Conservative Knee-Jerk Reactions to The Handmaid’s Tale

Mike Bird complained not long ago about the television series The Handmaid’s Tale – my hunch is without having seen it, since he got the name wrong. But he is clearly influenced by a growing tendency in conservative Christian circles for people to talk about the show as an “attack on Christianity.”

Anyone who says that clearly has not seen episode 7.

I am still getting caught up on watching my way through the first season. But there are clear elements of Christian heroism in the face of the fundamentalist sectarian revolution that creates the new country of Gilead and sends many Americans fleeing to places such as what becomes “Little America” in Canada.

We encounter a Catholic nun named Christine, played by Kim Roberts. She is traveling with a variety of other people who are on the run from the authorities. We had already learned that the troops of Gilead had destroyed cathedrals, and so presumably Catholics and Episcopalians were sought out. The shot we see of a damaged statue of an angel slightly later in the episode suggests that a radical Protestant opposition to statues and images is part of the fundamentalists’ worldview. Christine helps rescue Luke, and prays that the Lord will guide his steps and reunite him with his family.

More graphic is the moment we are taken inside a church where some people tried to defend the fertile women that were being rounded up for enslavement as handmaids. They were killed and strung up. But, as has often happened in the world, it was the church that was standing between the oppressor and the oppressed, even as another sort of church was not merely standing on the side of the oppressor, but was itself the oppressor.

There’s also mention of a safe house run by Quakers in episode 8. And we also see in that episode the extent to which this revolution is not in any straightforward sense simply about “Christianity” or even Christian fundamentalism. It is about the resource of fertility, men seizing and holding on to power, and much else, with religion often the means to accomplish an end rather than the primary motivator.

And so don’t let anyone tell you that The Handmaid’s Tale is an attack on Christianity. It is a protest against fundamentalism, Christian or otherwise. And if conservatives feel attacked by it, then perhaps they are individuals who are standing closer to the Sons of Jacob and Gilead than to Christine. Or perhaps they are disconcerted because they simply aren’t taking a stand at all. But if it is possible to overstate the relevance of the show, its contemporary relevance is clear. In episode 7, Luke takes shelter for a while in an abandoned cafe, which has been shot up and smashed. It has the words “GOD HATES FAGS” spraypainted on the front. And that is not some hypothetical slogan from an implausible imagined dystopian future. It is a slogan that exists in our time, and it is one that it is not impossible to imagine significant numbers rallying around.

Because that is the real message of The Handmaid’s Tale. You don’t have to represent the majority viewpoint in order to cause untold harm to people and society. You just need enough influence and power that you can take control, and have some side with you because of your power, and others remain silent in fear of it.

We have seen that enough times in history that there is nothing whatsoever that is implausible about it.

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  • Al Cruise

    ” obvious anti-Christian content ” Why is it bothering some of them so much? I am Christian and it doesn’t bother me. Sounds like they are admitting that deep inside themselves the series is revealing a truth about their way of thinking. Having a light shine on dark places can make one feel very exposed and uncomfortable. It’s this discomfort that their feeling, that is the real problem for them, not the series.

    • jh

      To paraphrase Al Franken – conservative Christians love their Christianity like a 4 year old loves his mother.

    • Laurie Ann Giampietro

      Atwood gave away their endgame.

    • Eli Odell Jackson

      Maybe you’re not a Christian and that’s why it doesn’t bother you; maybe you ought to examine yourself first Mr Cruise.

      • Al Cruise

        It doesn’t bother me because I am a Christian, not a fundie. Education is sweeping your way of thinking into the dust bin of history.

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    Insofar as we look like that, it is a critique of Christianity, and it would be helpful if we had ears to hear.

    “Is that the way people see us? Why is that? I don’t want to be like that. Let’s make sure we look nothing like that show.”

    But, alas.

    • TJ

      They know people see them that way, and they know why. It’s because they are like that, and they want to be.

      • Al Cruise

        “and they want to be.” Agreed , Look at what happened to Eugene Peterson , parallels the The Handmaid’s Tale to a T. Constructively criticizing him wasn’t enough. Destroying him financially was the primary mode of attack. That is conservative evangelical Christianity revealing it’s true self.

    • Rob Bear

      It is not a critique of Christianity, but of a particular form of Christianity which may not even be truly Christian. Seems to me Gilead is a thin veneer of something that looks like Christianity, but isn’t. The Christianity with which I am familiar talks about feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and imprisoned, and befriending all people. I don’t see any of that in Gilead.

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        I don’t see much of that in American Christianity, either, but I’m very encouraged to hear that’s been your experience.

        • Rob Bear

          It is something on which we have to work ALL the time. It’s a goal that is fulfilled sometimes, and sometimes not. The important thing is to to remember key elements of Matthew 25 are the goal. Believing in Jesus significant; behaving like Jesus is much more important. We seem to have that reversed.

      • Eli Odell Jackson

        I don’t see that as the summation of Christianity at all anywhere in the Bible or in history.

        • Rob Bear

          Start with Matthew 25: 31 – 46, and work out from there.
          Cf. Micah 6: 8.

      • Pseudonym

        One clear theme, both in the book and the show (now that I’ve finished watching it, thanks SBS!), is that nobody in Gilead is a “true believer”.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    Off-topic message to JM:

    Some time ago, you asked people to not use ad-block. For several months, I have been browsing without any adblock.

