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Christian Nation

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“They said what they would do, and we did not listen. Then they did what they said they would do.”

So ends the first chapter of this brilliantly readable counterfactual novel, reminding us that America’s Christian fundamentalists have been consistently clear about their vision for a “Christian Nation” and dead serious about acquiring the political power to achieve it. When President McCain dies and Sarah Palin becomes president, the reader, along with the nation, stumbles down a terrifyingly credible path toward theocracy, realizing too late that the Christian Right meant precisely what it said.

In the spirit of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, one of America’s foremost lawyers lays out in chilling detail what such a future might look like: constitutional protections dismantled; all aspects of life dominated by an authoritarian law called “The Blessing,” enforced by a reconfigured Internet known as the “Purity Web.” Those who defy this system, among them the narrator, live on the edges of society, sustained by the belief that democracy will rise to triumph over such tyrannical oppression.


First published July 1, 2013

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About the author

Frederic C. Rich

4 books51 followers
Fred Rich is an author whose writing, both fiction and non-fiction, probes contemporary political and moral issues from a fresh perspective. That perspective is independent, non-partisan, and pragmatic.

His latest book, Escape from Extinction, an Eco-Genetic Novel (Vector Books, forthcoming October 1, 2020), is a retelling of the Prometheus/Frankenstein story for the age of genetics. Scientists wielding new tools for editing DNA have the power to change the blueprint for humanity, hack evolution, re-engineer nature, resurrect extinct species, and even create entirely new forms of life. We are in what Siddhartha Mukherjee in his bestseller The Gene calls “a headlong sprint into an abyss.” Escape from Extinction uses storytelling to explore this abyss. In Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, the intersection of avarice and scientific hubris gave us man-eating velociraptors. Here, the “monster” is an empathetic and charming de-extincted Neanderthal teenager, who many nevertheless believe presents the same threat to humanity as Crichton’s dinosaurs.

His first book, Christian Nation (W.W. Norton, 2013), is a work of speculative fiction that considers the political ambitions of Christian fundamentalism in America. The novel was called "brilliant" by Richard Dawkins, "well written and persuasive" by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "required reading" by the New York Post, and "riveting, provocative reading" by Booklist.

Rich's second book, Getting to Green ( W.W. Norton, 2016), tells the story of how the American environmental movement lost its way and explains how it can get back on track. The book contains a rousing call for conservatives to reconnect with their long tradition of support for conservation and for the Green movement to adopt the reforms necessary to restore bipartisan support for the environmental agenda.

Rich studied public and international affairs at Princeton and moral philosophy at King's College, Cambridge, before receiving his law degree at University of Virginia Law School. He spent his law career as a partner of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, an international law firm, before leaving at the end of 2014 to devote himself full-time to writing and teaching.

Fred lives and writes in both Manhattan and New York State’s inspiring Hudson Valley. He is currently working on a book about our national crisis of incompetence.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 214 reviews
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,890 reviews1,920 followers
July 3, 2017
Rating: 4.5 appalled, terrified stars of five

UPDATE 1 OCTOBER 2013 from President Obama's Twitter feed:
Barack Obama ‏@BarackObama 13m
They actually did it. A group of Republicans in the House just forced a government shutdown over Obamacare instead of passing a real budget.

It's Banned Books Week, so we are well advised to think about what the ability to ban a book really means.

“The biggest mistake that we can make is that we don’t believe that they believe what they say. And for many of them, they do mean exactly what they say," says author Frederic C. Rich in his Politico.com interview from this past July. Look at the Texas school textbook adoption wars over presenting creationism as a scientific theory. All of those folks are elected...by the few who bother to show up, and those are usually the wingnuts from the religious right with an agenda to impose.

Start where you are, here on Goodreads. Do what you can, what you're capable of doing. Fight the small battle here, and win or lose, the war's course will change. Maybe you'll even live long enough to be glad that you did. I only hope you won't live long enough to regret that you didn't.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Read the entire review at Shelf Inflicted, a Group Blog.
Profile Image for Emily.
687 reviews623 followers
July 4, 2013
I'm not sure I can give any book I found so riveting less than four stars, even though this doesn't seem particularly artful as a novel. It is a counterfactual history of a future theocratic America, written as the memoir of one of the leaders of the resistance. It departs from real life when John McCain wins the 2008 election and dies soon thereafter, vaulting Sarah Palin to the presidency. From there, a series of increasingly openly religious laws are passed, culminating with The Blessing, a document that essentially supersedes the Constitution with a series of fifty statements like "A principal task of public education shall be to teach obedience to God's will." Greg, the author of the memoir and a former lawyer, is writing in 2029; has superficially and involuntarily been "saved;" and works at what used to be NYU's Bobst Library as an indexer, i.e. he tags any publications that challenge the Bible or The Blessing to be destroyed.

Big swaths of this book read like the transcript of some hypothetical NPR show, with Greg and his friend Sanjay expounding on various legal theories and political ideas. There aren't even many characters: the two I just mentioned, Greg's girlfriend (minor), the friend who urges Greg to write the memoir (minor), and then various real or imagined political and religious figures, viewed from afar. That is what makes this book not feel particularly novelistic; it is masquerading as nonfiction almost too well. Since I like talking about law and politics, I still found it quite readable.

As I read, I found myself getting preoccupied with whether the book is "fair." I have read Left Behind, and didn't find it fair; it is peopled by straw men, like abortion doctors who love killing babies so much, they're gnashing their teeth when all the fetuses are raptured. Compared to Left Behind, this book is actually scrupulously fair in that it doesn't target religion itself and is quite complimentary to leaders of various faiths and religious people who don't foist their beliefs on others. Sam Harris would never approve.

The more obvious comparison is The Handmaid's Tale, a work of greater literary merit, but the big difference (based on my limited memory of Atwood's book) is that Rich is showing the development of the theocracy, not opening with it as a fait accompli. For that reason, I found the first half of this book--the parts rooted in real events or proposed legislation--more chilling, even though things like abortion restrictions or outlawing gay adoptions are less extreme than the civil war that follows. The pacing is incremental so that no single development seems utterly implausible, even if the end result is a 1% chance of a 1% chance, etc. Clearly the author's goal is to offer a vision so terrible that it forces us to take the opening steps more seriously.

This book made me mad, and I kept saying to myself "This could never happen (........ or could it?)." I read it almost in one sitting. Even if the characters don't come to life, it is thought-provoking.

