Frederic Rich: The Christian Right is Not Just Cranks and Knuckleheads

After the 2008 election, I think a person could be forgiven for thinking the tide had finally turned on the Religious Right, as a young, progressive, black politician was elected president. All the fear-mongering and rumors churning about whether Barack Obama was a secret Muslim, or perhaps Satan himself, didn’t seem to stop the dam from bursting on the Bush years.

The political elastic, of course, snapped back pretty hard in 2010 (though I would never take a midterm election to be representative of the entire potential electorate, since turnout in those is usually limited to activated partisans), and particularly in state legislatures, we saw Christianists swarm into power.

It is in this context that Frederic Rich, author of a new alternate-reality novel, Christian Nation, in which Sarah Palin becomes president and begins America’s transition to full theocracy, tells us that, yes, the Religious Right is not just a joke. (We posted an excerpt from the book on this site last month.)

In an “Ask Me Anything” for The Dish, he explains why he wrote his book: explicitly to instill fear into his readers,”for the readers to feel threatened,” as he puts it.

Rich warns us that the Religious Right will “wash over us” if progressives and seculars presume its defeat too soon. With antiquated blowhards like Pat Robertson, for example, it can be easy to laugh much of the old Christian right away, but Rich is right, the 2012 bench of candidates for the GOP nomination was remarkably theocratic (though Rich incorrectly places Mike Huckabee in the 2012 mix — Huckabee ran in 2008), and many state governments are dragging their states back to the Bronze Age as quickly as their horse-drawn carriages will take them. And often, we’re all just powerless to stop it.

About Paul Fidalgo

Paul is communications director for the Center for Inquiry, as well as an actor and musician. His blog is iMortal, and he tweets as @paulfidalgo, and the blog tweets as @iMortal_blog.
The opinions expressed on this blog are personal to Paul and do not necessarily represent the views of the Center for Inquiry.

  • http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer Hugh Kramer

    One of the reasons the theocratic right is so dangerous is because of the cover they provide for the agenda of some of their corporate backers. It’s not just women and religious minorities that need to worry about them. Wherever they come to power they also curb working peoples’ right to organize, slash social safety nets and undermine state regulatory rules and agencies. They have no comprehension of what individual civil liberties are and the only freedom they guarantee is the freedom to agree with them.

    • onamission5

      Watching what is currently happening in my adopted home state, I can’t stress enough how true this is. People love to write the South off as filled with everything-ists and the RR off as cranks, but folks, the south is just the testing ground. They’re coming for you next (and if you’d like to hear what that’s like from a non-southern state, just ask Wisconson). Laugh or cringe at states like Texas and North Carolina all you like but if you don’t help us fight what’s happening to us we may not be able to stem this tide.

    • Sk3ptec

      “It’s not just women and religious minorities that need to worry about them” – What in the world are you talking about?

      “right to organize”, “social safety nets”, “individual civil liberties” – I can’t believe you’re saying this. I guess I would have to ask for some examples. I just don’t see it.

      But since you’re talking about “corporate backers”, you have to admit that scoundrels undeniably abound on both sides. The left is certainly not immune. In just this administration alone we’ve seen more corruption, scandal, and political treachery than any citizen should ever have to witness in their lifetime. The “theocratic right” is not our threat (Contrary to the claims of this article, NO Christian actually wants a theocracy). No, the tyrannical left (and right) is this country’s true enemy.

      • Spuddie

        If you don’t have examples of what Hugh Kramer was talking about, it is only because you chose not to look in that direction.

        Every TP governor and led legislature has attacked organized labor, public services and government regulatory agency power. They are also the ones who most blatantly ignore 1st Amendment prohibitions of the Establishment Clause and engage in sectarian nonsense.

        Fact of the matter is “fiscal conservatism” of lack of government regulation, attacks on organized labor, attacks on social services in favor of corporate welfare are now part in parcel with “social conservative” aka right wing Christian platforms. The link between the two groups which used to be subtext is now text.

        “(Contrary to the claims of this article, NO Christian actually wants a theocracy)”

        Can I get a No True Scotsman here?