    Sorry, but ad-block is back on.

    I started reading this post. And while halfway through the first paragraph, it jumped all the way down to near the bottom. I scrolled back. It jumped again.

    The same thing happened when reading Ed Brayton’s blog.

    With ad-block back on, I can now comfortably read this post without it jumping all over.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Sorry to hear about this experience. I will share your feedback with the IT people at Patheos.

  • Gary

    It seems to me that the Christian Fundamentalists are more upset at liberals constantly comparing “The Handmaid’s Tale” to a possible future Christian dystopia, almost exclusively, and associating it with a Trump future. And seemingly ignoring the current facts on the ground today. So some equal time from the right, as well as from the left, is appropriate. The liberals conveniently leave out current Muslim Fundamentalism, which is, at least, far more dangerous now, than Christian Fundamentalism. But you will never hear a liberal compare “The Handmaid’s Tale” to, say, ISIS or the Taliban.
    It’s probably no coincidence that “The Handmaid’s Tale” came out a few years after the Iran Hostage Crisis. Projecting future hysteria about what might happen, and ignoring real world reality, is dangerous.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/447118/what-fans-handmaids-tale-prefer-ignore

    To quote the article,
    “Horrific, brutal regimes that systematically deny basic rights to women and girls based upon religious beliefs are not hard to find. They’re just rarely Christian. (Worth noting about the above list, the most common religion in the Democratic Republic of Congo is Christianity.) The world has plenty of awful places that can be  fairly compared to Atwood’s fictional dystopian regime of Gilead. They’re just mostly Muslim.”

    So, Christian Fundamentalists ought to “chill out”. You’ve got a long way to go before you reach Muslim Fundamentalist status.

    • Al Cruise

      “You’ve got a long way to go before you reach Muslim Fundamentalist status.” That is because secular institutions of Law and Order hold them in check {separation of Church and State}. It’s not because of some higher virtue of the faith of Christian Fundamentalists. Just look at conversion therapies, mark of Cain teaching, extreme physical punishment of children and wives that exist today in some conservative fundamentalist Christian groups. The real issue is the silence coming from the more mainstream fundamentalists who know first hand about these activities but keep them under their tent and remain silent and are complicit in covering up much of what is going in these groups.

      • Gary

        “The real issue is the silence coming from the more mainstream fundamentalists”. No. The real issue is we’ve been fighting a war with Muslim Radical Fundamentalist for ~20 years or more, cost lives and $trillions (enough to pay for free health care for everyone), with absolutely no success. I don’t care about Christian Fundamentalists silence. The sooner we disingage with the Middle East, and let them solve their own problems, the sooner we can concentrate on our problems. Watching TV programs to reflect on how bad our system is, is counterproductive to the real issue. If you don’t have a presence in the Middle East, we aren’t going to have such a large refugee problem. Christian Fundamentalists didn’t create the current situation, we all did. Including liberals.

        • Al Cruise

          You are only partly correct. Fundamentalism of any stripe is the problem. Fundamentalist Christians, if forced to make a choice, would join any other fundamentalist religious group before joining anything that they deem as possibly liberal.

          • fractal

            AMEN!

          • Eli Odell Jackson

            Its frankly ridiculous to lump all forms of fundamentalism in together.
            What does a fundamentalist Christian believe?
            The fundamentals of Christianity.
            What does a fundamentalist Muslim believe?
            The fundamentals of Islam.

            These are not at all the same.
            As a Christian I believe in being an extremist, that is, ‘extremely Christian’, extremely Christlike, oh God! Make me so.
            Will I beat my wife?
            No.
            I will love my wife, “as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.”
            As a fundamentalist Christian I believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God and my ONLY rule (authority) for faith and practice.
            Therefore the words of Scripture have power, persuasiveness and authority, not only objectively, but subjectively — Power over me.

            And so I will die for my wife, I’ve not reached my wedding day but I’ll die for her, I’ll set no unclean thing before my eyes. Why? I will not dishonor her in mind or body, I must not.

            But you say that fundamentalist believe in beating our wives, in “extreme physical punishment for wives”; find me in the scripture where that is so?
            This is slander, defamation, and puts the lie to your supposed Christianity.

          • Al Cruise

            Study Fundamentalist Christian history before you come on here and make comments.

          • Rob Bear

            Lets go beyond belief to behaviour.
            How does a fundamentalist Christian behave?
            How does a fundamentalist Christian behave?
            They both focus on killing their enemies.
            That is frightening.

          • Gary

            There again, I can’t emphasize too much that the problem is our involvement in the Middle East. The sooner we get out, the better off we will be.

            Your comment, “They both focus on killing their enemies.”

            We do a very effective job of that. I have the utmost respect for our military. But politicians have involved us in foreign countries we should stay out off.

            So, what’s the score: just a guess:
            Fundamentalist Christians killing people in the U.S. = ~100

            Fundamentalist Muslims killing people in the U.S. = ~100

            Arbitrary numbers. Add an extra zero if you want.

            U.S. Killing people in Middle East countries = 100,000 or who knows the #.

