rosebrough’s theory is that Enlightenment led to the freedom of the individual, but the Counter-Enlightenment led to group dynamics which excluded the individual, including his rights, which is a nonsense, in fact.

Quantum leap in misplaced logic

Then Chris flips over to a well known social commentator and business leader by the name of Peter Drucker. Drucker successfully ran General Motors, but is also known for writing books on leadership, management and social improvement. He influenced businessmen, governments and financial institutions.

Chris accused Drucker of promoting Counter-Enlightenment and fascism because he had a vision of taking the drudgery out of mundane, impersonal workplace traditions of the industrial age and forming communities which made the working environment part of the social aspirational goals of nations.

It wasn’t a form of nationalism as such, but of bringing purpose and prestige into the ordinary worker’s life which in turn would improve the output and efficiency of the companies involved, and in turn add value to a nation’s productivity. He also had the idea of including NGOs in the process, especially those which provide a sense of community ownership and participation, such as churches. He saw this as part of a dynamic which would also increase the membership of charitable and church organisations, building their influence and improving community.

Drucker was an Austrian born, in 1909, into a Jewish family which eventually converted to Christianity. He was persecuted by Hitler for writing a book which predicted the Jewish problem, that is the situation which led to the extermination of millions of Jews under Hitler’s reign of terror. He was an outspoken critic of fascism. He was ostracised for it.

Spurious links

Chris Rosebrough, who claims to have researched his theory for several years, completely missed this vital piece of information. He does not tell his audience at any juncture that Drucker opposed fascism, exposed Hitlers’ persecution of Jews, or that he was from a Jewish/Christian background.

Rosebrough is a man with a mission. He desperately wants to link Saddleback Church, pastored by Rick Warren, and Willow Creek, overseen by Bill Hybels, with fascism because they promote community as a means for growth.

Well I went through Chris Rosebrough’s 64 slide Powerpoint presentation, and it leaves you right up in the air, produces no conclusions, not sound evidence, no proof of any connection between the Enlightenment, American Constituion, fascism, Drucker or Saddleback and Willow Creek. Not a skerrick of substantiation of anything but suggestive innuendo, fabricated claims and conspiratorial assumptions. Surprise, surprise.

Yet, both Sola Sisters and the chookwatchers think this is enough to label Rick Warren a Christian fascist. But, although Rosebrough’s focus is on Saddleback and Willow Creek, the chookwatchers want to include c3 and Hillsong by some kind of manufactured association.

Accusation by association

In a post called ‘Hillsong, Rick Warren and Fascism’, the chookwatch crew make another unbelievable claim.

‘Apart from continually exposing Rick Warren as a dedicated bible-twister, Chris Rosebrough has extensively researched the connections between the post-modern church, Rick Warren and their connections to anti-intellectualism and fascism.’

So, rather than check the ‘research’ for themselves, and found, as I have, that his claims are unwarranted and fall dismally short of proof, the chookwatchers have accepted Rosebrough’s theories as fact and applied them, not only to Rick Warren, but also to Hillsong, and now to C3, by fabricated means.

Outlandish claims

See if you can spot the innuendo in the following quote lifted directly from a chookwatcher introduction to an article:

“The fascist practices and philosophies emerging from the mega-church cults like C3, CHC and Hillsong church should concern Christians everywhere. They are unafraid to use propaganda and fuhrer-prinzip methodologies. They elevate arts, experience and feelings over logic and reason. They propagate the cult of youth and use the size of their ‘volkish’ community to bully Christians into submitting to their strong leadership and movements.

Sound extreme? Are we exaggerating the phenomenon? Are we making this up? Sadly, this is all too real. They may not realise it but these movements are built on the same community-identification principles that characterised the fascist movements in Europe in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Be aware that fascism isn’t to be confused with policies. Italian Fascism and German National Socialism were primarily personality cults where the vision of the leader must be implemented … the policies tended to be indistinguishable from socialism/communism. They were populist policies that played to the masses. The real danger is not where a Brian Houston or a Phil Pringle would take their organisations. The real danger is in whoever comes after them. C3 and Hillsong have set a precedent in Australia for the vision-casting leader who must be obeyed … or else!”

Well, yes, chookwatchers, you are certainly exaggerating the phenomenon, and to a defamatory extent.

Fascism is an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organisation. It is totalitarian. It exerts absolute control. It manipulates people into doing exactly what the state decrees. There is no choice, only submission. None of this takes place in any of the local churches and movements targeted by these ridiculous chookwatcher claims.

Liberty in the Spirit of God

In fact, by contrast, Saddleback Church, Willow Creek, Hillsong and C3 are all seeking the liberty of each person they work with to bring them closer to a relationship with Christ and fulfilment in Him. The emphasis is bringing people to Christ, who is the true Head of the Church, and to be led by the Spirit of Christ, who indwells all believers.

The claim that Hillsong or C3 adherents must obey the leader, or else, is a vile misrepresentation of reality.

The irony is that, by their own admission, many of the commenters and contributors at the chookwatcher sites are existing or former members of one or both of these movements.

It is clear by their comments that they have been able to leave their church without too much trouble, and are now able to participate in a critical blog which tears down their former brothers and sisters who remain gladly a part of those churches.

Despite their antagonism towards Hillsong and C3 and their leaders, they are able to remain in the liberty they had all along. The difference being that now they are opposed to what they once were a part of. Their own freedom to criticise and judge betrays their won claims of being forced to comply with a ‘vision-casting leader who must be obeyed…or else!”

Those who are still content to remain with C3 and Hillsong do not seem to share the preposterous claims of the chookwatcher adherents. They appear to be going back for more every week, and filling great convention centres for major conferences, inviting friends to meetings, and enjoying one another’s company on a regular basis at the many events, connect groups and informal gatherings that they arrange.

They display all of the attributes of people that have been set free through faith in Christs, and are experiencing liberty in the Spirit of God.

All of this flies in the face of the contrived chookwatcher narrative.

Unity in action

The reality is that these movements and churches do promote the unity of the Body of Christ but, at the same time, hold each soul as vital and unique within the Body—a royal priesthood, plural, but each member particular to God, each with a purpose, each with a goal, each with gifts and graces, qualities and potential which can be developed to produce the kind of lasting fruit Christ chose us and called us for, all fitly joined together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causing growth in the Body for the building of itself in love.

Attempting to make believers who have found liberty in the Spirit and unity in Christ into fascist organisations is not only an unbalanced, unhinged and unsustainable accusation by obsessive conspiratorialists, it is also a slur on the Body and on Christ.

There is much more we could say about this whole nonsense, but the basic fact is this: the chookwatchers seek only to defame and verbal their target groups by any and every means they can even if it means making up rumours and false claims about them.

Spreading unsubstantiated rumours about Christians is sowing discord amongst the brethren. There is a difference between discernment and delusion. These people need to learn what it is.

*revised article from April 2014