The leftist objectives of “woke capitalism,” a phenomenon which is intertwined with “socially responsible” investment (SRI) and has at its base, stakeholder capitalism, have obscured the way in which this combination works owes far more to fascism than to socialism. Nearly 90 years ago, Roger Shaw, a progressive writer, described the New Deal as “employing Fascist means to gain liberal ends.” Overwrought, perhaps, but not without some truth to it. He would recognize what is going on now for what it is.
It was the fourth week of June in 2020, and the middle of the second wave of the COVID pandemic in the U.S. Cases had passed 2.4 million; deaths from the novel coronavirus were closing in on 125,000. In his home office in Atlanta, Tom Chiller looked up from his e-mails and scrubbed his hands over his face and shaved head.
Chiller is a physician and an epidemiologist and, in normal times, a branch chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in charge of the section that monitors health threats from fungi such as molds and yeasts. He had put that specialty aside in March when the U.S. began to recognize the size of the threat from the new virus, when New York City went into lockdown and the CDC told almost all of its thousands of employees to work from home. Ever since, Chiller had been part of the public health agency’s frustrating, stymied effort against COVID. Its employees had been working with state health departments, keeping tabs on reports of cases and deaths and what jurisdictions needed to do to stay safe.
World War I, which lasted from 1914 until 1918, introduced the world to the horrors of trench warfare and lethal new technologies such as poison gas and tanks. The result was some of the most horrific carnage the world had ever seen, with more than 16 million military personnel and civilians losing their lives.
It also radically altered the map, leading to the collapse of the sprawling Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Russian empires that had existed for centuries, and the formation of new nations to take their place. Long after the last shot had been fired, the political turmoil and social upheaval continued, and ultimately led to another, even bigger and bloodier global conflict two decades later.
The Emperor Justinian reunified Romes fractured empire by defeating the Goths and Vandals who had separated Italy, Spain, and North Africa from imperial rule. In his capital at Constantinople he built the world’s most beautiful building, married its most powerful empress, and wrote its most enduring legal code, seemingly restoring Rome’s fortunes for the next five hundred years.
Then, in the summer of 542, he encountered a flea. The ensuing outbreak of bubonic plague killed five thousand people a day in Constantinople and nearly killed Justinian himself.
Beginning with the chaotic post–World War I landscape in which religious belief was one way of reordering a world knocked off its axis, Sacred Causes is a penetrating critique of how religion has often been camouflaged by politics. All the bloody regimes and movements of the 20th century are masterfully captured here, from Stalin’s Soviet Union, Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Franco’s Spain to the war on terror. With style and sophistication, Michael Burleigh shows how the churches, in their various guises, have been swayed by–and contributed to–conflicting secular currents.
Twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other radio and televangelists first spoke of the United States becoming a Christian nation that would build a global Christian empire, it was hard to take such hyperbolic rhetoric seriously. Today, such language no longer sounds like hyperbole but poses, instead, a very real threat to our freedom and our way of life. I