    • jekylldoc

      That’s funny. I and a number of my liberal friends have compared the Handmaid’s Tale to Islamic fundamentalism on numerous occasions, as well as to Orthodox Judaism (not particularly violent about it, but they do publicly shame women on the streets sometimes) and purdah in India. It’s just that those are not nearly as likely to threaten my religious freedom, or women’s rights, in America as Fundamentalist Christians are.

    • Dachusblot

      “But you will never hear a liberal compare “The Handmaid’s Tale” to, say, ISIS or the Taliban.”

      I take it you’ve never actually spoken to any liberals about the show, then?
      The thing is, many liberals (I won’t say all because obviously liberals are not a hivemind), such as myself and my friends and other like-minded people I’ve spoken to on the internet, look at the Handmaid’s Tale and see it as a warning against the dangers of religious fundamentalism in general. It just so happens that the Republic of Gilead arose from Christian fundamentalism, but liberals understand that this sort of extremism can grow out of any religion, as we have seen it grow from Islam. The Republic of Gilead is sort of like, “What if there was a Christian-based Taliban?” But in order to even ask that question in the first place, you must have already acknowledged that the Taliban exists and is bad.

      Not only that, but liberals understand the difference between religious extremists and ordinary religious people. This is why we protest against anti-Muslim rhetoric, because we know that all Muslims are not evil — the problem is the fundamentalists who want to seize power and impose their strict interpretation of the religion onto everyone else. The Republic of Gilead in the show is exactly the same: the show makes it very clear from the first episode that Gilead is not made up of all Christians, but only a very specific set of Christian extremists who managed to seize power and can’t tolerate dissent. In the first episode it’s mentioned that one of the dead men Offred sees hanging on the wall, alongside a gay man and an abortion doctor, was a priest who did not conform to Gilead’s views of Christianity. And, as this article points out, the show reveals many other instances of Christians who did not conform to Gilead’s strict beliefs, who attempted to rebel or protect those who were in danger. Christian liberals like myself can read the book and watch the show and understand that it’s not an attack on Christianity in general, but rather a warning against religious extremism and theocracy. The fact that the religious extremism portrayed is Christian-based is actually somewhat incidental – but it was a deliberate choice, because too many Christians seem convinced that the sort of extremism that we’ve seen rise out of Islam could never possibly arise out of Christianity. The show is saying, yes, it can. It can arise out of any similar belief system, if said belief system is taken too far, enforced too strictly, and allowed to gain unchecked political power.

      Nuance, my friend. It’s important.

      • Gary

        Let’s try this, “But you will never hear liberal media compare “The Handmaid’s Tale” to, say, ISIS or the Taliban.”

        Liberal Media is obsessed with Christian Fundamentalists. That, I would bet, was the heart of Michael Bird’s complaint.

        I’d say, main stream Muslim countries have major problems with recognizing religious and women’s rights today, not in the far science fiction future. As evidenced pretty clearly by the National Review article. Yet liberal media is obsessed with what might happen in the future in the U.S., with Christian Fundamentalism. So the liberal media rally behind Handmaid. If the Handmaid was re-made, with the women dressed in Burkas, the liberal media would go ballistic.

        • Gary

          No nuance needed.

          • Dachusblot

            Well, there’s your problem right there.

        • Dachusblot

          There are two big flaws to your premises here. First of all, you seem to think that one should only be concerned about the transition of America into a fundamentalist theocracy after it has already happened, which… doesn’t seem too smart, does it? Wouldn’t it be better to worry about it before it happens, so we can, y’know, prevent it from happening? The reason people tend to worry more about America becoming a Christian fundamentalist theocracy rather than an Islamic one is because America has a HUGE population of Christians, a number of which actually do want to reshape all of society to fit with biblical laws (see: Christian Reconstructionism and Dominion Theology), and many of these types of people have already gained high positions of power and influence in the government (see: Ted Cruz, MIke Pence, Betsy DeVos…). We very likely would not have our current president if not for evangelical Christians. They have actual power in America. On the other hand, when was the last time Muslims swung a vote in America? When was the last time you saw a Muslim fundamentalist in any high-ranking government position? (And don’t say Barack Obama, because if you do you will instantly ruin all of your credibility. I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here.)

          The second big flaw of your premise is that if Handmaid’s Tale was remade with burqas, it would also be depicted as a future dystopia. Except it wouldn’t be. It would just be a drama about life for women in Afghanistan right now–something similar to the book A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, which describes the daily struggles of two women living in a fundamentalist Muslim theocracy.The liberal media wouldn’t go ballistic over that; it would probably win an Oscar.

          • Gary

            “Wouldn’t it be better to worry about it before it happens”…
            So, seriously, you think that is a possibility? That is,
            “the transition of America into a fundamentalist theocracy”!

            You are revealing your paranoia. Are you afraid of Fundamentalist Christians?

            “We very likely would not have our current president if not for evangelical Christians.”

            And you don’t believe in the current electrorial college system?

            Seems like you are like the liberal media. You lost the election. And you just can’t let it go. Just wait till 2020, and maybe it will be different. In the mean time, try to accept reality.

            Must be terrible to see Russians behind every White House appointee. And conspiracy behind every move.