        • Vicq_Ruiz

          Yes, there are a few Christians who want a theocracy. I’ve debated online with them more than once.

          There are also some atheists who want a secular government which is confined to Constitutional functions and spends within its means.

          But from the comments on this thread, you’d never know it. I had to scroll back up to the top to make sure I hadn’t clicked through to Daily Kos or The Nation by mistake.

          • Spuddie

            So on one side you have theocrats, the other you have sane people who respect the Constitution and religious liberties.

            Frankly I can’t think of any legitimate reasons for opposing a secular government.

            Secular does not mean religion-free or atheist. The current accepted interpretation of the separation of church and state is to be non-sectarian, ecumenical. Religious neutral rather than religion free. Accept all faiths and not show favoritism to one.

            People who oppose secularism are telling me they support sectarian discrimination.

            • Vicq_Ruiz

              curb working peoples’ right to organize, slash social safety nets and undermine state regulatory rules and agencies

              Assuming all these things are true (and frankly I think the third of them is a damn good idea) you have failed to establish that these are in any way an establishment of religious doctrine.

              Issues of economics, government control of society, and war and peace are those on which there can and should be no “atheist orthodoxy”.

              • Spuddie

                Then you have not been reading closely or are trying to set up the most ridiculous strawman position possible. Not my point. Yet establishment of religion has now gone hand in hand with oligarchic economic policies for the right wing. Where you find one, you are finding the other.

                The fiscal conservative position is now the religious conservative one. All those things mentioned are now “part of God’s plan” to the fundamentalist Christians. Economic orthodoxy becoming religious orthodoxy.

                As for “atheist orthodoxy”? I don’t speak wingnut, please elaborate by what you mean by your statement.

                Are you saying that these are issues which are inherently based on religious belief? That there must be a sectarian position adopted for such subjects?

                • Vicq_Ruiz

                  What I am saying is this. I am an atheist, have been so for all my 50+ years. I am also a fiscal conservative, have been one for the same length of time.

                  The fiscal conservative position is now the religious conservative one. All those things mentioned are now “part of God’s plan” to the fundamentalist Christians.

                  This qualifies as a classic example of the association fallacy, popularly known as reductio ad Hitlerum. The fact that a particular tax, spending policy, or business regulation, (itself having no religious content) is advocated by those whose religious beliefs I find unacceptable tells me nothing about whether that policy is desirable or workable.

                  Similarly, the fact that a particular economic policy or agenda is supported by a majority of my fellow atheists carries absolutely no weight with me. That policy must stand or fall upon its own merits.

                • Spuddie

                  You are building a strawman here and really missing the point.

                  I am not saying anything about the policies themselves outside of how the religious right has now adopted them as part of their own platform and given a religious spin on them in public discourse. That the TP, originally touted as fiscal conservatives have all adopted religious conservative platforms as well. Its association exists because it was intended to be so by conservative politicians.

                  People like yourself, fiscally conservative, socially liberal (or neutral) are becoming dinosaurs among the right wing. It is clear the GOP has no interest in such people on the national level anymore.

                • Vicq_Ruiz

                  Certainly I find the left wing scarcely more congenial.

                  Especially the likes of the current administration which is launching drones at vaguely defined “enemies” with one hand while giving Wall Street a hand job with the other.

                  This explains why I have voted third party in the five of the last six presidential elections.

                • Spuddie

                  I used to be like you. But my disgust for how the inmates of the religious right have been running the asylum as of late, turned me off.

                  Plus my tax dollars going from making my commute easier to funding a ghost mall and casino have soured me on politicians claiming to be fiscal conservative for some time.

                • Vicq_Ruiz

                  disgust for how the inmates of the religious right have been running the asylum

                  I’m sure that you can point to some cases where members of the religious right have actually succeeded in imposing their religion on non-believers.

                  But that is not the same thing as implementing tax, labor, regulatory agendas that you personally happen to disagree with. That’s the distinction I am trying to draw.

                  Despite the fact that Mitt Romney, a leader in of one of the weirdest and most conservative Christian sects of them all, was governor of Massachusetts, you could still get a cup of coffee or a beer there any old time.

