Welcome Frederic C. Rich (Frederic C. Rich) (book – Video) and Host Joseph P. Sottile (NewsVandal.com) (TruthOut) (Twitter)

Christian Nation: A Novel

“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]

103 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Frederic C. Rich, Christian Nation: A Novel”

BevW July 7th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Fred, Welcome to the Lake.

JP, Welcome back to the Lake, thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Hello FDL! I’d like to welcome Frederic C. Rich to FDL’s Book Salon. His new book–Christian Nation–is sure to generate a lot of discussion.

dakine01 July 7th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Fred and welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon. JP, welcome back.

Fred, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but was wondering how the book stores and libraries catalog it? Seems as if it would fit under Sci-fi/alternate history for sure (I’ve read a number of stories in alternate histories where the premise was the loser of an election was the winner and the authors took it from there…)

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:02 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Hi, Fred here. Many thanks for having me.

Lisa Derrick July 7th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

scariest novel I’ve read in a long time! Tons of valuable info–Mr. Rich, how long hand you been researching this subject–looming theocracy–in US before you started writing A Christian Nation?

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Fred, playing on dakine01′s question…can you tell us about the “genesis” of the book (pun intended)? What was you motivation for writing this as a counterfactual?

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:04 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

It’s a great question. Amazon puts it with dystopian and fantasy, which is mostly science fiction. I agree with you that there should be a separate category for alternate history.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:05 pm

It is in good company with others like it…Phillip Roth, Sinclair Lewis…counterfactual novels that try to explain “why” with a “what if”.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:06 pm
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 5

Hi Lisa. So glad you read the book. If you look in the “Acknowledgments” in the back of the book you will see 4-5 really superb scholarly and journalistic non-fiction accounts of Christian fundamentalism. I started with these – I would urge you to read them if you haven’t already. Research part took about one year.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Fred…Was there one event, tipping point or specific trend that inspired you to start the book?

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:09 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 6

Let me address “genesis” and counterfactual questions together. The reason I did this as a novel is that the scholarly books I just mentioned did not get a lot of traction. Moreover, we now know that moral and political opinions come mainly from your gut, not your reason. So I wanted to try fiction, which is designed to address the gut. The primary counterfactual is one that easily could have happened — McCain could have won, and he could have died, and we would have had Sarah Palin as President.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:10 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 10

Yes — for me the tipping point was McCain’s nomination of Palin. As an American (and, at that time, a Republican) I was terrified. I felt he put the country at grave risk, and I felt I needed to do something.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Was this an attempt to “popularize” the scholarly and journalistic work which, thus far, has been far too overlooked? In other words, America came really close in 2008 but, in particular, Blue State America doesn’t fully “get it?”

Lisa Derrick July 7th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

The “Purity Web” seems very similar to the intranet being developed for Iran and the Great Firewall of China.” Interestingly one very litigious religious organization in the USA created DVDs for their members to help them build their “I Am A ist” webssites. Critics of the religions got their hands ona disk and analysized it: Built in was a cyber nannny, a filter that blocked certain words, websites sites and screennames of people critical of the religion…

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

JP, to be honest, not so much to “popularize” as to try another type of tool to get people to take the threat of fundamentalism seriously. So many of us in the blue states live in a bubble, and don’t understand the great advances make by political evangelicals in the state legislatures. Also, we just assume that the laws and the courts would stop it. And we cannot imagine how they could actually implement their agenda, even if they won elections. So to get people to take it seriously, I wanted to show HOW it might happen, and what it might look like if it did happen.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

How far has Christian Evangelicalism gotten in the last 30 years toward realizing some of its goals?

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Lisa — how interesting. I am not an expert on technology, but those who I consulted assured me that the technology for the “Purity Web” already exists. I am told that Saudi Arabia, for example, has make great strides in having computers analyze what they see in street cameras. MIT did an experiment where they predicted behavior from digital clues we leave all over the web. I think that one of the most important questions we face is whether technology makes authoritarianism harder (because it empowers people to communicate and organize), or easier (because we live our lives on the web and a malevolent government could use it to assert control).

RevBev July 7th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Yes, and the recent disclosures have confirmed all our fears. Do you think the fundies are less concerned about privacy intrusions? Ex. If you have nothing to hide, etc….