            I actually supported Obama twice. Upon the basis of him pulling troops out of the Middle East. The skunk lied about that. Now we have another skunk in Trump. The villain is not Fundamentalist Christians. Republicans and Democrats are both to blame. Fear politicians. I suppose you think it would be better if Hillary were elected? You are indeed in fantasy land!

          • Dachusblot

            Hmm… OK, you took some unexpected tangents there, but let me try to sort this out.

            So, seriously, you think that is a possibility? That is, “the transition of America into a fundamentalist theocracy”!

            I guess you ignored part of my original post, so I’ll just copy it again: “America has a HUGE population of Christians, a number of which actually do want to reshape all of society to fit with biblical laws (see: Christian Reconstructionism and Dominion Theology), and many of these types of people have already gained high positions of power and influence in the government (see: Ted Cruz, MIke Pence, Betsy DeVos…).”
            So, yeah, I think it’s a possibility. I don’t think it’s inevitable, but it’s possible. I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian subculture that longed for an America shaped solely by biblical law, so don’t tell me it’s all just paranoia. I know from experience that this is real.

            Are you afraid of Fundamentalist Christians?

            I’m afraid of any kind of fundamentalist extremists gaining political power. And you should be too.
            By the way, I am a Christian myself. So it’s not like I’m afraid of Christianity or religion in general. In fact, I’ve gotten into heated arguments with obnoxious internet atheists who tried to claim that religion was the root of all evil in the world. I’m just letting you know this so you understand where I’m coming from. The only thing I fear is extremism, especially extremism married to political power. What brand of extremism it is doesn’t matter to me, because the result is the same.

            And you don’t believe in the current electrorial college system?

            I… don’t understand your question? I believe it exists, yes. But what does that have to do with what I said? Are you denying that evangelical Christians had a huge impact on the election???

            Seems like you are like the liberal media. You lost the election. And you just can’t let it go. Just wait till 2020, and maybe it will be different. In the mean time, try to accept reality.

            *eyeroll* OK, you are really off-topic now, and also wandering into cliches. The only reason I brought up the election was to make the point that evangelical Christians have a lot of power and influence in America. What you just said actually proves my point. Also, grow up. Seriously. You think elections are a game? It’s all just winning and losing? You have an incredibly warped and childish view of reality if you think that’s all that matters.

            Must be terrible to see Russians behind every White House appointee. And conspiracy behind every move.

            When did Russia come into this? Are you just trolling me now? Or is it that you can’t come up with any real arguments against my original points, so you’re just deflecting onto completely different topics?

            The villain is not Fundamentalist Christians. Republicans and Democrats are both to blame.

            If you’re just talking about Trump, then OK, sure, both parties are to blame. But I wasn’t talking about Trump. Again, the only reason I brought up the election at all was to prove the point that Christians have a large political influence in America, which you not only failed to disprove but actually proved even more.

            And since you conveniently ignored these questions, I ask you again: when was the last time you heard of Muslims swinging a vote? When was the last time you saw a Muslim fundamentalist in any high-ranking government position? Because the last time Christians swung a vote was last November, and there are several Christians with some fairly extreme views holding positions of high power right now, including the VP.
            So, which group of religious fundamentalists is more likely to take over America in the near future? Christians or Muslims? The answer is obvious to anyone with even the smallest grasp on reality. That doesn’t mean that it will happen, especially not as long as people are paying attention. But it’s foolish to worry about an extremely unlikely threat when a much more likely threat is right in front of you.

          • Gary

            I get it. You are indeed paranoid.

          • Dachusblot

            Just giving up, huh? Can’t say I’m surprised.

          • Gary

            Give up, nothing. I THINK I sufficiently answered your questions. You want to make this a 24 hour debate? I think we started with why Michael Bird was paranoid. And we ended with you being paranoid. So we’ve come into a complete circle.

          • Dachusblot

            You did give up, because you did not answer my questions but merely deflected onto irrelevant topics, and also attempted to win the argument by flatly accusing me of paranoia instead of actually engaging with what I said.

            To remind you, this is what you said at first:

            The liberals conveniently leave out current Muslim Fundamentalism, which is, at least, far more dangerous now, than Christian Fundamentalism. But you will never hear a liberal compare “The Handmaid’s Tale” to, say, ISIS or the Taliban.

            So you were arguing from the position of “Muslim Fundamentalism is more dangerous than Christian Fundamentalism, but liberals refuse to even acknowledge that Muslim Fundamentalism is bad.” So you started off paranoid, both about Muslim Fundamentalism and also some kind of imaginary conspiracy of Christian-hating liberals. That last point about liberals never comparing HMT to Islamic fundamentalism is false, as you yourself discovered with a simple Google search. As for the first part, I argued that ALL fundamentalism is bad, regardless of what brand it happens to be, but that Christian Fundamentalism is currently more of a threat to America than Muslim Fundamentalism, because Christians already have much, much more political power in America than any other religious group. You did not bother trying to disprove that last point, but simply ignored it (while also unintentionally confirming it).

            And yes, I’ll gladly make it a 24 hour debate. I like debates. They’re fun. Although I do prefer opponents who actually engage with my points instead of just being condescending.