Review copy received from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Becky.
37 reviews2 followers
August 16, 2013
Many reviewers have likened this book to "The Handmaid's Tale", and they're not wrong. Personally, I'd call it a cross between 1984 and World War Z. :)

This book kept me awake at night and not just because of the shudders every time I read the words "Palin administration." What part of this book is implausible? That a Republican president with a filibuster-proof majority would replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg with Roy Moore? That he (or she) would propose the most savage attack on personal freedom in the country’s history and call it “The Blessing?” Christian fundamentalists are champing at the bit to do all that and more. I hope people read this book and recognize the danger before we have to move it to the non-fiction shelf.
Profile Image for Henry.
162 reviews4 followers
August 26, 2013
This book is, to my mind, a must-read for anyone who cares about our country, our traditions, our freedom, and the ideals of tolerance and justice.

It's been clear for a long time that the Republican party is the agent of fundamentalist evangelical Christians and is, therefore, all too often an agent of intolerance and of the pernicious idea that one religious ideology should trump this country's commitment to a democracy based on reason.

Frederic Rich's book, while fictional, plausibly explores what could happen if the nation were to entrust the power of the presidency to a politician committed to dominionism and if economic and other crises were to slacken Americans' willingness to guard their freedom.

One of the true ironies of modern times is the use of the word "liberty" by the political right to stand for monopolies in the marketplace, religious dogma as the basis of law, and the rejection of science and, indeed, all knowledge. Mr. Rich's novel frighteningly shows, and in a quite plausible manner, what may well happen to this country, the world's bastion of freedom, if the misguided zealots who think that is what liberty means ever have the chance to do what they have, indeed, said they want to do.

Read it. Then vote for politicians who stand for the freedom of conscience, the constitutional rights our forefathers secured for us and our ancestors died to protect, and the vital separation of all things religious from the governance of this nation.
July 7, 2013
This is ridiculous left-wing trash. It's also intellectually dishonest. The American citizen has never had fewer civil liberties or lived in anything so close to the police state than it does now, living in a dystopia where only 47% of adults have a full time job as the President tells you daily what a swell job he's doing. This is absurd.
Profile Image for Sally.
Author 126 books310 followers
June 30, 2013
I was intensely curious about Christian Nation from the moment it was first brought to my attention. I do like a enjoy a good alternate "what if?" history novel, but I was far more interested in this as a book of ideas. As a reader who is apparently destined to be persecuted on multiple fronts in Rich's theocratic state, I was interested to see how he would develop his ideas and justify his conclusions.

Oh my gosh. I mean no offense to my friends south of the border, but this is a quintessentially American novel - full of arrogance, self-importance, and return to thoughts of manifest destiny. The political and religious leaders of Rich's novel not only believe that the establishment of America as a pure Christian Nation is required for the second-coming, but that they were granted the land by God for that sole purpose. There is some lip service provided to the idea of supporting a Jewish state in Israel but, for the most part, the new rulers of America don't give a damn about anybody outside their borders. The Bible may not have been written by them but, by God, it sure as sin was written for them.

Along the same lines, the new rulers are not content to merely accept the will of God and rule their country according to the literal dictates of the Bible. The 10 commandments are a great inspiration, but in America you go big or you go home, and it takes 50 new commandments , in the form of The Blessing, to get things done. I really don't know whether Rich was being satirical in so wholeheartedly embracing the worst stereotypes outsiders have of America, but he plays just about every card in the deck. The Blessing has to be the ickiest part of the novel, several pages of racist, sexist, homophobic that just makes you queasy to think of anybody buying into.

It's not just American stereotypes at work here, however, but misogynistic religious ones as well. In the new Christian Nation, it's homosexual men who are the enemy, and sodomy that is the world's greatest sin. Islamic terrorists loading rocket launchers around airports are bad, but Rich's theocratic leaders would run right past them to stop two young men from loading something far smaller, and far less lethal, into one another. His is a world where single men over a certain age are legally assumed to be homosexual, and where gay sex is grounds for execution. Lesbians, however, merely have to be watched (I guess some things never change), and women merely have to be pleasant and obey their husbands - who can, of course, demand any sort of kinkiness they desire. I do have to give Rich credit for making a lovely, charismatic gay man one of his protagonists, though, even if he never gets kissed, much less sodomized, anywhere on the page.

Whew. Could it really happen the way Rich suggests? Could a theocracy take root in America, rise to absolute power, and then gleefully abuse that power until everything that made the country America is gone? I sure as hell hope not but, then again, he makes it clear the world felt the same way about Nazi Germany once upon a time. As a cautionary tale and a philosophical exploration of what happens when the lines between church and state are erased, this is a fascinating read. It's very dry, and full of long passages that I'm sure even lawyers and university professors will be tempted to skim, but it is interesting to see how easily we can be convinced to give our freedoms away.
60 reviews2 followers
July 2, 2013
An interesting novel, for sure. If I was simply rating the story, I may have opted for a 3 or 4 star review. However, the author was unable to keep his own political biases out of the book. From going out of his way to make Sarah Palin sound and seem like a total idiot to his obvious hatred of all things conservative or Republican, the author gets in the way of his own story. The book would have been better if it had used made-up characters. This would would have made it easier to focus on the story.

*I was a first read winner on this site*
Profile Image for Brent Soderstrum.
1,428 reviews18 followers
June 6, 2021
I won this "book" through GoodRead's first read program.

Mr. Rich uses his novel as a platform for a mean-spirited rant on evangelical Christians. This left-wing liberal attack is pasted to a flimsy story of McCain beating Obama for the presidency in 2008 and then suddenly dying, resulting in Sarah Palin becoming President. She then uses her presidency and another attack led by terrorists on the US to get her right-wing religious program through Congress. Palin isn't the worst of it according to Rich (although his personal attack on Ms. Palin is nasty). Her advisor and successor, Steve Jordan, is even worse. When he becomes President evangelical Christians become Nazis.

Mr. Rich writes this book with a very heavy New York City bias. New York City citizens are the only ones who understand. Rich gushes in condescending verbiage about the virtues of New Yorkers. Manhattan contains the "best and the brightest", New York City is truly the "Capital of the world" and a "model for what the world could be". Reading his egotistical myopic drivel made me want to vomit.

He doesn't leave it at praising New Yorkers, however. He attacks other states' citizens stating, for example, that an intelligent Iowa girl thought that WWII was a battle between the US and the Jews of the world. He attacks other states too I just remember the Iowa attack since I live there.

Rich is clearly an angry atheist whose attack on evangelical Christians is misguided. Evangelical Christians are responsible for nearly 90% of all mission work to impoverished countries. Evangelical Christians also do projects for the needy in the US. Rich instead demonizes and attacks Christians insinuating they are just plain stupid in stating that the Christian's motto should be "Down With Intelligence".

