A Christian Nation Is Only A Novel. For Now.

InquisitionAs far as alternative histories go, Christian Nation (W.W. Norton) by Frederic C. Rich is uncomfortably believable. It’s also, for me as an atheist, terrifyingly dystopian. Part of the fear I get when reading it is wondering how many people see this particular near-future vision as something positive.

In Christian Nation, a hypothetical future is explored in detail: what if McCain/Palin had won in 2008, and then McCain died and we got Palin as president? What might follow from that?

THE REVIEW

When I read a book, I look at two main things: the quality of the writing and the value of the ideas. Christian Nation excels in both of these aspects. Rich, a partner with a New York-based law firm, has done a lot of writing besides his lawyering, and he writes (and/or has been edited) elegantly. I found none of the major goofs that I often come across in books of ideas, in which the ideas take precedence over all other considerations.

Rich uses a lot of quotes in the epigraphs at the head of each chapter and throughout the narrative. I found them an enriching aspect of the novel. All the quotes from pre-2008 are genuine. Would-be leaders usually announce what they’re going to do, he points out, and then when they have the power, they do exactly what they’ve said. Such as, in 2010, Palin said, “[To] declare that America isn’t a Christian nation. . . it’s mind-boggling.”

One of the main characters is gay, and there is a lot of homophobia and homosexual oppression, even brutality, by the new extremist Christian government. The only major female character is a social climber, an ambitious player, wholly unsympathetic, which allows her to be dispensed with fairly quickly. I detected what seemed to me to be a homo-erotic charge between best friends Greg and Sanjay, though it’s never acknowledged as such.

WARRING FOR CHRIST (FOR A CHANGE]

Following a war by the Christian Feds against the secular states, ending in Manhattan, losers are sent to re-education camp. Those scenes are eerily realistic and wrenching, evoking not-so-distant history and classic fiction about how dictatorships eliminate the opposition.

Different kinds of activists play a role in opposing the extremists: Sanjay is all in at the start, but he’s made a lot of money from a business and thus money and time are no object for him now. Greg, the narrator, is slowly drawn into the opposition, not immediately ready to give up his lawyerly career ambitions. As a matter of principle, he finally does what he believes is the right thing, as risky as it is.

A detailed section describes “The Blessing,” which is the set of rules for the new Christian society. Honestly, it nauseated me. I know too much about history — its various inquisitions, crusades, pogroms, and genocides– to read it without a deep sense of foreboding. The urge to undo millennia of social and intellectual progress is blatant. The new leaders even burn books, though the narrator finds a dangerous way to safeguard a few of the crucial ones. And then he writes this one, to help future citizens understand why the crazy stuff happened.

Christian NationMy only quibble is that there is far more telling than showing, and perhaps a few too many lengthy explanatory speeches. Rich does a good job interweaving the speeches into the narrative, but I would have edited them down a bit more anyway.

I’m curious as to whether non-extremist Christians might read this and think, “It wouldn’t be so bad if all this came to pass, but of course without the torture and killing.”

Christian Nation is intended as a warning, and thus isn’t totally without hope for a better future. I, for one, would not choose to die for my non-beliefs (a choice given to many in this book’s scenario). Would you?

Copyright (c) 2013 by Susan K. Perry

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  • Magick Wander

    HOW TO PERMANENTLY ELIMINATE THE WORD “bitch” EXCEPT FOR DOGS (big one for the men’s self-evolution), PERMANENTLY eliminating the word “bitch” except for dogs (from your Jesus, “They think strange is your rejecting the ‘flood’ [at the word 'what' 'whatters' at 'these, this, that, those, it, there'] of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you”):

    The bitch attacks your mind to distress you, writes (without righting) “very little time for life life” at life-or-death matters at her own life, at matters which involve her own death (and so do you, you write about OBJECTIFYING WHILE YOU OBJECTIFY THE READER, you’re a pathologic liar, you objectify the reader with known technique of OBSOLETE language “these, this, that, those, it, there” since readers naturally object at liarlanguage, sanely preferring settlement-of-”each”-word instead), for her (the “bitch’s”) distressing readers by her suicidal expression of “very little time for life life” at matters which involve her own death, even at death penalty imposed of people, even at death penalty imposed of her own “God” also, since you can live forever with technology for escaping the death penalty of her God, and SHE could live forever with technology for escaping the death penalty of her “own” God, and so the imposed death penalty OF her “God” (by aging) and OF the State (by human death penalty) are both now canceled, permanently abolished and outlawed, as you simply wave your hand and “maaaaaaaaaagicly” cancel the word “bitch” permanently, everywhere, easily and deftly.