          • Gary

            So, your main point is
            “but that Christian Fundamentalism is currently more of a threat to America than Muslim Fundamentalism, because Christians already have much, much more political power in America than any other religious group”

            If this is your main point, I think I have answered it. But if you dissent extract my opinion from all my comments, I will try one more time:

            Your statement shows your paranoia. As I said before, Michael Bird expresses a similar paranoia, but from the other side.

            Let’s cut you opinion into two sections:

            1. “Christian Fundamentalism is currently more of a threat to America than Muslim Fundamentalism”.

            I see no Fundamentalist Christians setting off bombs or trying to blow up planes. I see no Fundamentalist Christians stating that they want the total destruction of both Israel or the U.S.. The U.S. Has not been at war for over 20 years with Fundamentalist Christians. (I admit a few outlying events in the past – like bombing in OK, a few shootings at abortion clinics), but these are totally isolated events, and not representative of Fundamentalist Christians we commonly find, like a Michael Bird or a Pat Roberson). Compared to Muslim Fundamentalists, Christian Fundamentalists are not in the same category. There is a whole army of them, trying to recruit teenagers to blow themselves up. Ask a U.S. army vet coming from Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria. Does he/she think Muslim Fundamentalists, even if in the U.S., are less of a threat than Christian Fundamentalists? You would get a laugh. The potential activities currently seen in Europe could very easily exist in the U.S., if we had totally open borders.

            2. “Christians already have much, much more political power in America than any other religious group”

            I am sure you know most of the U.S. Is secular. And that the membership in churches are taking a nose dive. Hardly a threat. And think about what you said. You are afraid of a political minority, because of their power of the vote? That sounds sooo Un-American, I can’t believe it. You are only comfortable when your candidates win?
            Otherwise you feel threatened? That sounds like a definition of paranoia to me.

            I hope that answers you question.

          • Dachusblot

            Your problem is that you simplistically only understand the word “threat” to mean “things that can blow you up.” When I say fundamentalist Christians are a bigger threat to America (note: just America), I mean that fundamentalist Christians are more likely to gain control of American government though politics, and from there attempt to establish fundamentalist Christian theonomy. That’s what groups like Christian Dominionists & Reconstructionists actually want to do. Look it up. That’s what people like Ted Cruz and Mike Pence want to do. As a point of comparison, look at Afghanistan: the Taliban rose up as a political force from within; it didn’t conquer Afghanistan from without. The bigger danger is internal, not external. The fall of democracy, if it happens, won’t happen with bombs (at least not at first), but with votes & complacency.

            If you’re more worried about getting blown up by a Muslim terrorist, which is extremely unlikely to happen to you in America, then I hate to break it to you, but you are the one who is paranoid.

            Also, if you truly think that Christians in America don’t have influence on our politics, then you really are delusional. I’m not sure I can help you much there.

            You are afraid of a political minority, because of their power of the vote? That sounds sooo Un-American, I can’t believe it. You are only comfortable when your candidates win? Otherwise you feel threatened?

            That sure is a lovely strawman you built there.
            But of course, I’m sure you would be perfectly comfortable if Hillary had won the election, right? /s

          • Gary

            If Hillary won – just more of Obama. Nothing new. But I wouldn’t have a nervous breakdown about it, as you seem to be.

          • Scurra

            I see no Fundamentalist Christians setting off bombs or trying to blow up planes.

            Do you know any history at all? Fundamentalist Christians have spent centuries torturing and burning people at the stake – even close to genocide at times – for perceived minor and major heresies; indeed, some of the earliest European settlers of the continent of America were (a) escaping some of that and (b) so that they could do a bit of it themselves (it”s quite hard for a minority to persecute a lot of people, but it’s much easier if they artificially make themselves into the majority.) [Note I only said “some”. In the same way, I know “some” quite sane fundamentalist believers in several faiths…]

            As others have noted, it’s “fundamentalism” that is the general problem here. And that’s not just confined to religion either.

          • jekylldoc

            Fortunately, Christians have sort of stopped torturing and burning people. Muslim fundamentalists need to get on with real life as well. I’m just worried that there are paranoid fundamentalists out there still trying to take power.

          • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

            Only a fool tries to tell someone that what they were raised to believe isn’t really what is believed by some folks. It’s self-defeating and thus pointless and stupid.

            Hey, maybe you’re just lucky enough to never have been exposed to dominionists and their scary theocratic megalomania, but they certainly exist and certainly want to turn the US into a Christian theocracy. And every time they venture into the mainstream to argue for a pet social issue, plenty of fellow travelers come out of the woodwork to give them cover. So it’s not a fringe that gets nothing done.

          • Gary

            “I’m afraid of any kind of fundamentalist extremists gaining political power. And you should be too.”

            From what you say, you should be VERY afraid, if something happens to Trump. Either death or impeachment. Pence will be president. Trump panders to the Fundamentalists, but he is obviously secular. So you must be a Trump advocate by default. No wonder you are paranoid.

            “Because the last time Christians swung a vote was last November”…
            Same paranoia when Kennedy won as a Catholic. The world didn’t end. I suppose those mean old, power hungry Catholics swung the vote in 60.

