By Susan Antilla
Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Forget Disney World and Epcot Center. You haven't seen anything until you've seen the Creation Museum set to open in Petersburg, Kentucky, this year.
It has a theater with seats that shake and machines that spray mist as God's six-day creation marathon is re-enacted. Museum scientists weave a yarn that has humans and dinosaurs popping up on the very same day -- the sixth, to be exact, which is when the Bible says God made all the land animals.
If you're studying up after your visit, creationists have answers to all your questions. Wondering how God managed to say ``Let there be light'' on Day One without making the sun until Day Four? Hey, no problem -- he's God, after all, so he made a temporary light to cover things until the official Day Four unveiling.
Chris Hedges recounts these and other, more alarming examples of the work of evangelicals in ``American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.'' Hedges, a former reporter for the New York Times and a Harvard Divinity School graduate, focuses on the evangelical movement known as dominionism, in his view a dangerous force that manipulates followers into a faith that is political, intolerant and loaded with the potential for violence.
His firsthand reporting, exposing manipulative preachers who often target recruits precisely because they are down and out and thus more susceptible to conversion, is the strength of the book. Its weakness is his sweeping interpretations of what it all means. Too often he foresees frightening consequences from the machinations of born-again Christians without connecting the dots to show just how they might develop.
Targeting the Vulnerable
The you-are-there scenes from the Christian Right, though, are eye-openers. Hedges attends a seminar for evangelists where he is taught to manipulate and deceive: Target the vulnerable -- people dealing with divorce, death or other crises are more susceptible. Go into a person's home and come up with any compliment. Hide your Bible: ``Don't show your gun until you're ready to shoot it.''
And when challenged on doctrine, blame Satan! That way any tough question can be turned on its head with the accusation that the devil has planted it.
Hedges sees evangelism as a powerful movement scooping up converts who will accept whatever they're told, and it frightens him. It also irks him that dominionists insist, on the one hand, that the Bible be interpreted literally and then, on the other, decide selectively which parts to interpret -- to say nothing of redefining good and evil as they wish.
Liberalism Versus Scripture
Thus, according to the schoolbooks of one major Christian publisher, African religious beliefs are ``false'' and Hinduism is ``pagan'' and ``evil.'' Those of another define ``liberal'' as ``referring to philosophy not supported by scripture'' and ``conservative'' as ``dedicated to the preserving of scriptural principals.''
Just outside an anti-gay conference in Boston, the author stopped beside a pickup truck plastered with homophobic slogans, including a graphic of two men kissing with a red interdiction circle superimposed over it. Across the top of the truck were printed the words ``Stop the Insanity.''
``American Fascists'' is published by the Free Press (254 pages, $25).
(Susan Antilla is a columnist for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)
To contact the writer of this story: Susan Antilla in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org