Don't waste your time reading this garbage. Normally when I get done with a book I will give it to my local library to sell. I am just going to toss this in the trash.
Profile Image for 11811 (Eleven).
662 reviews139 followers
March 8, 2016
I've had plenty of time to think about this book and I have plenty to say but for the sake of my tradition of keeping it pithy I narrowed it down to a couple comments and a single quote.

1. This should be read as political literature. The author uses an extreme brand of Christianity for his story but there is no shortage of non-religious ideologies that could be just as dangerous.

2. The problem with revolutions is that you don't always get what you want. The Marxist movement and surprise theocratic takeover in 1979 Iran serves as an excellent example. The author doesn't refer to this example but I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Quote, page 166 -

"The national government will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built up. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life."

-Speech by Adolf Hitler, February 1, 1933
Profile Image for Michele.
617 reviews168 followers
July 5, 2017

Written by a lawyer, this novel of a dystopian near-future America takes the somewhat unusual tack of laying out how a small group, with the right people in the right places, can legally get pretty close to taking over the country -- so close that by the time they're ready to take that last extra-legal step, there's nobody to stop them. Although the ultimate events of the book take some suspension of disbelief, the steps taken to get there are all too plausible. The story covers the years 1998-2029; for everything that takes place in the novel before its publication date (2008), I'd suggest googling the ones where you think, "Nah, that can't be true." They mostly are.

If you liked It Can't Happen Here, this is your cuppa.
Profile Image for Jeremy Pack.
Author 3 books60 followers
July 5, 2013
“It can’t happen here.”

Several times while reading Christian Nation, I scoffed and said those exact words. Except, by the end, I was questioning my own convictions. It can’t happen here. Can it?

In this tale, an alternate reality in which McCain and Palin win the 2008 election, America transforms into a totalitarian theocracy in the span of two decades. In a calculated series of moves—THAT HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN ATTEMPTED, by the way—civil liberties are virtually eradicated and what emerges is an ugly vision of what might have been. (What could still be if we are not vigilant.)

Sadly, Christians will either ignore this book or dismiss it as a hit-piece when it’s nothing of the sort. True Christians will find respectful treatment and will probably be just as disgusted by how completely and perniciously dominionists have hijacked their faith. No rational, patriotic American wants the world described in this book, Christian or otherwise.

You likely won’t find yourself falling in love with the people. They’re not so much drawn as sketched and are only there to tell the tale. (Except Sanjay. I really liked him.) What WILL keep you turning the pages is the alarmingly realistic demise of the American ideal—all the more terrible because a glance at the politics section of your favorite news site will illustrate just how thin a line exists between the fiction Mr. Rich has created and the reality playing out in legislatures around the country.

Horrific and utterly unforgettable. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Dnab.
283 reviews40 followers
April 14, 2014
This books' anti-Christian agenda is far too obvious and inaccurate to be in the least bit enjoyable. This author's obvious hatred towards Christianity and his intentional blaming of left-wing problems on the right is horrific. For example, he blames the lack of knowledge of world events on the right, when in fact that lack of history in our schools is being forced on teachers by requiring so many mandated minutes in reading and math that these subjects are barely broached. Under the Obama administration we have lost more freedom than we have under any other president. No other time in history have we been forced to purchase something whether you wanted to or not and yet this author blames all these things on things on Christians. This is a thinly veiled attack on Christian influence in our modern culture and his attempt to make people afraid of what influence Christians might have.

My encouragement is to talk to someone who is a practicing genuine Christian. It won't take you long to realize what truly motivates them and that this book is not only unlikely but the exact opposite of what would occur. This reads more like what the left would like to see as their end game instead of the right.
Profile Image for Casey.
574 reviews30 followers
May 9, 2022
I've never been a fan of futuristic dystopian novels. But this one is not just about the future -- much of it is happening now. Last week, Louisiana advanced a bill that would grant constitutional rights to a person “from the moment of fertilization.” The bill would criminalize abortion as murder. And, since a fertilized egg would be a "person" with full rights, it would criminalize any birth control method that prevents a fertilized egg from implanting.

Also, 10-to-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. So I wonder how the government would determine if the woman had a self-induced abortion or a miscarriage. Would women who miscarry be charged with murder and have to prove their innocence in court? Would they need witnesses? Lawyers?

They're gonna have to build a lot more prisons.

We live in interesting times and this is an interesting novel. Very timely and recommended.
Profile Image for Claudia.
2,441 reviews86 followers
December 13, 2016
Probably NOT the best time to listen to this chilling novel...right after an election that puts the country on a totally unknown trajectory...but listen I did.

This is alternative history -- "What if...." What if McCain won the election and promptly died, leaving Sarah Palin president...with her Dominionist Christian beliefs, and the freedom to act them out? What if, step by step, our country was taken over by Christian evangelists, determined to impose their beliefs and their morality on everyone? What if...

Could the country, could the Constitution survive? In Rich's novel neither does and it is painful to watch.

The novel's narrator, Greg, has been at the forefront of the shift to a theocracy. He helped sound the alarm, he fought in the uprising, and at the beginning of the book, we find him working,without hope, in the library...cataloging the books that do not follow a strict Christian sense of morality.

He is offered the opportunity to tell the story of the end of America, and the beginning of the Christian Nation, and it's frightening how easy it was to take one step at a time, to the total loss of all privacy and rights.

The book is not artfully written...Rich has so much to say about the legal maneuverings of Palin and her successor...how others (names you will recognize) helped tear down and rebuild our country. He had legal arguments to put forth (Greg is a lawyer). But the matter-of-fact tone of the book (after all, it's supposed to be Greg's memoir) adds to the horror...

My stomach hurt as I read...hurt with fear that this could happen here...could happen if DJT quits and many people think he will, or is impeached as others think. We will be left with Mike Pence, whose religious beliefs are just as strong as Sarah Palin's...and he has the veneer of a life-long politician to boot.

This could be our future if we do NOT support our core values...and religion may well be one of those core values. This book warns of the extremes, and it terrified me.
388 reviews7 followers
July 7, 2013
For those who see this novel as "liberal hyperbole" or "anti-Christian" I'd counter that it is anything but that. It is a warning of what could happen should the fundamentalist dominionists succeed in executing their agenda--and they do have an agenda. I was raised in an evangelical household and value the separation of church and state as the basis of freedom in this country. Being able to choose to worship in the manner each of us would choose, is a precious right and it should not be taken from us by those who practice another religion or those who interpret the Bible in a different way than you or I might interpret the Bible. It should also not be taken from us by those who would reinterpret the Constitution or rewrite American history.