                • Spuddie

                  “I’m sure that you can point to some cases where members of the religious right have actually succeeded in imposing their religion on non-believers”

                  Have you been to this board very much?

                  It depends on your definition of successful. In the long term these plans usually fail, but they take a lot of effort before that happens. We have government banning certain kinds of clergy from being military chaplains, military academies being used to openly prosletyze (and force people out in disgust), every time some idiot gets Creationism or mandated prayer into public schools, officials who openly use the color of law to attack atheists, gays and muslims, the list goes on……

                  Pop on by here on a regular basis and see for yourself.

                  “Despite the fact that Mitt Romney, a leader in of one of the weirdest and most conservative Christian sects of them all, was governor of Massachusetts, you could still get a cup of coffee or a beer there any old time.”

                  Good luck doing so in Salt Lake City! It takes a lot of effort. Try to get an abortion in Texas these days.

                • alistz

                  You’re an insane babbling halfwitted no-nothing scumbag.
                  And now that we’ve established that, here is the most direct public connection between religion and public policy you can possibly cite:

                  http://www.christianpost.com/news/msnbc-host-true-christians-do-not-oppose-obamacare-102516/

                  Liberals claiming theological basis for their policies.

                  You can not cite one rightwing person advocating for oligarchic economic policies, which would be the exact clinical defintion of Obama’s economic plan as implemented in the auto industry. It is the left, ever since the day when the Fabian socialists embraced the leftwing Nazi fascist’s economic Nationalist/State/Corporatism that stands openly and publicly for oligarchies. That is exactly what an insurance exchange is, you stupid ignorant know nothing.

                • Spuddie

                  Your response is a bit stale. 2 weeks later?

                  A “Liberals are doing it too” response is not going to cut it here. The TP touts itself as being a purely fiscally conservative movement. That it is somehow different from the religious right dominated Republican party in some fashion. So bringing up their religious/social agenda is merely demonstrating the TP are full of crap.

                  You can not cite one rightwing person advocating for oligarchic economic policies”

                  Actually its the entire platform of the TP!
                  -Attacks on accountability for large monied interests
                  -Attacks on personal liberties in favor of corporate rights
                  -Attacks on government’s responsibility to its lower social strata.
                  -Attacks on the free market in favor of monopolism, cronyism.
                  -Privatization of the state’s profits, socializing their responsibilities.

                • alistz

                  The repsonse isn’t “liberals are doing it too”, you ignorant halfwit. The response is show some evidence that anyone on the right is doing anything akin to that scumblib libtard’s preposterous assertion of Obamacare as a theological based politic. You’re making things up. I’m showing you facts.

                  Actually its the entire platform of the TP!
                  -Attacks on accountability for large monied interests
                  -Attacks on personal liberties in favor of corporate rights
                  -Attacks on government’s responsibility to its lower social strata.
                  -Attacks on the free market in favor of monopolism, cronyism.
                  -Privatization of the state’s profits, socializing their responsibilities.

                  This is the list of a reality-deprived idiot.
                  Generic garbage from the brain of a halfiwt.

                  Privitazation of the states profits, socializaign their responsibilities

                  The Federal government has no ‘responsibility’ to it’s lower social strata. Try reading the constitution you fascist.
                  The state has no profits. It has taxes. You idiot, you are incoherent.

                • Spuddie

                  Why did you bother responding to a 2 week old post when all you had to say was insults and poo flinging?

                  You obviously have no opinions of your own so you just go to rabid attack hamster mode. Should have just found a new thread to troll.

                  “The Federal government has no ‘responsibility’ to it’s lower social strata”

                  Never mind that whole section of the preamble of “promote the general welfare”. Fuck’em let them starve. It worked well for the Bourbons. =)

                  Now piss off. Feel free to get the last word in. Its obvious you have nothing of value to say.

                • alistz

                  Exactly what kind of moron looks at the PREAMBLE of a document, takes a generic phrase out of context and pretends that that phrase super cedes specific direct simple clauses within the document? Read the 10th Amendment. Slowly, because you are an idiot.

                  why the fear mongering? no one is going to starve because our Federal government follows the constitution and is limitted to what the constitutions dictates it is limited to; only a chick-little fear-filled pin-brain would have the blatant stupidity to try to argue that people would suffer mass starvation in the united states without handouts. You are so stupid and pathetic that I wish your scumbag mother aborted you, you fear-filled demented little piece of garbage.