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:25 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 16

JP – I suppose it depends on how you measure it. If you measure their numbers and influence within American Christianity generally, they have had great success. If you look at their infiltration of the Republican party from the bottom up, and their domination of the local and State Republican party organs in many parts of the country, that is success. Some state governments (e.g., Oklahoma) are overwhelmingly dominated by evangelicals. Home schooling take millions out of the secular world. If you look at implementation of their agenda — not so great, but still real. Look, for example, at what Bush did about stem cell research, or the billions flowing to evangelical groups through the “faith-based intiative,” or evangelical domination of the military chaplaincy.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Given those advances…right now…how tenuous is the Separation of Church and State?

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:28 pm
In response to RevBev @ 18

Yes, I think there is something to that. Although the politics are odd, since the far right is terribly suspicious of domestic intelligence. And remember, the read fundamentalists do have something to hide — they are threatening civil disobedience over marriage equality, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked what it calls a “stunning” rise in Christian and “patriot” armed militias.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:31 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 20

JP, that’s the 64,000 dollar question. Separation of church and state is under relentless attack in the Christian media (where the party line is that it is a “myth”), from evangelical pulpits, from politicians who insist that the USA is a “Christian nation,” and most importantly, in the courts. The fundamentalist groups that challenge separation cases spend millions, and generally out-gun groups like AU and the ACLU, which try to defend those cases. They are determined to dismantle separation as we know it.

Lisa Derrick July 7th, 2013 at 2:31 pm

In “A Christian Nation” those militias are happy to do the govt’s biding because the govt under Plain is very much aligned with their belief systems–anti Muslim, pro-Christian….

RevBev July 7th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

How do you explain the explosion in fear? I have heard stunning reports lately about sales of guns and ammunition….neither are on my shopping list. By fear I do mean beyond the right to carry stuff.

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 2:34 pm

(60% of Americans say God has an “important role” in their daily lives vs. 20% of Europeans)

This is true but I suspect that Sarah’s God has no place for Dark People, Lefties, only Women who conform to Fundy views will likely feel welcome so a Fundy government would be unpopular.
It would be unpopular in the Blue States that pay more taxes than they get from the Government.
The Red States would be getting even more tax money from us thus sparking even more rebellion.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Lisa, you are right. One of the key themes of my book is hypocrisy. The Christian right claims to be on the side of liberty, but they want to tell us what we can do in bed. When a state court breaks their way, they tell the Federal courts to stay out of it because of State’s rights, but if the State court opposes them (as in the Terry Schaivo case), then they want the Federal courts to intervene. The militias see themselves as defenders against government tyranny when the left is in power, but will probably become tools of government tyranny if it is dominated by the far right.

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 2:36 pm
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 14

The “Purity Web”

Huh? Is that real or just in the book if real link please.

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 2:38 pm

The Fundies I suspect would go after enemies domestic first then go after enemies foreign so who would they invade first the nearest countries next to them? Or would they bow to the bankers and go after the oil states first?

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:39 pm

That’s a monitoring system in Fred’s book. Not quite real…yet. Considering the NSA, it is ‘real-ish’

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Fred, How much of Dominionism’s “Right To Rule” ideology is, as RevBev and ThingsComeUndone point out, based on fear and a reaction against the 21st Century, and how much of it is just pure Rushdoony Calvinism run amok?

BevW July 7th, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Do the militias play a role in your book? How are they used?

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:41 pm
In response to RevBev @ 24

I think that is a very complicated question, and I don’t know the answer. Superficially, of course, it’s a function of fear of coming gun control. But we sometimes forget the real economic distress still being suffered in great parts of the country, and also the anxiety around America’s position in the world (will we be the great power during our children’s lifetime that we were during our own?), and anxiety caused by rapidly changing demographics. Unfortunately, economic distress and deep social anxiety have been conditions in which religious fundamentalists and authoritarian demagogues have always flourished.

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

How much science would we lose if the Fundies took over? Stem cell research gone, Global Warming research gone, Keynes economics gone, but what other branches of science would the fundies suppress?

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 29


Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

No — just in the book, thank goodness. In the dystopian “Christian nation” future that the book envisions, the theocratic government harness the web as an instrument of oppression.

RevBev July 7th, 2013 at 2:44 pm

And that is scary.

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 2:45 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 30

Rushdoony Calvinism

Please explain Rushdoony Calvinism. Catholic Right Wing Theology is more my area of expertise. But if Protestant Fundies take over would Right Wing Catholics be content to take second chair forever?
Who knows they might making predictions about Right Wing Catholics n circumstances that extreme is beyond me.