As a novel, it's not well constructed, but the narrative provides the means to convey the message and show a plausible, compelling strategy for stripping basic civil liberties, installing a totalitarian regime in the name of Jesus. Highly recommend this as a summer must read.
Profile Image for J.
7 reviews
August 3, 2013
What a load of leftwing liberal nonsense. Someone's been drinking the kool aid by the gallons. Intellectually dishonest and riddled with cognitive dissonance.
Profile Image for InYourFaceNewYorker.
144 reviews4 followers
July 19, 2013
I have read a lot of dystopian fiction over the past few years, some of it good, some of it lousy. I love The Hunger Games and I feel that it is one of the few popular series of teen books that is not overrated. It is, however, easy to satirize because the premise is so outlandish, even in the context of a Nazi-Germany-like society: To keep the people subjugated, kids between the ages of 12 and 17 are thrown in an arena where they fight to the death until only one person is left alive. A fake commercial on YouTube advertises a Hunger Games board game with a jingle that goes, "Boys! And fighting to the death! (And kissing!) The Hunger Games!"

Lots of dystopian fiction seems far-fetched. Even the classic 1984 is very outlandish. Recently, however, I read Christian Nation, a piece of dystopian fiction that, on the surface, seems absurd-- scenes taken out of context might make you laugh-- until you actually read the book in its entirety. The premise: John McCain wins the 2008 election, dies, and Sarah Palin becomes president. Just when it looks like Sarah Palin is finished-- many people are upset with her-- a terrorist attack that dwarfs 9/11 occurs just months before the 2012 election. Sarah Palin wins by a landslide. But this is only the beginning. The Great Recession becomes the Second Depression, and a number of seemingly small incidents pave the way for the Christian Right to seize the political power they have long sought and take over. After about 20 years, America becomes every bit as totalitarian as Saudi Arabia.

Christian Nation does not completely trash religion, but it does point out a lot of the absurdities: the doublethink of God loves you, but if you piss him off you're going to hell; gay marriage is a threat to religious freedom; and that you need the great surveillance camera in the sky to be moral: in fact, there are eventually cameras everywhere to make sure people are being "moral!" There are also some more subtle political statements about America's foreign policy, such as that when we invade a country, we sometimes say that we are liberating them. And let's not forget the attitude we had towards taking over the Native Americans' land! We also are reminded how easy it is to fall into herd mentality, just as Germany did during World War II. Another important message to take away from Christian Nation is that we need to believe the rabid rightwing Republicans when they say what they intend to do should they get political power-- they mean it. We also need to stop automatically giving religion respect just because it's religion. This attitude makes it safe for this kind of dystopian society to develop. Finally, the book also reminds us how the absurdity of people on the far right makes it difficult to discern who is being serious and who is a "Poe." Watch episodes of The Atheist Experience and you'll see what I mean.

Overall, Christian Nation is a strikingly powerful societal, political, and religious commentary. The climax almost moved me to tears, and that very rarely happens with a book. Read this book and tell everybody about it and keep nagging them until they read it. It belongs on the shelves alongside classics like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.
Profile Image for Emily.
152 reviews
May 25, 2013
Full disclosure: I won a free copy of this book in a goodreads giveaway.

This was an interesting, not to mention quite chilling, read. The author avoids what I was most afraid of when I picked up this book: The demonization of the Christian religion. I was dubious that a book about the country coming under the control of an extreme theocratic regime could avoid that pitfall, but this one did. This book is about extremism, not about your average person who goes to church on Sundays.

The first thing that really stands out to me is that this book has some of the strongest writing of any that I've reviewed recently. I really enjoyed the tone and rich narration that we are told the story in. It makes it very believable, not to mention giving the reader a very clear view of what's happening and how.

One reviewer compared this to Atwood's 'Handmaid's Tale'. I would agree that in some ways that comparison is apt, but the writing in this is something I find far more pleasing. The story, though, about a country fallen into fundamentalism, definitely shares a theme. Unlike Atwood's novel, this novel is more about how the fall happened. We don't actually find out a lot about how the new world works until the very end of the book. How the world works isn't the point. The point is how it got there.

This book easily stands on its own two feet, if you will, as a novel about the fall of a nation. It's definitely entertaining fiction if you enjoy that sort of thing. It also lacks a lot of the apocalyptic feel that many dystopian novels possess, which is a refreshing change. The author really went out of his way to portray a realistic pattern of events. I found this book an uneasy read in many ways, but I don't see that as a problem. I feel that was definitely the intent of the author.

Speaking of the author, he has stated this book was written as a warning. In that respect it is quite effective. I find myself thinking in much the same way as the main character at the beginning of the story: 'That can't happen here, in the US'. Still, after reading this book I find that slim bit of doubt. Is this really what the extremists want? Could this really happen? I don't know. But this book makes me ask the question.

Profile Image for Brendan Diamond.
78 reviews14 followers
August 9, 2013
Wow. I'm pretty liberal, hate Sarah Palin and everything her glam-seeking, fake religiously zealous pseudoconservatives stand for... but this book is simply dreadful. Had this been a conscious rewrite of the ludicrous Left Behind series told from the unbeliever's perspective, it might have been interesting. Instead, it focuses on a boring narrator telling a surprisingly pedestrian tale about his meteoric rise to fame on the heels of his way-too-perfect best friend. And it relies on a lot of assumptions that quite frankly bear nothing close to reality in them. The depiction of the Pharisee-type theocrats like Sam Brownback is fair enough, and the author was prescient enough to name Christine Quinn the mayor of New York. But he has no understanding of or appreciation for the way young religious people, particularly young Evangelicals, are turning away from the politics and gay bashing of the hyperreligious segments of the Baby Boom generation. As it is, Rich has taken an interesting subject and written possibly the worst and most boring novel he could have. It also might have been nice if Rich had even bothered to understand the most insidious part of the Dominionism he pretends to describe: the so-called Prosperity Gospel. As it is, this just stands as a prime example of how NOT to write a novel. Ever. Seriously. Dan Brown read it and thought it was contrived and dumb. Don't waste your time if you enjoy exercising your neurons.
Profile Image for Steve Pehnec.
4 reviews7 followers
February 10, 2014
I wrote a short review on Amazon.com, THIS IS YOUR WARNING. I just have few comments for this space:

The book has been called "Christian Bashing", "demonization of Christianity", and so on. It is no such thing. The author is very clear on this in his book. The mainline protestant churches, as well as the Catholic churches, unless similarly radicalized, will be rolled over. Millions of Christians, believing they are doing what is both good and right will unquestioningly support the overthrow of the U.S. government. (If you think people are not so ignorant or so gullible as to allow this happen, think again. How many U.S. citizens really know their own history or how our Constitutional government is supposed to work? How many choose creationism over evolution?) Everyone, but for our self-proclaimed lords and masters, who claim to speak for God, will suffer. America will die.