          • Dachusblot

            I don’t like Trump or Pence, but for different reasons. Pence scares me because of the fundamentalism thing we’ve been discussing. Trump scares me because he’s a narcissistic idiot who takes pride in ignorance and can’t handle even the slightest bit of criticism. This is why I didn’t vote for either of them. But just because I don’t like one doesn’t mean I have to support the other. That’s more overly simplistic thinking on your part. (At least you recognize that Trump is obviously secular, though. That’s better than some Christians I know who seem to think that he’s God’s anointed one, for some bizarre reason.)

            Same paranoia when Kennedy won as a Catholic. The world didn’t end. I suppose those mean old, power hungry Catholics swung the vote in 60.

            What… what the hell are you talking about???
            OK, one more time, since you can’t seem to get this through your head: my point was that Christians have a lot of political influence in America. Not that they’re going to END THE WORLD or that they’re all POWER HUNGRY MEANIES. Just that they are a large group with serious influence — more influence than any other religious group in America. I don’t know how you could possibly deny that fact, but you seem unwilling to accept it for some reason.
            So since you didn’t answer me, I have to ask again: Are you denying that Christians had a major effect on the outcome of the last election? Because I’m pretty sure that’s a verifiable fact, honeybunches. But keep on living in your little fantasy where Christians are just a powerless minority, I guess. If that’s what floats your boat. Though you might want to examine why that fantasy floats your boat one of these days.

          • Gary

            “What… what the hell are you talking about???”

            Seems like you lack knowledge of history. You are expressing the same fears that occurred in 1960 when Kennedy was elected. Everyone that was paranoid, feared that the Pope would secretly manipulate Kennedy. Totally outrageous now, but you are expressing similar fears now. And there is even a further parallel. Some Democrats think the Russians might secretly be manipulating Trump. It’s all an evil conspiracy? I feel sorry for both Bird and you. Since you are escalating your emotional level and blood pressure to a dangerous level, I will leave you alone now, in your ranting.

          • Dachusblot

            LOL I like how you’re projecting your emotional state onto me. I’ll have you know I’m lying in bed right now sipping a cup of tea. My blood pressure is just fine. Like I said, I enjoy debating. I think it’s fun, especially with a good opponent. Too bad you have a bit of a tendency to resort to ad hominems and strawmen when you feel cornered, though.

            I’m aware of peoples’ paranoias about Kennedy’s Catholicism, thanks. But I was talking about the fact that, currently, evangelical Christians in America have a lot of influence on politics. Do you deny that fact? Because you seem to be performing an impressive act of doublethink here, trying to argue simultaneously that 1) Christians are a powerless minority who have no effect on politics whatsoever, so people are crazy for worrying, and 2) Christians did play a big role in electing our current administration, but so what? We didn’t die back when Kennedy got elected!!!

            You see how those two arguments are incompatible?

            For another thing, the comparison to Kennedy isn’t a good one because, as far as I know, Kennedy gave no indications that he was a Catholic extremist who was going to try to enforce some kind of Catholic-style sharia law on America, and Catholics who voted for him most likely didn’t do so because they wanted to turn America into a Catholic theocracy. Whereas people like Ted Cruz, Mike Pence and Betsy DeVos, do have extreme fringe views, and have expressed desires to use their power to enforce their fundamentalist ideals onto American society, AND they are backed by a movement of American fundamentalists (Dominionists, Reconstructionists) who have made an all-Christian society their stated goal, and who vote for these politicians with the express purpose of achieving that goal. These aren’t things that people have just made up; they are, again, verifiable facts.

          • Gary

            “Kennedy gave no indications that he was a Catholic extremist who was going to try to enforce some kind of Catholic-style sharia law on America”… yes. Actually, I wasn’t aware of any Catholic extremist trying to take over anything in America, at any time in our history.

            Seems like you believe Cruz and Pence might have something like that in mind. I would say, that is simply crazy. I can now see why people like Michael Bird is paranoid. He must have been exposed to people like you.

          • Dachusblot

            Actually, I wasn’t aware of any Catholic extremist trying to take over anything in America, at any time in our history.

            Right. Which is why you bringing up Kennedy was nonsense. Glad we agree on that.

            Seems like you believe Cruz and Pence might have something like that in mind. I would say, that is simply crazy.

            “”The mission of the Christian Coalition is simple,” says Pat Robertson. It is “to mobilize Christians — one precinct at a time, one community at a time — until once again we are the head and not the tail, and at the top rather than the bottom of our political system.”
            John Fea on Ted Cruz’s dominionism
            Pence developed a habit of citing faith — or, alternatively, “religious freedom” — while opposing LGBTQ rights legislation.
            When asked why they don’t just spend their time — and money — funding Christian schools, Betsy DeVos said they want to reform the whole system to bring “greater Kingdom gain.”

            Yeah, you’re right. Totally crazy. None of those people seem like they’re interested in using political power to reshape America to fit their own specific religious views. Not a bit. /s
            Dude, I told you, I grew up with this stuff. My own parents are like this. You can’t tell me it’s not real, lol.

        • Katherine Heasley

          Yeah, no. I consume a good deal of Liberal Media, and I have, in fact, seen the comparison made between Muslim regimes such as that in Saudi Arabia and THT. Liberal media just has a more nuanced view of both Christianity and Islam than conservative media does. Specifically, it recognizes that Christian extremism is a bigger threat to our country than Islamic extremism is (which is the inarguable truth), but Islamic extremism is a bigger threat in other parts of the world. Oh, and not all Muslims are dangerous. That’s something the conservative media is unwilling to admit.

