Answering William Anderson on V

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William Anderson asks if, as the Reason review states, the dytopian regime in V for Vendetta is run by “Radical Right Christians.”

My answer is, not really. The state has taken the church under its command. It is theocratic, but not really religious. The top government-church leaders are corrupt and do not act Christian in any real sense of the term—and this is, I surmise, how religion and government often operate when they combine: the good from the religion is purged, and the church is used as a cover for tyranny and oppression.
While it’s true that the most murderous regimes of the last century espoused atheist Communism, the regime portrayed in the film was not quite Stalinesque, as far as I could tell, in the scope of its destruction. It was more like fascism with a theocratic pretense. While some of it was a perhaps exaggerated view of the future, I don’t think it was too far off. In America, it will not be Marxism that develops into the total state. Governments need the tacit consent of the people, and there are millions of nominally Christian Americans who seem willing to give their consent to any regime whose head is a “man of God” so long as it keeps a “Godless” man out of power. Similarly, they tend to support America’s wars and domestic crusades against what they see as sin. One of the closest things America has to a program that hauls people off to concentration camps for their sexuality is the war on drugs, for example. If I am not mistaken, prohibitionists have always been big among the more politicized among America’s Christian community. They have long been willing to use the state’s violence to enforce their morality.

This is not to say that most Christians are like that, or that true Christianity is like that. But when good, even wonderful things, are taken over by the state and become politicized, great harm often results. V for Vendetta did not, in my view, characterize Christianity as having corrupted state power, but more the reverse, if anything.

If you notice, the Christian righties who hate the movie will talk about how “America’s education system, its government, its popular culture, its military, its business community, and its news media have been transformed by this insidious Fifth Column of ‘Cultural Marxism.’” But this makes one wonder. What should be running the military and government? And if these institutions have been corrupted by the socialists, why are they still favored so strongly by the Christian right? If they think the US government is “Christian,” then perhaps the government in V for Vendetta is also “Christian”—just “Christian” enough to trick red-state fascist types into defending it. Overall, I saw the portrayed state as an attack on Christianity.

When the total state uses religion or atheism, I don’t think the issue is theology but rather the best method, given time and place, for maintaining and expanding power.

12:49 pm on March 21, 2006