Christian Nation, by Frederic C. Rich.
Here are the facts. I was a lawyer and then a fighter for the secular side in the Holy War that ended in 2020 following the siege of Manhattan. Like so many others, I earned my release from three years of rehabilitation on Governors Island by accepting Jesus Christ as my savior. For the past five years I have lived as a free citizen of the Christian Nation. This is the only truth I have allowed myself. Can I really now think and write the words that express a different truth? Here they are then: I am no longer chained in my cell, but for five years I have been bound even more firmly by the fifty commandments of The Blessing and the suffocating surveillance of the Purity Web. The cloak of collective righteousness lies heavy on the land.
I probably would not have picked up Christian Nation if I was browsing in a bookstore - I'm not the religious type - but I'm very glad I received this book to review. It recounts events up until the 2008 election, all of which is true, but then Obama loses the election 49% to McCain's 51% - and then, three weeks after taking office, McCain drops dead of a heart attack and Sarah Palin takes over.
Imagine an America in which President John McCain has died, and his successor Sarah Palin begins dismantling the separation between church and state in order to implement her Christian fundamentalist agenda. That's what prominent lawyer Frederic C. Rich envisioned when he wrote his debut novel Christian Nation.
Rich paints a disturbing and all-too-realistic portrait of a nation whose government slowly marches to the Right, eventually using martial law to implement full-blown theocratic rule. Against this backdrop he tells the stories of Sanjay, an Internet entrepreneur who takes up the flag against the evangelical forces, and his friend Greg, a lawyer who at first tries to live his life despite these changes, who eventually decides he cannot sit idly by. Rights for gays and women are rolled back, the Bible becomes the ultimate law of the land, and eventually it is left to the residents of New York City to make a last violent stand against federal forces.
I'm not really into politics but I found this book to be fascinating. It reminded me a bit of The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, in that life as we know it is still existing, and on this planet, too, but everything we used to take for granted is now different. Under Sarah Palin's reign, the U.S. starts to become more religious, but it's when her successor, President Jordan, takes office that things really start to get crazy.
I'd consider this novel a dystopian book, but what's scary about it is that it's totally plausible, too. I'd love to see this be made into a movie, but I doubt it will be, since there would most likely be a ton of opposition to it - it's controversial, especially for Christians, I'd imagine - and it overlaps with reality too much. (who would play Obama and McCain, I wonder?)
I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes dystopian novels or ones with political themes - I will say that someone who is more into politics than I am probably would enjoy it even more than I did, even though I did find it to be very interesting. The novel starts in 2029 with the main character, Greg, typing out his store on an old-fashioned typewriter - anything done online is done on the Purity Web, which is monitored by the government - and he spins us back to the mid-2000s to show us how the Christian Nation really began.
3.5 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.