Lisa Derrick July 7th, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Please discuss Patrick Henry University and White House interns, etc….I found that stuff fascinating!

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:47 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 30

Look like you really know something about this, JP. I’m not sure we can disentangle the theology (dominionism, reconstructionism, Rushdoony, etc.) from the social and cultural conditions in which these ideas take hold. We have to remember that the USA has had many periods of extreme religious enthusiasm — where extreme religiosity spreads like wildfire and then burns itself out. But one thing is for sure — if the anxiety and distress I was just speaking of increases, the ground will be more and more fertile for extreme religious ideas.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Can you tell us a bit about Rushdoony? He came from a Calvinist background and that is a “predestination” theology and very much concerned with hard political power, rather than spiritual/charismatic Southern Baptist theology we tend to associate with Evangelicals.

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Given the demographic trends showing a non white majority in coming years what would the Fundy response be is it self deport like Mitt suggests? Would it be no citizenship ever both to keep us from voting and to make cheap labor available for corporations?
Would it be an increase in current policy of putting us in prison only once in prison we would lose the right to vote forever?

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Perhaps JP is replying, but in short, these are related theologies, called dominionism and reconstructionism, in which the second coming of Christ requires as a predicate the establishment of a Godly Kingdom (America) on earth, in which Christians have dominion over all elements of civic and political life, and where Godly law, the law of the Bible (mostly Old Testament), prevails over (and is the only source for), civil law. Kind of like the debate over sharia in Islam, where its proponents believe it should trump and civil, or man-made, laws.

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 2:51 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 40

“predestination” theology

Could be used to justify why people are poor because its God’s Will so why change things. Not good.

BevW July 7th, 2013 at 2:51 pm
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 38

From Lisa’s question – the Link to JP’s video about Patrick Henry University (from the post above)

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:52 pm
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 38

Lisa, the statistic on White House interns coming from Patrick Henry comes from one of the books I noted earlier, I cannot remember which one. Jeff Sharlet’s book, The Family, does a great job of documenting the extent of fundamentalist influence in Washington — it was a big surprise to me.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:52 pm

That is exactly it…and it was the belief of our “Puritan Forefathers” that wealth and success = signs of “election” (destined for heaven), while poverty and misfortune = evidence you were going to Hell.

Lisa Derrick July 7th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I find it ironic and painfully hypocritical that so many opposed ot sharia law have no issue with imposing their version of Christian (wiht some Old Testament thrown in for good measure) law. The only real differences are the burqua and pork products.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Can you tell us a bit about Generation Joshua and the young shock troops of the homeschooling movement?

Lisa Derrick July 7th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I read some of The Family. It gave me nightmares.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I agree, painfully hypocritical. Interestingly, some Christian fundamentalists actually approve of sharia when applied in Muslim countries, in that sense they are at least consistent.

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Thanks for the explanation but from a theology view point the Anti Christ is suppose to come first and win

“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” 4And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.

9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10And then many will fall awaya and betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13


Cripes reading this I wonder if we are in the End Times or will be if the Fundies take over?

RevBev July 7th, 2013 at 2:59 pm

When did that influence become so powerful? Was it there so powerfully even before W?

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 2:59 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 46

You do know that is the current Republican Party belief today only the Corporate GOP thinks its genes and Social Darwinism not God that decided it all.
This is a scary post interesting but scary.

Lisa Derrick July 7th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

The old fundies were post millenialists, now they are pre. They think the “Left Behind” series is a how to manual.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:01 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 48

You know, I find it difficult to put the whole “GenJ” thing in perspective. We’ve always had Christian youth groups, and many of those were paramilitary (look at history of scouts). What I find troubling here is how completely (and for how long) these children are protected from any secular, or even non-evangelical, facts or opinions, and thus denied the opportunity for self-discovery in high school and college and the rest of us have. Also, the military rhetoric, and rhetoric of violence, can be really shocking. Christianity is (or should be) the great religion of peace, but the language of American Christian fundamentalism is filled with the language of conquest and violence. Most of the scenes in the book where Sanjay goes out to Oklahoma and attends stadium rallies are based on actual events.

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 3:01 pm
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 47

A front pager posting about all the similarities between Fundy and Sharia law would make the Fundies have kittens.:)

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I am glad you brought up Sanjay. Tell us about the character of Sanjay Sharma and why you chose a Gay, yoga-practicing internet millionaire to be your primary champion of the Wall of Separation between Church and State?