While this book purports to be a work of fiction, the story line is very firmly grounded in fact and both RECENT AND CURRENT EVENTS. Other Christian organizations (for example, look up People for the American Way, http://www.pfaw.org/) are already organizing against these zealots.

The enemy is not religion per se; it is very distinct group of Christian fundamentalists known as Christian Dominionists whose sole aim is to set up Christian rule over (first) the United States and then (second) the rest of the world. They believe that this must be done for Christ to return, and it is their sole reason for being. Again, these people are real!

These goals are plainly stated in dominionist pamphlets and on websites... it's all out there for anyone who wants to find it. Pick one mentioned in the book and Google it... It's real! It exists!

BOTTOM LINE, this book is about an existing, anti-democratic POLITICAL MOVEMENT that represents a far greater actual threat to this nation than that felt from Communism in the 1950's! It will be a theocracy but it will also be fascist and totalitarian. Remember, we were told more than 200 years ago that the greatest threat to America will come from within.

Of course anyone who has hopes for the establishment of such a theocracy will try to pull the wool over your eyes by claiming to be the innocent victims; victims of "liberal bias", victims of a "homosexual agenda", victims of a "socialist government", victims of a "war on Christmas"... COME ON PEOPLE, this BS is already happening!

In an anonymous quote incorrectly attributed to Sinclair Lewis, the claim is made: "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." By God, I believe that to be true. If you don't believe the factual basis for this book, a little research might change your mind. "Christian Nation" has warned you.
Profile Image for Kate Reynolds.
2 reviews3 followers
April 15, 2013
This is a chilling alternative future novel that posits a John McCain win in the 2008 election, followed by the takeover from within of the US Government by the Christian RIght. I can't say I enjoyed the idea of this future, but it was very well told and a real wake-up call. I hope this book gets widely read and makes people commit to preventing this very scary outcome.
Profile Image for mad mags.
1,123 reviews82 followers
November 27, 2013
I really wanted to like this book…

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. )

I really wanted to like this book. I really did. I mean, it’s right up my alley: Speculative fiction. The rise of an American theocracy. The erosion of civil liberties and rights. The misuse of technology by the government to spy on its citizens and force them into submission. Misogyny taken to its logical extremes. When I first read the description on the book jacket, it brought to mind some of my favorite dystopian classics: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale is an obvious one, as is George Orwell’s 1984. While these books do share some similarities, what sets Christian Nation: A Novel apart is that it’s surprisingly boring.

Caution: Minor spoilers ahead!

What might have happened had John McCain and Sarah Palin won the 2008 election? In Frederic C. Rich’s vision of one possible America, a McCain/Palin victory is the first step on the path to an American theocracy. Not long after his inauguration, President McCain drops dead of a cerebral aneurism while giving a speech in Moscow. In a nightmare scenario, the ill-prepared Sarah Palin is swiftly sworn in. During her presidency – which lasts two terms, thanks to a series of especially brutal and conveniently-timed terrorist attacks on American soil – Palin begins to lay the groundwork for what will become the unraveling of American democracy. Among other things, Palin declares martial law, and with her leadership, Congress passes previously unthinkable pieces of legislation, including the Houses of Worship Act, the Constitution Restoration Act, and the Defense of Freedom Act – most of the provisions of which are upheld by a Supreme Court now dominated by conservatives.

Palin is succeeded by her mostly-invisible adviser, Steve Jordan, under whose leadership America undergoes a radical transformation. On July 4th, 2017, he introduces a series of fifty proposed rules organized around ten assertions. Based on an evangelical Christian reading of the Bible and collectively called The Blessing, these are to act as each citizen’s covenant with God, as well as the basis for more concrete state and federal laws. The Blessing is a sort of conservative Christian wishlist: among other things, it establishes “God’s law” as the law of the land; restricts judgeships to born again Christians; expels the UN from US soil and nullifies existing international treaties; solidifies marriage as between one man and one woman; outlaws abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, adultery, pornography, and “sexual perversion”; eradicates hate crimes legislation; establishes abstinence-only education as the only legal form of sexual education; and demands that wives must obey their husbands and children, their fathers. While Jordon doesn’t unilaterally enact The Blessing – it comes up for a vote in Congress, much like any other piece of legislation – it easily passes in a House and Senate dominated by conservative Christians (many of whom were swept into power with the help of politically active churches, thanks to Palin’s Houses of Worship Act).

Though fourteen blue states – led by New York’s Governor Bloomberg - secede from the Union, they’re eventually beaten and bombed into submission by Jordan’s superior military forces. The island of Manhattan holds out the longest – enduring a winter siege – but its citizens are easily captured in the Battle of Battery Park. The male survivors are sent to a “re-education camp” on Governor’s Island; the females, to a converted summer camp on Staten Island. All resistors are sentenced to death, a punishment which is temporarily stayed for three years. During this time, anyone judged to have accepted Jesus Christ as his or her lord and savior is spared and reintegrated into a society now radically changed. All citizens carry “Devices” (made by Apple, natch) which record their every move, and Jordan’s “Purity Web” collates data culled from surveillance cameras, satellites, and the internet to ensure total compliance with The Blessing.

Christian Nation is primarily told in the form of a memoir. A survivor of the siege of Manhattan, in his former life Greg was a partner at a prestigious law firm. Once Sarah Palin takes power and begins to break down the wall of separation between church and state, Greg abruptly quits to join his college friend Sanjay’s non-profit, Theocracy Watch. During the country’s rapid descent into darkness, Sanjay emerges as the public face of the opposition movement; fundamentalists quickly identify him as the Antichrist. Eventually they both become close confidants of Governor Bloomberg. After the fall of Manhattan, Greg serves nearly two and a half years at Governor’s Island, where he is psychologically tortured – and witnesses the physical torture of other inmates, including Sanjay, whose death by stoning is televised for all to see. With just months left to spare, Greg eventually fakes his own conversion and is transferred to a “halfway house” in Manhattan. There he procures a job at the Christian Nation Archives, weeding out “sinful” books for destruction. Occasionally, he mislabels subversive books in order to rescue them from the incinerator; this is one of the few forms of rebellion left to him. That is, until newly arrived co-worker Adam, a member of the underground Free Minds movement, recruits him to write his memoir, hopefully to inspire further rebellion against theocrat Jordan.

