by Jay Taber
In Bron Taylor’s 20 April 2011 Religion Dispatches essay Debate Over Mother Earth’s Rights Stirs Fears of Pagan Socialism, he notes that, “Religious and political conservatives have long feared the global march of paganism and socialism. In their view,” says Taylor, “it was bad enough when Earth Day emerged in 1972, promoting a socialist agenda. But now, under the auspices of the United Nations, the notion has evolved into the overtly pagan, and thus doubly dangerous, International Mother Earth Day.” With all 192 member states of the UN General Assembly supporting a 2009 resolution proclaiming International Mother Earth Day as proposed by the socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales, American conservatives hostile to environmentalism responded with their usual religious hysteria.
In Paul de Armond’s 1996 essay A Not So Distant Mirror, he observes that, “I never expected to find parallels between the militant heretics of the Middle Ages and the current convulsions on the far right. The realization thrust itself upon me while I was trying to understand what I was witnessing as I attended meetings of the ‘property rights’ groups which began promoting militia organizing in early 1994.
Everyone seemed instinctively to know what part they played; the endless rants by a variety of characters full of not only themselves, but also full of a sense of a divine mission in struggling against unholy forces. The typical far right meeting is very similar to a service in a lay Christian fellowship of the more militant fundamentalist evangelicals.”
Concerned with a United Nations takeover of public lands in the United States, the militia meetings de Armond described in Northwest Washington State comprised a collection of Christian Patriots and Wise Users who had conflated conspiracy theories with white supremacist propaganda about an imminent UN invasion of the United States. “By chance,” said de Armond, “I was reading Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, a history of the turbulent 14th Century. Tuchman,” he notes, “explains her interest in the 14th Century as starting with ‘a desire to find out what were the effects of the most lethal disaster of recorded history — that is to say the Black Death of 1348-50 — which killed an estimated one third of the population living between India and Iceland.’
“Religious hysteria,” says de Armond, “was what I thought I was seeing at the confluence of the ‘property rights’ and militia movements. In their role as social critics and collectors of grievances, the ‘Patriots’ and Wise Users are remarkably acute, but they are unreasonable in both analysis and action — rejecting a discourse which supplies reasons and appeals to reason and instead relies on force for persuasion.”
“The prophetae of the militia movement,” notes de Armond, “come from the Wise Use anti-environmentalists and Christian white supremacists,” and like the leaders of the medieval social revolutions in Europe, “have been successful in obtaining political power and influence, and as they become part of the establishment and decapitated their own movement, their less successful brethren have repeatedly splintered off into more groups and become more violent and irresponsible in both rhetoric and action.”