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 54

For spree killers and Right Wing Terrorists, Abortion clinic bombers, nuts who want to start a race war I’m surprised they have not made a movie yet.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 54

You are correct. The change from post- to pre-millenialism was, I understand, a major shift in the American evangelical movement, and one that laid the groundwork for dominionism etc. I read a number of the “Left Behind” books as part of my research.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

And of South Asian decent, to boot!

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

What are the first things a Fundy Government would if they controlled the WH? There are a lot of things a President can do without consulting Congress.

LibWingofLibWing July 7th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

You know I home schooled my kids because the first movement was on the radical left, all about freedom of learning, tearing down walls, very self directed type thing. It always surprises me that it was taken over by the people who didn’t like corporate schooling because it wasn’t regimented enough, not mind washing enough, not telling kids what to think enough instead of helping them to think.

BevW July 7th, 2013 at 3:05 pm
JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Check this out: Home schooling without God? Humanists find a way>>

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

What do the Fundies want most for themselves notice the Fundy President of Egypt talked big about helping the poor but instead once in power agreed to the IMF’s Austerity Policies.
Would American fundies do the same?

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
In response to BevW @ 63

Sometimes I just write Snark…then I get here and find out its already in the works.
I am apparently not sufficiently paranoid enough. :)

LibWingofLibWing July 7th, 2013 at 3:10 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 64

That’s interesting thanks. But even these secular homeschoolers are much more conservative than the original movement which was anti-curriculum and all about self directed learning.

Where did we get books for our kids to study? The public library, not some mail order system with a strait jacket of what they should learn and what they shouldn’t learn now.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:10 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 57

JP, the correct way to understand my book is as a parable, a story that has embedded within it a lesson. Part of that lesson is what our moral responsibilities are as individuals when something bad rears its head in our civil/political life. The way the three characters struggle with what to do is intended to mirror tendencies within all of us: most of us just want to get on with our lives and can easily talk ourselves in thinking it’s all going to be alright. Another part of our brain may be calling out “danger.” Sanjay is a bit of a prophet, but I made him gay because I wanted him to have some skin the game, something to lose personally. I made him a yogi because it calls him to introspection in a way that is just not part of the lives of Greg and Emilie, and shows that you can be deeply spiritual without being religious in the conventional/supernatural sense.

RevBev July 7th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I have that same curse…not cynical enough and so often surprised. That may be a good thing;) (OT, sorry)

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Thanks, that is a very important reminder about the origins of home schooling. It has been turned by the fundamentalists to a very different use than the one for which it was conceived.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Parables are popular with Christians!

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

The Father of Western Modern Humanist
Erasmus was a classical scholar who wrote in a pure Latin style. He was a proponent of religious toleration, and enjoyed the sobriquet “Prince of the Humanists”; he has been called “the crowning glory of the Christian humanists”.[2]
Erasmus lived against the backdrop of the growing European religious Reformation; but while he was critical of the abuses within the Church and called for reform, he kept his distance from Luther and Melancthon and continued to recognise the authority of the pope. Erasmus emphasized a middle way, with a deep respect for traditional faith, piety and grace, and rejected Luther’s emphasis on faith alone. Erasmus therefore remained a member of the Catholic Church all his life.[3] In relation to clerical abuses in the Church, Erasmus remained committed to reforming the Church from within. He also held to Catholic doctrines such as that of free will, which some Reformers rejected in favour of the doctrine of predestination. His middle road approach disappointed and even angered scholars in both camps.

Once religion was Humanist just what the hell happened? Erasmus was the leading Catholic Scholar of his time and unlike the other Catholic scholars much easier to read.
St Augustine for example’s attempt to link Catholic thought with Plato and Aristotle is a nightmare of twisting logic.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:15 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 71

JP – actually, the Christians I am complaining about don’t understand parable at all, but instead believe in the literal truth of everything in the Bible, even the things which clearly are parables.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

What is a “Bible Believing” church?

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

The heavens have conferred a human nature on mankind alone. Acting according to our
humanity provides the true path through life. Wisdom from the past helps us learn how to follow
this path.

The path for learning greatness is to illuminate the goodness in man, to bring out what is
best in people, and to achieve the highest excellence.

The ancients wishing to exhibit goodness throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their
own states.

The investigation of things rounded out knowledge. Their knowledge being rounded out, their
thoughts were sincere.


Confucius might be called the father of Eastern Humanism. Again how did the Church get so lost?