  • Obazervazi

    Can we please not have our own persecution fantasies?

    • newavocation

      Complaceny also has its drawbacks.

  • Dawn Cadwell

    Reading this now, very scary. a cross between a history book and fiction.

    • Edmond

      I’m also reading it, about two-thirds through, and enjoying it a lot. It’s also very frustrating, I keep wanting to jump in and help Greg and Sanjay, and start slapping some of these people, screaming “You can’t DO that!”

  • TnkAgn

    I downloaded the sample to my Nook.
    Not a well polished first try, but intriguing enough for me to buy it. When you consider the number of religious working poor – white, black and latino that continue to vote against their own economic interests in this country, this is NOT that far-fetched. I am a former Wasillian, out from under Sister $arah’s “stewardship.” I know whereof I speak.

  • DougI

    I wasn’t surprised that the book had my governor be portrayed as Palin’s choice for VP. The kook is mulling over another Presidential run so maybe he can be the book’s Jordan.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com/ vjack

    That sounds like the sort of horror story that would keep me up at night. Unfortunately, it does not seem terribly far-fetched from here in Mississippi.

  • Phred_P

    Not all that far-fetched here in California, either, despite our liberal reputation. Most of the non-conservatives in the state live along the coast. I can easily see a majority of people who live more than, say, 50 miles inland supporting this sort of thing as much as people in the South do. And it terrifies me.

  • Octoberfurst

    We ignore the Christian Right at our peril. They are a force to be reckoned with and are determined to force their theocratic agenda down our throats. I see no difference between them and the Muslim fundies overseas. They are both fanatical, misogynistic, anti-science, anti-freedom and hate and fear anyone who isn’t exactly like them. In a word they are dangerous. Plus the Christian Right is in the pocket of big business. They have a very anti-worker, pro-corporate mentality. If we don’t fight against them tooth and nail we will have a new Dark Ages and I, for one, do not want to be ruled by crazy Bible-thumpers.

  • Sk3ptec

    This is unrealistic. “Dominionist Christianity” is a fringe movement. Nothing more. It will never be a dominant Christian force here (or anywhere), because it is counter-Biblical. Any threat (perceived or real) by dominionism is highly unlikely and overstated.

    But to a bigger point, there’s a huge difference between politicians who claim to be Christians, and any overtly political Christian movement. To simply name a few major politicians who happen to be Christian and use them as examples of a governmental “dominionist takeover” is dishonest. There have always been Christians in high political positions – from the beginning. (there’s no threat inherent in that) The reality is that this country is moving AWAY from the basic Christian principles we’ve held from the nation’s birth. Christians in this country are trying to hang on to the few remaining threads or our moral heritage, and basic freedom, as it rapidly slips away. That’s a far cry from the “imminent threat – political assault” theory being pushed by this article.

    I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. Christians and atheists are not actually enemies. True, we disagree on many foundational things. But compared to the much larger more immediate issues (individual freedom, basic rights, humanitarian pursuits, etc) I have to believe we all actually want the same things? Am I wrong about that?

    • onamission5

      Since Christians are not a monolith, you’re both right and wrong about wanting the same things. Some Christians respect the separation of church and state, many do not. Some Christians care about reproductive freedom, many do not. Some Christians care about the hostile takeover of local and regional governments by their fundamental brethren, many– and many who have the funding to enough to sway elections– are well in support of it.
      As to whether dominionist Christianity is a fringe movement, it is and it isn’t. It is a small group, yes, but not exactly on the fringe. It’s been around as a political force since the 80′s and people have been writing it off as fringe to their own detriment the whole time because it started by focusing on small, local elections. School boards, city councils and such. At what point do we start to take it seriously? When they run presidential candidates? When they have sympathetic minds on the supreme court? That time is now, and is has been for a couple election cycles at least.
      Every time you hear someone say that not getting special privileges equals persecution of Christians, you’re hearing the voice of Christian dominionism at work.