There’s a lot to like in Christian Nation. Those who follow the news with any regularity will no doubt recognize a number of real-life individuals and themes: Roy Moore, Christine O’Donnell, Tony Perkins, Rick Warren, and Ted Cruz; Fox News’s merger with the Faith & Freedom Network; gay reorientation camps; book burnings; state militias and Joshua Brigades; Democratic capitulation; widespread apathy and disbelief. For example, the legislation proposed by Palin is based on existing legislation proposed by actual members of Congress. A thorough fact checking of every speech and bill appearing prior to 2008 – the point at which history and fiction diverge – is beyond the scope of this review, but a few random searches suggest that much of it is based in fact. “They said what they would do, and we did not listen. Then they did what they said they would do.” The quotes and ideas found in Christian Nation are not figments of the author’s imagination; rather, they’re straight from the mouths of evangelicals.

(Unfortunately, these incidents culled from real life don’t come with references to reinforce their veracity; as unbelievable as some of them are, I think Rich would have been well-served to include a reference list in the appendix. I’d prefer footnotes, but they probably would have distracted from the story even further.)

Rich’s portrayal of a conservative Christian culture on the rise is frightening in its believability. And yet, in his attempt to explain the possible legal basis for these power grabs, the story becomes bogged down in details. Pages upon pages of constitutional analyses make for tedious reading – that is, unless you’re a legal nerd or policy wonk. But I am neither and, while I agree that it’s important for all American citizens to have a strong grasp of Constitutional law (in this regard, I especially appreciated Sanjay’s delineation of a constitutional democracy vs. a popular democracy), it makes for a rather dry piece of fiction. While indeed chilling on an intellectual level, Christian Nation lacks the raw, visceral emotion of The Handmaid's Tale and 1984 – or even Teri Hall’s recent, lesser-known New Zapata . (Driven by fundamentalist Christians, Texas has seceded from the Union in order to institute a theocracy similar to Jordan’s Christian Nation. The plot revolves around a young woman trying to procure a life-saving abortion after she’s raped and impregnated by her abusive husband.)

Also disappointing is the scarcity of female characters. Greg’s girlfriend Emilie gets the most face time by far; and yet, she’s an utterly unlikable human being, with few or no redeeming qualities. She’s a vain, money-hungry, power-grabbing social climber who lapses into a fit of hysterics when Greg quits his job without first consulting her. Then she immediately kicks him out of their shared apartment, and he (and the readers) never sees her again. Her character is sloppily written; she vacillates between outright rudeness and bouts of ADD, ending controversial conversations as abruptly as she starts them. An intelligent young woman, she nonetheless seems disinterested in and willfully ignorant about everything going on outside her sphere of influence (banking). I suppose she’s supposed to represent the Everyperson, so busy living day to day that she doesn’t take notice (or even care to) when her rights are stripped away, one at a time. This might be okay, if Rich included any other women of note. But not so much. Even Sarah Palin, POTUS, serves as little more than a handy historical entry point for the larger story. Throughout her presidency, she functions as a tool for her own personal Dick Cheney, Steve Jordan; he’s the real antagonist of the story. Greg, Sanjay, Jordan, Bloomberg – everyone who actively pushes the plot forward is a man. The lack of gender diversity is especially egregious given that Rich takes a stab at diversity in other areas: Sanjay, for example, is a gay man of Indian descent, and Adam is African American.

Because the story is told from a male perspective, the impact of The Blessing on women remains mostly unexplored. Along with other populations vilified by fundamentalists – gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people; those of other religions, and no religions; immigrants and people of color – women are particularly vulnerable under such a regime. It is women who are forced to carry and bear children, and women who must obey their husbands in addition to the government. Since every citizen who fails to marry by the age of 30 is presumed homosexual, opting out of marriage is a risky proposition at best. While this mandate holds true for men as well as women, only men can demand sex from their partners. Furthermore, contraception is prohibited – thus all but guaranteeing an endless cycle of rape, forced pregnancy, and birth. While everyone suffers in a totalitarian society, not everyone suffers equally.

In this vein, abortion is mentioned several times in passing – but truthfully, I think the Terri Schiavo debacle merited the same amount of attention. (Rich seems borderline obsessed with Schiavo.)

That said, Rich isn’t altogether an unskilled writer; his portrayal of a young, gay Buddhist monk who, after escaping religious persecution in Myanmar, immolates himself in front of the White House in protest of the newly enacted Deviancy Regulation, was incredibly touching. Likewise, I greatly enjoyed the scenes of a self-sustaining Manhattan under siege, lawns, roofs, and formerly concreted spaces converted to urban gardens. But chicken coops, really? Even when faced with starvation and civil war, Americans are unable to let go of animal agriculture, as unsustainable as it is. (Sure, you can eat the chickens and their eggs – but how much do you have to feed and water the chickens? The input is greater than the output – do the math!)

Christian Nation begins with an interesting premise, but in Rich’s attempt to delineate “the how” in compelling and convincing detail, the author mostly lost my interest. In the Acknowledgements, Rich credits several texts for informing his portrayal of a Christian Nation: American Fascists and Empire of Illusion, both by Chris Hedges; Michelle Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming; The Family, by Jeff Sharlet; Kevin Philips’s American Theocracy; and Republican Gomorrah by Max Blumenthal. I suspect that readers who’d like to learn more about the Christian right would be better served by one of these books instead. Michelle Goldberg’s work, in particular, is much more lively and engaging than the tale found here.

Profile Image for Lynn.
862 reviews125 followers
April 26, 2022
The book starts with the premise that after President John McCain suddenly dies, Sarah Palin becomes president. What a frightening phrase: President Sarah Palin. It should make your blood run cold. She declares that the US is. “Christian Nation” and the Republican Party, bolstered by evangelical Christians, plots to make this scenario become fact. The Palin administration is followed by the Jordan administration, and with a majority in the House and Senate, new laws are enacted, outlawing abortion, homosexuality, Habeas corpus, and a host of other issues the the Christian fundamentalists found objectionable. They packed the Supreme Court…can you say Justice Ted Cruz with a straight face? The developed “The Blessing” Act: a ten point program that controlled everyone’s lives. When states started seceding from the US, Christian militia were sent in to stop them. A final battle takes place in Manhattan, to see who will be victorious: the secular citizens or the Christian Nation.

The story is narrated by Greg, a high powered attorney who is fighting the changes to his country with his best friend, Sanjay who runs a movement called Theocracy Watch. Some actual events are interspersed with some fictional events., which makes the book even more terrifying.