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

How do Fundies get so concerned with minor rules when JC mostly preached help the poor but they ignore all that.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 74

Just that — a church where people believe in the literal truth of the Bible. And, in many cases, something more than that, a belief that the Bible is not only a guide to matters of religion and morality, but instead, a “guide to everything,” the answer to all questions, including public policy.

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

instead, a “guide to everything,” the answer to all questions, including public policy

Funny how their guide ignores helping the poor. Funny how it goes against the bible to help the rich. Funny how it would make us all conform to little rules but miss the big picture help others!

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Interesting that you mention Confucius – I quote from the Doctrine of the Mean as an epigram to one of the Chapters, indeed the one introducing Sanjay. JP noted earlier he was South Asian. He was Eastern for a reason. The contrast between eastern and western spirituality is a theme than animates some of Sanjay’s reactions to what is happening as America moves toward theocracy.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

How close do you think America is to a set of circumstances and/or coincidental events that might trigger something like a Christian takeover?

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

That would be interesting I’m going to order your book from the library.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:31 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 80

We already have a “Christian takeover” in a number of States. In what Garry Wills has called the “great bait and switch,” Tea Party politicians elected to tame deficits have instead unleashed a tsunami of religiously motivated legislation in the state legislatures, including by his count – in the first quarter of 2012 alone — 944 separate bills and amendments dealing with abortion and contraception. Only the 14th amendment and the Federal court system stand between us and these bills becoming law – thus, much depends on who gets to fill the vacancies on the Supreme Court. I fear that a backlash against the SCOTUS marriage equality decisions will energize the Christian right. But can I see a path — like the one in my book — in the near term? No. But if the next Republican Presidential candidate has to pick a Palin-type to get the nomination, then we might again be a heart-beat away from a fundamentalist in the White House.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Right now we have Egypt as backdrop to this discussion about the intersection of theocratic ideology and democratic institutions.

Egypt relies on the military and military coups as a check on executive power. Here, the division of power into three branches is the bulwark (supposedly) against excessive Executive power and anti-democratic forces.

You seem to regard the Judiciary that the last defense against excessive power and abuse.

bluewombat July 7th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I’ve just skimmed the thread and hope I’m not asking something you’ve already dealt with, but:

Have you read Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here (which is not theocratic but secular, of course)? If so, how does your book compare with theirs and how, if at all, did those books influence you?

bluewombat July 7th, 2013 at 3:36 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 80

Didn’t we have one in 2000-2008?

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:40 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 83

We have much to learn from Egypt and other countries struggling with theocratic political movements. If a radicalized Republican Party were to assume control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency (as in my book), then the judiciary would be last check on an unconstitutional agenda. But that check is only as good as 5 people sitting in the chairs on SCOTUS. Also, we don’t have any history or culture here of the military acting as an independent political actor.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 3:40 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 85

if the Christian takeover had been finished, as Fred postulates in his book, I think Gay marriage would be toast (see SCOTUS appointments since 2008) and America would already look a lot different. Fred?

bluewombat July 7th, 2013 at 3:41 pm
In response to JP Sottile @ 87

Was being semi-ironic, but just semi…

Teddy Partridge July 7th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Jumping in here without reading the intro or the comments, so apologize if this has been said, but WOW.

I am about 50 pages from the end, so no spoilers, but I’ll finish this great book tonight.

First of all, did anyone reading it have a sudden pit-of-your-stomach feeling when you heard yesterday’s news out of SFO? Did anyone else wonder whether we were in for a 7/7/2012 moment? I did.

This is a remarkable tale, well told, well crafted: one of the best Alternative Political Fictions (or is it fiction….?) I’ve ever read. And I’ve read quite a number of them.

Now, my questions for the author are:
1. Are you a Bloomberg Republican?
2. Do you believe Mike could really provide the kind of leadership he does in your novel? What’s your basis for that?
3. Do you see yourself, as I do, as the heir to the Religious/Political Alternative School of the Hudson Valley, undertaken after WW2 by the late great Gore Vidal, with Messiah and later Kalki and even Duluth?

Enough from me. Off to read intro and comments, thank you so much for writing this book, I am recommending it everywhere and carrying it prominently places it sparks conversations. You do know that it’s provoking conversations, based on the cover alone, right??


JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 3:42 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 88

Semi is apt, and that’s Fred’s point.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:43 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 84

Hi. Both books were hugely influential. Sinclair Lewis because his was contemporaneous — i.e., it was a warning to his fellow citizens, in the form of fiction, the threat of domestic fascism, which was not being taken seriously by enough of the country. Handmaids Tale, which is a brilliant and haunting book, taught me that it is not enough to show what a strange dystopian future looks like, you need to show readers a credible path from here to there in order for them to take it seriously.

Coach Bill July 7th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Ironic that Erasmus showed up in my inbox today:

“He who allows oppression shares the crime.”

“Man’s mind is so formed that it is
far more susceptible to falsehood than to truth.”

“Great eagerness in the pursuit of wealth, pleasure,
or honor, cannot exist without sin.”

bluewombat July 7th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Great answer; thank you.

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Hi — many thanks for reading the book, and many thanks for the kind words. As for your questinos:
1. Are you a Bloomberg Republican?
I am no longer a Republican, I am a registered independent. But I voted for Bloomberg and admire him.
2. Do you believe Mike could really provide the kind of leadership he does in your novel? What’s your basis for that?
It’s a fair question. I think as a Jew of a certain generation, Bloomberg would feel an historic calling to resist. At least I hope so.
3. Do you see yourself, as I do, as the heir to the Religious/Political Alternative School of the Hudson Valley, undertaken after WW2 by the late great Gore Vidal, with Messiah and later Kalki and even Duluth?
What an interesting observation. I believe very much in the power of place to influence both philosophical and political thinking, and I am deeply embedded in the Hudson Valley. You flatter me, though, with the comparisons. Many thanks for coming on.

BevW July 7th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the last minutes of this great Book Salon discussion,

Fred, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and how close we might be to a theocratic future government.

JP, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Fred’s website and book (Christian Nation)

JP’s website (Newsvandal) and Twitter

Thanks all, Have a great week.

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Frederic C. Rich July 7th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
In response to BevW @ 95

My pleasure. And special thanks to JP for hosting.

JP Sottile July 7th, 2013 at 3:55 pm
In response to BevW @ 95

Thank you, Bev.

Thank you, Fred.

And to all the FDL’ers, I recommend you pick up a copy of Fred’s book and go down the Dominionism rabbit hole with him and his characters.

Thankfully, it is only a novel…so far…



Teddy Partridge July 7th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

You’re welcome.

One thing you did really, really well was avoid what I call the Techno-Trap in your book. There’s no discussion of ‘mobile-phone’ this or ‘NSA-that’ or ‘gps-the-other.” All of which can be valid in fiction, but incredibly dated once published. Congrats on avoiding it.

Did you have a moment of qualm when McCain lost the election? Did you worry that your premise was lost? — as a writer I might have done. Finally, are you writing something new for us, please?

Teddy Partridge July 7th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Sorry to be so late to all this, thanks for your time.

And thanks to Bev for putting together such wonderful weekend afternoons, darn this Portland weather that beckons!

jimbo July 7th, 2013 at 4:27 pm

believing in non-existent supernatural beings exposes one to those who would never be exposed to power, and never should be. But the dominionist infection is real. Please, please consider going to Mikey Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation web site. Find out how he needs your support in fighting dominionists in the military, and especially the Air Force Academy. This is important, in the sense that not only has Mikey recognized the problem with its dangers, but he is leading the way in fighting the infection in the military. This is no joke. Also consider people who believe in non-existent supernatural beings will believe anything, ie, lying for the lord. This means they will do anything to achieve their aims. Anything. I contend their religion (Christianity and similar religions) mandate this result on the premise that christiansx are mandated to convert others, which guarantees conflict and war. See the Middle East. And thanks for the book, I’ll find a copy soon. Please share the link to Mikey Weinstein’s website http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/

RevBev July 7th, 2013 at 5:52 pm
In response to jimbo @ 100

Not about to start a dispute, but I will note that your statements contain over-broad generalizations and inaccuracies about many believers. You may even know that already.

ThingsComeUndone July 7th, 2013 at 7:01 pm
In response to Coach Bill @ 92

Ironic that Erasmus showed up in my inbox today:

Great Quote !

Lisa Derrick July 7th, 2013 at 9:22 pm
In response to jimbo @ 100

Jimbo, as someone who practices a minority faith, one that was finally allowed to have its emblem placed on the gravestones of our fallen sisters and brothers, it is important that all faiths and atheists as well be given respect for their beliefs and the freedom to have them. I respect your belief that supernatural being are non-existent. That may be your experience. Mine is different.

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