“Don’t the ‘what-ifs’ help us to answer why?”
That’s the key question asked by both the protagonist in Frederic Rich’s new novel—Christian Nation—and by Rich himself as he postulates an American future radically altered by President Sarah Palin and a host of Christian Dominionist ideologues.
How and why Evangelicals persist, what motivates their zealotry and what they would do with power if they got it—these are the “What-ifs” Rich asks through his characters and a counterfactual storyline that takes readers from a key historical tipping point—the election and subsequent death of John McCain in 2008—through plausible plot twists and fictional conflicts that remain deeply rooted in the very real people, politics and ideologies that even today are significant forces in American life.
Although the nomination of the McCain-Palin ticket now seems like a distant nightmare, Rich’s book is, sadly, as relevant as ever. The “War on Women” is ongoing. Battles continue at both the state and federal level over contraception, abortion rights and, more broadly, reproductive rights. “God” and religion are as integrated into politics and military institutions as ever. And science—particularly climate science—and evolution still fail to broadly take root in a country so-often and so erroneously self-described as “the most advanced nation on earth.”
Rich makes this all abundantly clear with some solid historical background, more than a few telling facts and figures (60% of Americans say God has an “important role” in their daily lives vs. 20% of Europeans) and his keen observations about the media-savvy shock troops leading the charge of Dominionism (an ideology proclaiming that Christians have an inherent “Right to Rule” over America).
In fact, religion seems to be as central an issue as ever in American life and Rich has already established some “prescient” credentials. A judge in San Diego just rebuffed an attempt to classify yoga as a religion and, therefore, prohibit it from public schools. Perhaps not coincidentally, the main opponent of Dominionism in Christian Nation—Sanjay Sharma—is a practitioner of yoga and, therefore, a wholly suspicious figure in the minds of the radical Christian jihadists who launch a full-frontal attack on the Separation of Church and State, basic constitutional protections and the safety net of liberty in the judicial system.
And that is where Rich is at his best—in explaining the mechanisms and tactics that would be used and, in fact, have already been used, by Evangelicals to alter the political landscape and political future of the country. While there is little doubt that “progress” seems more likely in the wake of the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision and some promising polling of younger Americans on a variety of social issues, Rich is right about one thing—Evangelicals are patient. They are in it for the long haul and willing to play the “long game.”
This is particularly true in the homeschooling movement and at Patrick Henry College—the elite educational destination for the crème de la crème of homeschooled Evangelical kids. Often referred to as Generation Joshua or Gen-J, I produced a magazine-length story on this generation at Patrick Henry College, which you can see here: Patrick Henry College for WJLA/ABC-7.
Rich clearly defines the long-term strategy and commitment of home schooling pioneer Michael Farris and the bevy of Dominionists—RJ Rushdoony, Howard Ahmanson, Jr. and Rick Warren, to name a few—who believe they are engaged in a spiritual war for the soul of America and future of mankind.
Frederic Rich, a practicing lawyer, former Republican and former Christian, has written a stark, dystopian argument against the perils of Evangelical ideologies, that despite two successive victories by Barack Obama, still seem to roil through our politics even as the Gay rights movement reaches new milestones and their Republican proxies hit new lows.
Seriously. You never know where the next Sarah Palin will come from!
Join us for a lively discussion.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]