          • Gary

            “Christian extremism is a bigger threat to our country”?
            Really? Based upon what? Abortion? We aren’t going back on that. Too many people support it. Pat Robertson is going to sneak into my bedroom window? Don’t think so. I don’t get it. Afraid of shadows. Because some don’t allow gays to be married? Get a civil ceremony,or go to a more liberal church. Not going back on that.

            “not all Muslims are dangerous. That’s something the conservative media is unwilling to admit.”

            I doubt that too. I’ve heard them say the majority are not dangerous. Just because they say we need better vetting, does not brand all Muslims as dangerous. This is typical liberal hysteria. I suppose Israeli vetting of Muslims, being tough, means that all Israeli’s view Muslims as dangerous. Ridiculous. Paranoia. If the liberal press is comparing THT to Muslim countries, please provide an example. I haven’t seen it.

          • Gary

            Ok. I stand corrected. I did a Google on Saudi Arabia and HMT, and there is an Op-Ed on it, connecting the two. However, I still don’t see the fear of Fundamentalist Christians as a threat. No matter how you look at it, they are indeed a minority. If you want to blame someone for Trump, better add in blue collar working people, coal miners in WV, factory workers in Pittsburg, etc …in other words, your hard working Americans, who don’t go to Harvard and Yale, and don’t care about spreading Democracy in Iraq, Libya, Syria, don’t idolize Hollywood stars as Divine, They just want to keep their jobs. Fundamentalist Christians are not the Boogie Man.

          • jekylldoc

            I agree that Fundamentalist Christians are not the Boogie Man. We should resist irrational fear of them. I think most of us liberals get that Fundamentalists tend to have legitimate concerns, even if they have (IMO) an excessively simplistic view of how to approach those.

            I wish I had your confidence that we are “not going back” on abortion and gay rights. We now have at least three Justices who would overturn Roe if they could, and Gorsuch made his mark by opposing the state’s right to allow assisted suicide, as a violation of the natural rights of the person choosing suicide!

            Sometimes the power a group can attain depends mostly on how much fear the group can stir up, and how many strategic alliances they can make with others who have some beef or other with the government.

          • Gary

            “I wish I had your confidence that we are “not going back” on abortion and gay rights”…

            The majority of voters support gay rights and a woman’s right of choice. As I remember, Gorsuch said Roe vs Wade is the law of the land, and is too ingrained to change. (Somebody said that – I may be wrong about that. But I think the message is clear). But it’s clear, at least to me, that voters would not put up with changing the current laws.
            I think the finer points might change. Like Federal funding for abortions, or like the possible change of trans-genders being allowed into the military to eventually have trans surgery paid by the military health system. I view these as minor. Maybe others think they are major. Either way, Roe vs Wade or gay marriage are not going to be overturned, even though perhaps the majority of Christian Fundamentalists would want that. But the same exists on the liberal side, causing paranoia by the Fundamentwlists. Some liberals want to force conservative churches (Catholics, SalvationArmy, etc).. to actually perform gay marriages, or shut them down. This, too, will not happen. Violation of Freedom ofcReligion. But some Fundamentalists view that as the future – thus their paranoia.

            Concerning assisted suicide – I wouldn’t want that to be overturned, and would be an advocate for not overturning it. I saw both parents having Alzheimer’s in nursing homes, as vegetables, for many years. Before that happens to me, I would provide my own solution to the problem.

            But no need to be paranoid about it. Baby Boomers being in that right age for consideration, will never support that. And it will not be banned. As a matter of fact, the Boomers being a big voting block, that politicians are currently trying to pander to, are probably responsible for the current trend of approving assisted suicide. Cheaper than having your life savings going to nursing homes, and saving the young whipper snapper grandchildren from losing their inheritance. Everyone is happier. By the way, for us old people, Obama Care is irrelevant. Does nothing for outrageous assisted care for elderly. No one gives a crap about us! Now I am revealing my own paranoia!

          • Dachusblot

            But acknowledging that the world is not all black and white is hard. Why can’t there just be simple good guys and bad guys like in my old Saturday Morning Cartoons???

    • Rob Bear

      Except that, based on current US statistics, people are far more likely to be killed by Christian fundamentalists than Muslim fundamentalists. By a very wide margin.

      • Gary

        I’d like to see your stats.

        • Gary

          And I’d be more worried about living in Chicago. Feeds into my point of fixing our own problems, instead of solving all the Middle East’s problems.

          • Gary

            Which we have been rather unsuccessful at.

  • Tim

    “It is a protest against fundamentalism”. Yes it is, and so it is the fundamentalists who will be upset by this, whether or not they realise that is what they are.

  • Dachusblot

    I wonder if another part of the reason Christian fundamentalists take offense to the Handmaid’s Tale is also because just the simple fact that the Republic of Gilead could plausibly exist, kinda pokes holes in their argument that the only reason a group like ISIS exists is because Islam is an inherently violent religion. I mean, these types of Christians like to think that the sort of terrorism and oppression we’ve seen from Islamic fundamentalists could never arise out of Christianity, because Christianity is “better” than Islam. But the Handmaid’s Tale is making the argument that, no, it’s not. Given the right circumstances, Christianity could lead to basically the exact same results. Same with any religion or ideology taken to extremes and given political power. The show is saying that Christianity is not special, in other words, and Christian fundamentalists can’t handle that idea.