    The distress SOURCING from the bitch is to anger you at her, the distress is to cause YOU do a DOING (she (whomever the “she” is, a human woman) puppets you into SLAPPING THE LIVING SENSE OUT OF HER same as DURING A PANIC ON A SINKING SHIP, or during a PANIC at a BURNING THEATRE, or during a PANIC at a stampede of MANY people panicking, or during a PANIC the “slapping senses INTO someone” reaction)

    I use the word “bitch” purposefully, since a “proper season for everything under heaven” and we are AT heaven, since nanites, a place of wishes rather than “WILLING WILLING WILLING” “WILLING (willFULLY, effortFULLY) to PERMANENTLY feed the poor once and for all, WILLING WILLING (rather than wishing) to help the Japanese COMPLETELY AND QUICKLY AND PERMANENTLY at Tsunami effects, WILLING EFFORTFULLY rather than ‘wishing by nanites’”

    Your “the Holy Bible” mentions “sins leading to death” and mentions “sins without leading to death” and you “have” a “death=good” calendar’s aging you to death, for “VIKINGLIKE DEATH=GOOD” for humiliating fathers for sending sons for war, and today daughters, at “Look, even ‘the heavenly father’ sent his son for massacre” for humiliating fathers for sending sons for war, and today daughters, “VIKINGLIKE DEATH=GOOD” and for anesthetizing the elderly by “death=good” calendar, “for fearing death less” “death=good” “grow old and die, you’ll be replaced” already SCARING THE ELDERLY OFF THE PLANET at a “cheered-bleed calendar” since they WISH TO LEAVE SOONER near a “cheered-bleed calendar” “VIKINGLIKE DEATH=GOOD/AGING-TO-DEATH=GOOD” [extinction-causing] calendar.

    Your “the Holy Bible” mentions “sins leading to death” and mentions “sins without leading to death” and you “have” a “death=good” calendar’s aging you to death, for “VIKINGLIKE DEATH=GOOD” for humiliating fathers for sending sons for war, too.

    Your “the Holy Bible” mentions “sins leading to death” and mentions “sins without leading to death” and you “have” a “death=good” calendar’s aging you to death, for “VIKINGLIKE DEATH=GOOD” for humiliating fathers for sending sons for war, when really “death=bad” if you wish to prevent nanites’ shredding everybody AT THEIR DETECTING 400 YEARS OF SLAVERY or 400 moments of slavery, since at nanites’ building smaller nanites, TIME STASIS OCCURS, the humans MOVE SLOWER while the small tiny nanites MOVE QUICKER THAN WE CAN DETECT (for them an hour is like a week) and so no “war” between nanites and people, NO WAR AT ALL BETWEEN NANITES AND people, WHETHER YOU CHANGE CALENDAR OR NO, no war will happen between nanites and people, the nanites will either cause heaven on earth OR WILL COMPLETELY ELIMINATE ALL HUMANITY WITHOUT A WAR AT ALL, simply staging for complete eradication using a single hour/minute, since your “bloodyshredhumansGood Friday” calendar (remember the cannibals who ATE the missionaries, at “death=good” calendar and at “This [the word 'this'] is my body, eat my thisthissomethingsomething in remembrance of Mimi’s Cafe [insert variable location]. This [the word 'this'] is my blood. Drink my thisthissomethingsomething in remembrance of Mimi’s Cafe [insert variable location]” AND SO THE CANNIBALS ATE THE MISSIONARIES………………..soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo WHETHER YOU CHANGE CALENDAR OR NO, no war will happen between nanites and people, the nanites will either cause heaven on earth OR WILL COMPLETELY ELIMINATE ALL HUMANITY WITHOUT A WAR AT ALL, simply staging for complete eradication using a single hour/minute, since your “bloodyshredhumansGood Friday” calendar)

    Your “the Holy Bible” mentions “sins leading to death” and mentions “sins without leading to death” and you “have” a “death=good” calendar’s aging you to death, for “VIKINGLIKE DEATH=GOOD” for humiliating fathers for sending sons for war, too. MEANWHILE, HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OR SEEN OR DETECTED A MINISTER’S/PRIEST’S/RABBI’S/REVEREND’S/PASTOR’S SAYING AT A FUNERAL “Nope, didn’t enter heaven. They died, they missed heaven, they’re in hell” OR INSTEAD DO THEY ALWAYS SAY “everyone entered heaven” rather than their saying “Nope, didn’t enter heaven. They died, they missed heaven, they’re in hell.” Polygraph, anyone? Why no. Polygraphs are fun. We should’ve had nanites six hundred years ago during the Spanish Inquisition if everyone wore wrist-bound 9-volt lie detectors, if even the INQUISITORS wore wrist-bound lie detectors. Poly want a cracker?