      • Sk3ptec

        “Every time you hear someone say that not getting special privileges equals persecution of Christians…” – I’ve actually never heard this. (although I would obviously agree with your premise).

        I don’t really see the problem though. My point is… if 90% of people in a state were Christian, they would obviously vote using a Christian perspective (Christian morality, freedom, less GOV regulation, etc). So.. what’s wrong with that? That’s how the system is supposed to work. That’s why we have separate states in the first place… so people can choose where they want to live and in what type of political climate. But just because people vote their conscience (or run for higher office) doesn’t mean there’s a “dominionist takeover” in the works.

        OK, I’m sure there are probably some Christian people out there who think “We want our country back”, who remember a time when people mostly got along with each other and we all had the freedom own businesses, or go fishing, or farm our own land, etc, without the GOV’s nose always in our business …and they think they can revert back to that by using politics. But it’s unrealistic. It’s not going to happen, those days are gone, and their efforts are not the looming threat that this article attempt to portray.

        • Spuddie

          “I don’t really see the problem though. My point is… if 90% of people in a state were Christian, they would obviously vote using a Christian perspective (Christian morality, freedom, less GOV regulation, etc).
          So.. what’s wrong with that? That’s how the system is supposed to work.”

          When they do so to attack the liberties of the rest of the nation, it is a problem. The whole point of civil liberties is to protect the minority from the majority from reducing them to “non-people”. When they blatantly use the force of government and color of law to discriminate based on their “Christian principles” it is a problem which undermines the entire system.

          Another issue is conflation. The “Christian perspective” is really only the province of a very small subset of those who consider themselves Christian. They give the impression of a majority by just being the loudest voices among the crowd. Its pretending to represent a group which they really don’t belong to.

          The threat comes in the alliance the vocal, formerly go-nowhere Dominialists, have with monied interests. Suddenly they have massive financial backing, influence and media attention which was unheard of in the past. Their influence now far greater than their size would normally permit. A perfect example of this alliance is that “less Gov regulation” has now become “a Christian principle”.

          • Sk3ptec

            “When they do so to attack the liberties of the rest of the nation, it is a problem” What could you possibly be referring to? Are you complaining because some/most people have a different viewpoint than you – and choose to vote?

            “The whole point of civil liberties is to protect the minority from the majority…” This is not true. The point of civil liberties is to protect the population from the abuses of governing bodies.

            • Spuddie

              Not just a different point of view than me, a point of view which is inherently corrosive to notions of liberty and democracy.

              As for your take on civil liberties, it is half baked and not very well thought out at all. In your effort to parrot right wing talking points, you fail to appreciate the full meaning of your own statements.

              You treat government as a monolithic entity divorced from society. But in a democratic country like ours, the majority effectively controls the government. The majority IS the government. A majority controlled government abusing its minority citizens is precisely what civil rights are meant to curb. So you were half right but I am more completely correct here. Maybe you should read about James Madison, and the notion of the “Tyranny of the Majority”

    • cipher

      To the contrary, Dominionism and its natural ally, Calvinism, are the two main influences within the evangelical subculture, even upon those who would identify as neither Calvinists nor Dominionists.

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    a young, progressive, black politician was elected president

    We’re very fortunate to have elected a president who knows how to bring about peace with our enemies, respects civil liberties, and understands how to get the economy moving. What a bullet we dodged!!

  • m n

    This book is freaking awful. I bought it after it was excerpted on here the first time, and christ on a cracker, I could not get through it. I think I’m sitting at around a third of the way through still, because I couldn’t get past the horrible writing style, the weird messiah-complex going on, and the complete dearth of relevant female characters. C’mon, guys, is this really the kind of literature you want to be promoting? Have you even read this screed?

  • John

    Most Christians I know are not focused on changing this world into a theocracy. They hold to view that Jesus Christ is coming again. He will do that and resistance will be futile. Every knee shall bow and every tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord. He will rule as King of kings and Lord of lords. Sure they think it is nice if the country was conservative but most believe things are going to get a lot worse. No, Christians are not the ones to fear. It is Jesus Christ when he rules this world in righteousness. Then things will be scary to oppose him.


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