The book is very well written and there is enough of a kernel of truth in even the fictional parts to make the book a compelling read. One good note: DJT does not become president in this book, though this book makes his administration seem tame and sane.

“For the 20 years prior to that rainy day when Steve Jordan finally mounted the steps of the capital, Christian fundamentalism had been the largest mass cultural and political movement in America, and the fortunes of each side in the ongoing “culture war“ had ebbed and flowed. For eight years following the election of McCain/Palin and Sarah Palin‘s unexpected ascension to the highest office in the land, the nation has headed slowly and unsteadily down the path envisioned by its Evangelical leaders. But the year 2017 was entirely different. With a long sought goal in sight, a popular mandate for Jordan, both houses of Congress solidly in control of the Christian right, martial law still in place, and a Christian militia in almost every state ready to do their bidding, Jordan and his team now sprinted towards victory.“

“Jordan said that the New Freedom would be a blessing to the nation and a foundation for finally creating the G-dly Republic that America’s founders had envisioned. The New Freedom program, he explained, had seven principal planks. First and foremost, the touchstone of all his policies would be obedience to the will of G-d. Second, he would protect the sovereignty of the United States so it was entirely free to fulfill its destiny. Next, the federal government, he promised, would officially recognize the authority and laws of Jesus Christ, would enforce the law in a manner consistent with biblical authority, and would remove any federal judge who stood in its way. Fourth, he would dedicate his administration to freeing the small and large businesses in America to the to enjoy the blessing of “biblical capitalism,“ the only path to the prosperity promised to America by the Lord. Fifth, he would protect and defend marriage and the family from every single slight and assault. Next, he said he would work with in the constitution towards the goal of a eradicating abortion, homosexuality, adultery, and all other practices similarly abhorrent in the side of G-d. And finally he would ensure that each and every American child was free to enjoy the blessing of a Christian education.“

With the rise of Trumpism, some of this is already happening. Several states are passing laws prohibiting abortion. Several municipalities are banning books; Florida has passed a “Don’t Say Gay” law. Immigrants are being vilified. Some people don’t want to wear masks because it infringes upon their “rights.” Anti-Semitism is on the rise. Evangelical Christians are claiming that they are being “victimized’ by the left.

This is a frightening book to read, but an important one. It ranks right up there with It Can’t Happen Here by Phillip Dick; The Plot Against America” by Phillip Roth and 1984 by George Orwell.

Remember: it’s a warning, not a blueprint.

An absolute recommend.
Profile Image for Jeff Stockett.
349 reviews16 followers
August 6, 2013
Full Disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader Copy for free through the Goodreads First Reads Program.

This book purports to be an alternate history novel. It posits the question, what if John McCain won the 2008 election? What if he died shortly thereafter due to his old age? Those are interesting questions, and they are questions that were openly discussed by many on the left during the election season. Many were concerned with McCain's old age, and Sarah Palin's inexperience.

If those two items were the only change made to our world, it would have definitely been an interesting novel. It could explore the dangers of an inexperienced president. However, this book didn't stop there. It's so loaded with changes from the real world that it ceases to be an alternate history and morphs itself into a fantasy novel.

Fantasy is fine, there's nothing wrong with it. But when major players in the novel are real people in the real world, it's not fair to fictionalize their desires and motives. In particular, Sarah Palin was casted as a big government progressive in this book. Now, I don't know Governor Palin's heart, but I've heard enough of her speeches to know that she believes strongly in small government and in the confines placed on our government by the Constitution.

Another departure from reality was that the House and Senate both had a huge majority of Evangelical Christians who despised the Constitution and who were also big government progressives. I'm not saying that big government progressives don't exist among Christians, look at Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi. But, it is definitely a departure from reality to think that the majority of Americans would vote for those types to represent them, especially among Evangelical Christian Tea Party members. Whether you agree or not with the Tea Party movement, one of their strongest goals is to limit federal government by strengthening the Constitution, not weakening it.

Such departures from the America I know, make the story feel implausible. Despite that, the book is compelling. I appreciated the detail of the legal battles and how Constitutional protections were systematically dismantled. If the implausibility were my only complaint, this book would get a higher rating, because the story really is interesting.

My second complaint is the utter contempt that this book has for all of Christianity. The Christianity in this book is clearly a perversion. It doesn't resemble what the Savior taught in the Bible at all. During the stoning scene I almost cried out, "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone!" That is one of the most well known scenes from the Bible. But the Christianity in this book has no resemblance to the Bible.

I don't have a problem with the characters fighting against a corrupted, twisted form of evil performed in Christ's name. I would be there fighting against this level of evil as well. (In the author's defense, my faith was one that stood against "The Blessing" in the book.) However, the book takes several detours where it makes a point to mock the beliefs of all God fearing people. The scene where it mocks the football team kneeling for a prayer had nothing to do with the plot, but definitely had something to do with an anti religious message and tone of the whole book.

Also, the fact that Sarah Palin, as well as every other elected representative, went along with this sick and twisted perversion of Christianity seems to imply that that is the Christianity followed by the majority of Americans. That's offensive on a general level, but it amounts to character assassination for Governor Palin and some of the others mentioned specifically in this book.

However, there is one major redeeming quality of this book. There are very few books out there that are intended for a left leaning audience that address the dangers of dismantling the Constitution. That's a message I believe in wholeheartedly. Freedom of religion is incredibly important, whether it is protecting secularists from being forced to confess Christ by a fictional version of Sarah Palin or it is protecting Catholics from being forced to buy birth control by a non-fiction version of Barack Obama.

Both sides are willing to look the other way when their own party is in power, but they fail to realize that when Constitutional protections are removed, those protections don't snap back in place when the other party takes control. Republicans looked the other way when the Bush administration decided it was okay to spy on American citizens without a warrant. Democrats looked the other way when the Obama administration decided it was okay to detain American citizens without a trial.

If it takes fear of a fictional version of Sarah Palin to help people understand that we should be vigilant in protecting our freedoms, regardless of who currently sits in the oval office, than so be it. Read this book. Hold our leaders accountable. Help the Constitution bind down the power of the Federal Government, as it was intended to do.

Violence: There are only a 2-3 violent scenes, but they are pretty brutal
Sex: A few references
Language: Strong but infrequent
Profile Image for Laurel Potter.
44 reviews
January 18, 2016
I would be interested in another book similar to this, but told from the opposite perspective. Where is our government currently headed? If democrats continue he to succeed in their agendas, where will we be in 50, 20, even 10 more years?

I'm a conservative Christian. You might think that biases me. But I know that under the leadership of real Christians, the country would be nothing like how it is portrayed in this book. Rich is extremely illogical in his assumptions. While there are obviously some conservatives who want to force their narrow views on others, that is not the majority of them.