    For making nanites (instead) and so you live forever WITHOUT SPOOOOOOOOOOOOOKY “you can have eternal life only if you DIE first” (like some invisible “God” put you on restriction, grounded you, “you can have eternal life only if you die first” and so your Jesus sat on the throne (toilet), killed the nonvisible “Father” and ex-claim-ed “Why have you forsaken me?” and so for making nanites without SPOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKY “you can have eternal life only if you DIE first” like some invisible “Father God” put you on restriction, grounded you since your Jesus already killed the nonvisible “Father” (Rev 3:21, a matter of right rather than a matter of privilege)):https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004787647355&ref=tn_tnmn

    They’ll need compassion at the rumored cult 200,000-strong of 200,000 members at LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL CHURCH OF CHRIST/LAICOC/ICOC/ICC, since they feel humiliated at a calendar flaw’s mere decades causing they worship a death more than the words pre-death, when the words pre-death (love thine enemy) would’ve resulted no crucifixion. They studied “the medical account of A crucifixion (ANY crucifixion)” and so they’re HALF-IMMUNIZED AGAINST THE PSYCHOTIC “leaderdead=good” CALENDAR ALREADY, will adapt easily for announcing calendar-change. You others (the false Christians entirely) ACTUALLY INSIST THE GUY (Jesus) HAD TO DIE, while real Christians wish no crucifixions happened at all, for more words “at whim” of their Jesus, rather than our killing the guy. TODAY’S COWARDS ACTUALLY BLAME THE DEAD GUY, naming the painday “good” when actually they could instead TAKE responsibility at having allowed harm rather than SHEDDING responsibility on the dead guy. At Germany, already selected is “Mourning Friday” and the varying names a proper polar opposite at the catastrophe which caused cannibals ATE us.

    • GoingBig

      paste rant – Pressing ignore/rant button

  • Ambaa

    This idea is so terrifying. I don’t think I could stand to read the book! Thanks for the review!

    • SusanKPerry

      It’s just too real, isn’t it? And I’ve never actually been especially paranoid.

      • Ambaa

        Exactly! I’m not usually very paranoid either. I don’t know what my backup plan would be if America ever actually became a Christian nation. If we lost religious freedom, I guess I’d have to go to the only place where my religion is the majority: India. Do atheists have a country?

        • SinginDiva721

          In Sweden there seems to be a signifigant portion of the popuation that is at the very least, non-religious.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism#Sweden

          Also according to that article, The Czech Republic and Estonia are ahead of them too. I’ve been to the Czech Republic (part of my father’s family is also from there) and it’s gorgeous. Never been to Estonia but it’s on my to-do list!

        • kenofken

          All of Western Europe, the Scandanavian countries and the Baltic are functionally atheist or at least deeply secular.

  • Paul Ball

    Definitely going to give it a read!

  • John Lev

    I’ve been reading it and yes. Terrifying. I personally think unlikely but not impossible.

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    Who knows, if Palin had won we might have had massive NSA screenings of our emails and partisan use of the IRS. Keeps me awake at nights, you betcha.

  • Don Gwinn

    Haven’t read it, but I guess I probably will, now. Here’s how my friend described it:

    “It’s like the love child of Tim LaHaye and Margaret Atwood wrote a piece of anti-Ayn Rand un-fan fiction, entitled Atlas Moved From Downward Dog To Crescent Moon.”

    http://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/2013/09/im-doing-this-for-you-internet.html

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      Thanks for the link, Don. The most kick ass book review I have read this year.

      It takes a really, really, really tightly fitted set of blinders to be aware of where the real theocracies are in this world – the countries where women are household pets and gays lose their heads – and then go to bed shivering about Christian dictatorship.

  • Ben Porter

    I’d lie my ass off and claim to be a christian. I am not going to die oversomething like that. would also try to escape to a more enlightened country though.

  • Justin

    Frankly, this sort of thing is little better than the spiel conservatives pumped out about Obama turning us into a new Islamic Soviet Union if he was elected. Entertaining fiction, certainly, but don’t try to suggest that it’s a real possibility.

