Christian Nation: a Novel, by Frederic C. Rich, is a work of speculative fiction set in 2029, when the main character Greg writes a memoir of how the religious Right took over the U.S., turning it into a brutally totalitarian state. The narrative becomes alternative history in 2008 with Barack Obama losing the Presidential election to John McCain, who soon dies.
Sarah Palin, who was made McCain’s running mate to attract religious Right voters, becomes President. The fact that Palin is a Dominionist—someone who believes fundamentalist Christians need to make the U.S. a theocracy—is the tipping point that allows the religious Right to, as Rich puts it, simply “do what they said they would do.”
Much of the novel is Greg’s recounting of the real-life legislation the religious Right passed or attempted to pass before 2008. His friend Sanjay becomes increasingly alarmed over these attempts to change government and culture, discussing the significance of each one with Greg. Greg’s girlfriend Emilie is dismissive of Sanjay’s concern, representing those who ignore the religious Right or don’t believe they really mean what they say because it is so outrageous.
YOUTH IS KEY TO RELIGIOUS RIGHT
Rich explains through the characters that reactionary political takeovers happen slowly, like how small tectonic shifts eventually lead to earthquakes. They only require a fanatical minority of people to lead an indifferent majority. He describes how home schooling and the fundamentalist law school Patrick Henry College are means of indoctrinating this minority and placing them in political positions of power. He also explains the notion of “Generation Joshua,” that today’s youth will bring down secular democracy in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ.
The religious Right motivates this generation with increasingly violent rhetoric, claiming that fundamentalists are oppressed by secularists, while making inroads into the military. Anti-intellectualism is promoted through the teaching of simplistic, anti-scientific notions such as creationism and Biblical inerrancy. Anti-intellectualism is also valued as an asset for “common person” politicians such as Palin.
The purpose is to make people reject critical thinking in favor of believing what they are told. This is necessary for the success of Reconstructionism—the notion that supposedly God-given and perfect Biblical law should replace mere human democracy. Most people are not aware of the brutality of Biblical law, and Rich describes it being instituted when the religious Right takes over.
FEMINIST CRITIQUE IS MISSING
This novel is an excellent introduction to the religious Right’s tactics and thought process. Rich does leave out the insight of feminists that the religious Right’s objection to reproductive and LGBT rights is part of their obsession with restoring patriarchy, which promotes a hierarchal mindset.
While he describes their infiltration into government, education, and the media, he is not explicit about their doctrine of “Spiritual Warfare.” According to this doctrine, these three are among the “Seven Mountains” of culture that must be conquered, which also include arts and entertainment, family, business, and religion.
He does describe the devastating economic and political impact of the new Christian nation on the rest of the world, but neglects the fact that the religious Right wants to take that over too.
Rich includes a brief, interesting section on how the inhabitants of a besieged Manhattan use all their space for urban agriculture and create an almost self-sufficient, crime-free society, apparently without capitalism. He also describes how the resistance movement uses a cell system of organization and the preservation of subversive literature to fight a 1984-style society in which the internet and video cameras are used for control. However, the novel does not offer many suggestions on how to fight the religious Right in the present day other than having its fictional organization “Theocracy Watch” attempt to educate the population about them. But, the novel itself is an important tool in doing just that.