Book Club Channel
Christian Nation: A Q&A with Author Frederic C. Rich
Q: There have been many non-fiction books about Palin and the theocratic aspirations of the Christian right. Why write a novel?
A: You're right. I devoured great books by Chris Hedges, Michelle Goldberg, Jeff Sharlet, Max Blumenthal, Kevin Phillips and others. They are first rate journalists and scholars, and the story they told about the political aspirations of the Christian right was terrifying. But I couldn't believe how little impact those books had. Most of my friends in New York are great readers, and politically active people, yet none of them knew about dominionism, reconstructionism or the theocratic theologies that inspire growing numbers of evangelicals. They didn't know about the hostility to the separation of church and state. And none of them understood how strong the movement was, or how much progress it has made in acquiring control of the Republican Party, many state legislatures, and influential positions in Washington.
I have always believed that art and literature are stronger than journalism and scholarship; art and literature can move people where their deepest views and opinions are formed, through emotion, intuition and identity. So I got the idea of telling the story in the form of a novel, using characters who grapple with what to believe and what to do. And who suffer when the Christian right's agenda is finally implemented.
Q: It seems from the book that you think gay men and women have the most to lose.
A: Yes. The cause of gay rights is making great strides in this country—look at the incredible success with marriage equality in the 2012 elections. But this trend sometimes obscures another: that a very significant percentage of the American population is not only opposed to civil rights for homosexuals, but believe that homosexuality is a sin that will bring the wrath of God upon the country. This is a politically powerful belief. All nascent populist and authoritarian political movements need an enemy, and for the Christian fundamentalists the enemy is the gay Americans.
Q: What's your own religion?
A: I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, but now I'm an atheist. I have always been interested in morality and ethics. I did my graduate work before law school in moral philosophy, and believe that morality is central both to personal happiness and a successful culture.
Q: What about your own politics? Some people may think that you wrote this to discredit the Republican Party.
A: Not at all, and in fact during the time I was writing the book, I was still registered as a Republican, as I was for most of my life. But the most recent Republican Presidential primary season—with the party fielding people like Bachman, Perry and Santorum as serious candidates—it was just too much, and I switched to independent.
Do I want people to think about what the Republican Party has become, having been largely hijacked by the Christian right, which is now joining forces with the Tea Party? Absolutely. Too many good moderate Republicans just don't see it. But I certainly don't want to see the Republican Party destroyed. We need two credible mainstream parties in this country for our political system to work. I want to see the Republican Party get back in touch with its libertarian side, which of course believes that government should not be telling us what we can do in our bedrooms, whom we can marry or what we can read.