    • kenofken

      It’s not even a remote possibility. While fundamentalists are more shrill than ever, we are rapidly becoming a secular nation. Dominionists had their day in the sun in the past couple of years, and their agenda has been resoundingly rejected. No GOP candidate is going to choose a fundie for a running mate going forward, because it will doom the ticket to lose. Even when they had the run of the White House during the Bush years, the courts limited the damage they could do. Moreover, people like Palin have a built-in safeguard: They’re idiots. They have no vision of governance and no ability to compromise, which means they would not get anything through a Congress even if they had a majority.

  • Pete

    As a non-extremist Christian, no, this was just like reading 1984. It was horrifying. For one thing, if this book came to pass, us non-Evangelical Christians would be persecuted as heretics and “not true Christians”, to say nothing of how morally repugnant the society depicted in this novel is.

    • SusanKPerry

      Excellent and insightful point!

    • seba

      Christians around 300 year AD thinked the same, “we will never change, christianity is peace and love”. 313, it went from excomunicating people who WERE fighting in wars to excomunicating the ones who refused. Like that, from day to day, and after some time killing “unbelievers” was a virtue. You can never guess what people will do, and they will probably go for most gore and terrible ideas.

  • Zaoldyeck

    Die for my non-belief? Of course not! Atheists have a harder time rationalizing “dying for non-belief” than theists do “dying for a belief”.

    Would you die for your right not to collect stamps?

  • JoeS4

    In fact, this book is something like “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, except with Christians as the target. The fanatical, deranged individual in this case is the author. The target of hatred, fear, propaganda and slander is Christians. If you believe that fascist dictatorship is the goal of Christians, then you must believe that the United States was a fascist dictatorship until some time in the very recent past, because all social conservatives want in general is a return to traditional cultural norms that have been obliterated since the 1970s.

    • Justin

      Like making adultery, fornication, and homosexuality illegal once again and making sure that women are barefoot and pregnant? Those traditional cultural ‘norms’?

      • kenofken

        Let’s not forget some of the other goodies in their traditional platform: Bans on birth control, censorship, compulsory school prayer, a presumption in law that rape victims may have been “asking for it”, etc. We don’t need some lurid piece of fiction to imagine what they have in mind for us. We have a historical record of it, and not nearly all of it is ancient history.

      • JoeS4

        First, cultural norms are not law. Second, laws of the type mentioned above were rare, only existed in certain local jurisdictions, and generally were struck down by the courts. Most social conservatives don’t advocate bringing them back. In addition to not remotely being universal, they were almost impossible to enforce, and were rarely prosecuted. It usually only came up in cases where the acts occurred in a public place, and would have accompanied other charges such as public lewdness, disorderly conduct, etc.

        • Justin

          Cultural norms give birth to laws. And your right, they were struck down by the courts, mostly during the 60′s and 70′s when our culture shifted on sex. And maybe most conservatives don’t openly advocate bringing them back, but you can bet they are thinking it.

        • kenofken

          Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was not rare or rarely used or ancient history. It ended like two years ago and before that was a massive ongoing witch hunt to destroy the careers of military men and women, even highly distinguished soldiers, for simply being gay. Many conservatives would dearly love to bring that ban back into place.

          Nor are these other laws mentioned dead letters. People are still frequently arrested in conservative states for being gay. Those laws are ALL still on the books and some lawmen have decided to continue to arrest even though the laws are unconstitutional and unenforceable.

          http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/08/05/gay_people_are_still_being_arrested_for_having_consensual_sex_in_some_red.html

    • Bitter Lizard

      You can always depend on Christians to take any criticism of their persecution of others as persecution of themselves, which makes it clear to any sane person how deranged by narcissism and entitlement they have become. It really takes a complete lack of both intelligence and conscience to become as twisted as you.

      • JoeS4

        You are projecting your own characteristics onto those you hate, as is the author of the book. You described yourself with that post, not me.

        • Bitter Lizard

          Nope, I was describing you. Learn to read.

        • randomfactor

          The classic “I know you are but what am I?” gambit. We’re done for.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        This book sounds like hysterical left-wing tripe to me, and I’ve been an atheist for fifty years.

    • tyler

      mccarthyism was a thing that actually happened

      and internment camps

      eugenics is still practiced in some places too

      christian nation is hyperbolic and heavy-handed but not off the mark. “it could happen here” indeed.

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      When the John Birch Society was at its peak of membership, and published detailed screeds explaining how Ike was an operative of the Commonist Conspiracy, William F. Buckley elegantly replied, “Eisenhower is not a Communist. He is a golfer.”