    Also, of course, since not all Christians – I dare say, even most Christians – would not at all approve of the Republic of Gilead, the show is undermining the lie/fantasy that all Muslims are secretly evil extremists on the level of ISIS. If most Christians are not like Gilead, then by comparison most Muslims are also not like the Taliban.

    And if we can’t demonize Muslims, then we might actually have to start examining ourselves. And that’s no fun.

  • Eli Odell Jackson

    Of course this show is anti-Christian; the author of the book upon which it is based has said as much.
    The whole thing from the foundations to the flywheel is against God and against His Word, portraying the obedient children of God as the very animalistic savages which oppose us.
    It is wicked slanderous propaganda designed to poison the hearts of men.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Speaking of wicked slanderous propaganda, kindly provide evidence of where Margaret Atwood has said what you claim.

    • Gary

      I think there are some significant issues to relate. There is no doubt that it is anti-Christian:

      https://youtu.be/EJw7T5PGsgI

      However, it is also fiction. Which some conservatives don’t seem to recognize. The author clearly just used the OT as a literary vehicle to convey her point. It could just as easily been a Muslim literary vehicle. As she states (or the author of the Solon article states – it’s a little confusing separating what Solon is pushing, versus what Margaret Atwood says:

      “The Old Testament ideology of Gilead was what she thought would convince people to sign on to such a regime in America: “You wouldn’t get very far if you said, ‘I’m Bob the communist, come join my socialist tyranny!’” She likened Gilead to movements like ISIS. “They all have to have an excuse of some kind, in this case God told them to do it. It’s just self-justifying.” Fundamentalism seemed the most likely path to an American dictatorship.”….
      “Yes, if she were writing the novel now she might have borrowed some of the oppressive tactics of Muslim fundamentalists, but, 30 years on, contemporary American politics — such as conservatives’ references to “real rape” in the run-up to the 2014 elections and the bizarre belief held by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., that a woman’s body reflexively disables conception in the event of “legitimate rape” — still offers ample inspiration. When those stories broke, she said, the hashtag “#handmaidstale” began to appear all over social media.”

      http://www.salon.com/2015/02/08/margaret_atwood_visits_west_point_for_a_frank_conversation_on_gender_politics_and_oppression/

      However, I think conservatives like Michael Bird are upset over quotes by liberals, as by the Solon author, like “conservatives’ references to “real rape””, and “Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo.”, as if these represent the majority of Conservative Christians. These are more the extreme, wacko group. I might add Akins lost in his run for Congress in Missouri.

      I still don’t quite know whether this quote is the Solon’s author’s, or Atwood’s:
      ““legitimate rape” — still offers ample inspiration.”

      From a personal point of view, I have no problems with the OT being used as a literary vehicle by Atwood. However, I have a problem with liberal media propaganda, which is just as obvious as Conservative propaganda. The Solon author’s inclusion of this quote slamming West Point is offensive to me, and had nothing to do with Atwood’s visit to West Point:

      “Surprisingly, none of the questions referred to the ostensibly Christian nature of the Gilead regime. In 2012, a cadet named Blake Page resigned from West Point, complaining that the excessive religiosity of the culture at the academy “willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America” and fosters “open disrespect of non-religious new cadets.” (Among the practices Page objected to were mandatory events that routinely included prayers.)”

      “mandatory events that routinely included prayers”…
      My goodness. How offensive of West Point! That is really a show-stopper reason to drop out of West Point!
      And the Solon author is implying that the lack of questions about Christian connections to Gilead has something to do with the Christian “culture” of West Point. Perhaps it has more to do with the respect that the cadets have for decorum, and respect for Atwood. I suspect that the Solon author was hoping for a real slug fest from all those terrible, right wing, fanatically religious cadets. She needs to go to Iran or Iraq to find what she is looking for.

    • PremiumOsmium

      So you admit that it’s an accurate portrayal of Christian beliefs.

  • Brandon Roberts

    it’s just a show and books criticizing christian extremism

  • Douglas DeCelle

    The blog post referenced some scenes that I didn’t recall from the novel. I’ve only read Margaret Atwood’s book. That said, I’m seeing the role of religion in the book to parallel something that I saw in a craft Youtube. The craft was to take old china plates and to break off pieces that could be glued mosaic-style on vases etc. Religion seems to have that kind of presence in Handmaid’s Tale. Verses and some stories are selected from various parts of the Bible–many from the OT–and attached to the ideology of Gilead. Instruction of the handmaids is laced with these fragments of Christianity that serve to lend moral authority and gravitas to the totalitarian ideology. What’s missing is the redemptive system which is the heart of the scriptures. There is no saving Christ event or story of the liberation of Israel. Only fragments. There are glimmers of hopefulness in occasional scenes when Offred realizes that religion is out of context and being misused in service to her oppression. She appears to me to have the faintest memory and longing for the redeeming message which, if it were more intact, would be a powerful judgment of Gilead. The way that African Slaves in the New World quickly grasped the power of the gospel is an example of its liberating power. Thanks for lifting up this story and your thoughts in this post.