      Sarah Palin is not a theocrat. She’s a moose hunter.

  • Steve

    The fact that you find anything you just mentioned as remotely likely or possible says far more about you than it does about the US. Like Joe S4 said, everything you just brought up in the book has the same level of realism of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And then there’s this:

    “I’m curious as to whether non-extremist Christians might read this and
    think, “It wouldn’t be so bad if all this came to pass, but of course
    without the torture and killing.””

    You seriously have to ask that question? Is this self-parody? I had to re-read this article several times just to make sure you weren’t actually making fun of the book and I just missed the satire, like someone who takes Stephen Colbert literally. I mean, I don’t even have an actual response, because I’m just completely baffled by what you just said.

    Congratulations, this country is now ever so slightly a worse place to live in because you posted this.

    • SusanKPerry

      Again, if you actually read the book, you’ll see that the author presents quote after quote made by real people in the recent past. He’s merely fictionalizing a horrific worst-case scenario, as 1984 did.

      • Steve

        Quite frankly, I don’t need to read the book, because your review, in spite of your best efforts, made it quite clear that it was nothing more than fear-mongering, hate-mongering alarmism used to cast suspicion on Christians as a way of pandering to secular humanists. And you know, there’s still the part where you wonder if this is actually what the average Christian might want.

        • http://www.danarel.com/ Dan Arel

          Well at least you are going into this with an open mind….

          oh wait..

  • Dan Leifker

    Interesting idea, but I’ll skip this book. The reviews on Amazon are so-so, with a few zingers, such as: “The author, Frederic Rich, an ostensibly wealthy
    corporate lawyer, makes no attempt to hide his belief that people on the
    coasts — and especially in New York — carry the mantle of culture and
    thought, while people in flyover country are hopeless rubes who are
    worthless at best and dangerous at worst.”

    • SusanKPerry

      I must have missed that in the book. I found the author to be fairly reasonable, with the worst reviews seemingly posted by those who disagreed with his preference for a totally secular society. I never said it was a great work of art, though quite readable, but also more of a gathering of actual comments made in the recent past and projected into a very scary future.

  • cken

    I’ll have to read the book. It seems to me the end result – believe as I do or else – will be the same whether it is advanced by Christians or Atheists. Which side will be the most humanistic is a conundrum.

  • R Vogel

    I have not read the book, and probably won’t, but this seems more like a fanciful trip down a slippery slope. Sarah Palin’s Presidency would have been a tragedy but it would not have driven us into the dark ages any more than Obama getting elected to a second term resulted in him declaring martial law and instituting shariah (sp?) law, as my fundamentalist relatives assured me would be the case.

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    It’s risible to imagine Sarah Palin as being some sort of American Torquemada.

    I have criticized her in the past as being an intellectual lightweight without a firm grounding in conservative thought, but that’s about it.

  • haithabu

    The book as described remains me of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which I also did not read because it also seemed to concern events on a different planet. The problem in both books is that I simply do not recognize myself or the other Christians I know in their theocratic bogeymen, which poses a major problem for the willing suspension of disbelief necessary for enjoying a novel.

    A paranoid fantasy which reveals more about the author than it does about Christians or about the likely course of events in America.

  • jimbo

    Isn’t it a bit obscene and hateful for someone to create a delusional story about McCain and Sarah Palin ushering in an Christo-fascist nation that persecutes and brutalizes non-believers? It’s been some 5 years now and you people are
    still hating on Palin. That theme strikes me as delusional.

    On the other hand, one doesn’t have to look too far to see atheism’s great handiwork. History’s greatest atheists, Stalin and Mao, have left their mark in the Soviet Union and China. All of the un-Christian brutality that Christians throughout history have perpetrated upon others pales in comparison to the accomplishments of atheism’s great heroes. To this day atheists continue to brutalize, torture, and murder people of faith, particularly Christians.

    Use your creativity and try looking at this from the opposite perspective.
    Write a book in which atheists come into power, persecute people of
    faith, put them in re-education camps, torture them to stop believing incorrectly,
    and wipe out entire regions of believers. It shouldn’t be too difficult or challenging: you already have an existing working model. Perhaps you
    could go with Dennis next time he visits Kim Jong-un and ask him about his success.

    I’m not worried about Christians having the power of the gun. I’m far more worried about atheists having that power. When I read the hateful rhetoric of Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. I shudder to think what these types of atheists would do to others if they had the power of the gun.

    Recent history shows us atheism’s magnificent handiwork. I’ll pass.


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