Rich also seems to forget that most republicans and conservatives are pushing for less government involvement. A government that can track our every move and control our every behaviour is exactly what they don't want.

Altogether, a very thought-provoking premise-- though it gives me pause that there are so many high ratings for it, and I hope that is simply because most people would just skip reading this illogical drivel.
Profile Image for VMom.
465 reviews45 followers
August 19, 2013
Sarah Palin has to be the most demonized, libeled, and feared person in America, and this book is part of the industry that cashes in on that hate and fear. Is Rich a sexist pig - of course he is, but that's ok, because Palin is sub-human, right?
Profile Image for Aaron.
3 reviews
April 22, 2018
This book is like reading a sort of "clip-art" fiction. He used various, familiar factoids from non-fiction, from the last decade, on the topic of the Religious Right, and applied it to his hapless narrative. He also has a cast of characters that are true-to-life people and institutions. I don't think this was a really good idea. He used way too many real people in this book. The politicians, and other famous people where not really characters, just talking heads on television screens. It's still better to use fewer real people, and create roman-a-clefs instead.

This novel is supposed to have an important message, but it's reach is limited. Some people will claim that too many people react in disbelief, towards the book's nagging theme of "It Could Happen Here". Really, one of many problems with this book is that it is elitist. This book is three people watching cable television from their apartment in Manhattan, with the very thoughtful and curious character provoking conversation. They all went to Princeton.

If you want to tell the nation about an important socio-political issue, do not write from this perspective:

The characters leave New York City twice. Latter in the novel, Greg and Sanjay go to Tulsa to give a report about a militia convention. Early in the novel, all three characters go to suburban Pennsylvania for a client's wedding at a warehouse sized megachurch, sometime in the year 2005. During the reception, all three characters discover conservative, Evangelical beliefs. The bride recalls how the church took a bus trip to The Creation Museum, which convinces all involved that evolution is not true. Then the bride mentioned that they then went to another nearby museum that has an exhibit involving abandoned oil wells in Texas that someone lowered microphones into, and recorded the screams of the condemned in Hell. The last time I heard about that, acid washed jeans were going out of fashion.

This was in chapter four, set in the year 2005. The author likes to use introductory quotes to look more erudite. The beginning of the second chapter he quotes Marcel Proust, and then cites the source as À la recherche du temps perdu. I guess he had a hard time choosing between In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past, or perhaps he is just being pretentious. Chapter four is entitled "Tomorrow Belongs to Me". This is an allusion to The Third Reich, and it is foreshadowing of sinister, theocratic ambitions. There is a funny introductory quote at the beginning of chapter four:

"The second coming of Christ is everything I'm living for. And I hope the Rapture comes tomorrow. - House Majority Leader Tom Delay, 2007"

The problem with this novel is the author doesn't understand the theology of Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians. If Tom Delay is truly a Dominionist, then the first sentence of his statement, contradicts the second sentence. Have you ever seen those silly bumper stickers that say " Warning: In case of Rapture, this vehicle will become unmanned!" ? That person is not preoccupied with "Establishing God's Kingdom on Earth", an implication of "Dominionist" ambitions. A person who has that as a bumper sticker has a mentality that the Rapture will happen five to ten years from now. People who hold this view do not think that they will have to work towards doing or building anything else. One reason why The United States didn't transition from the Reagan years to some kind of seriously terrifying theocratic regime is that, Evangelicals, and Fundamentalists particularly, thought and think that the Rapture was coming really soon, and no more prophecies needed to be fulfilled, and building "God's Kingdom on Earth" is an unknown concept. Belief in the "End Times", also can, in many Evangelicals, lead towards a pessimistic disposition. I think that Rapture theology helped save Evangelicals from going the "Dominionist" route. The author of this book is a non-believer with a Catholic background, writing the main character as a non-believer with a Catholic background. He is unfamiliar with this theology. The author's expertise is law, which is of course, indirectly related to politics. That's all he brings to the table. More is needed, in order to forecast problems in society. Sociological knowledge, and certain related theologies needs to be understood.

In (our) Reality, John McCain lost the election with 45.7% of the popular vote. In this novel, he squeaks by with 51%. Does the author entertain us with a reason as to why he gained more than five points in this alternate reality? Nothing of an October Surprise? There is nothing of a departure from our own reality. This did not stimulate my imagination.

This book is criticized for being of the "tell" rather than show variety. In a few places in the book, he goes beyond tell, and just merely suggests that certain things are happening, but doesn't follow through. He hinted of a false flag operation ,of sorts, in one chapter, but that never came to fruition. This book tries to sell itself as something to take seriously, because it's written by a legal expert. What's the use of writing fiction if you can't entertain the reader with more than a sensationalist angle? As the last person to review this book has mentioned, it's someone's thought experiment that somehow managed to get published in a three hundred page novel.

This is a published thought experiment. It is much like someone is talking at you. Talking and rambling, knowing little of important details. I really couldn't take the author seriously, early on, because he got the theology wrong. It seems that he know about law, and the rest he read from a few secondary sources. Either collaborate with someone or do research. There really is nothing in terms of heroic action outside of New York City, which I found uninspiring.
Profile Image for Chris.
1,099 reviews23 followers
July 17, 2017
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
– Blaise Pascal.

This book is a work of fiction, but a lot of the details Frederic Rich has used to build the story of a totalitarian Christian takeover of the United States are based on easily verifiable facts. The Christian-right-inspired Constitution Restoration Act and the House of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act have both been submitted to congress (and fortunately, so far, rejected). The Oklahoma state legislature really has considered forming its own militia—at the suggestion of Tea Party leaders and other conservative groups. And of course the ongoing fights over teaching creationism and displays of the Ten Commandments are well known. There really are evangelical Christians who believe that they are called by God to take over all major aspects of modern society, from government to education to entertainment. They believe (despite strong evidence to the contrary) that the United States was created as a Christian Nation and that it’s about time to turn it back into one. Don’t believe me? Just Google “dominionism” and “seven mountain mandate.”
And that is what makes this book truly terrifying.

The book changes history by having John McCain defeat Barack Obama in 2008 only to drop dead a month after his inauguration, leaving Sarah Palin as president of the United States. Starting slowly then gathering momentum, different civil rights won over the past 100 years are chipped away, replaced by increasingly restrictive Bible-based laws that turn the Constitution on its head even while the new leaders declare they are upholding its true meaning.

The story is told some years after the “Christian Nation” has been established following a Holy War. Greg narrates as he sits in a hidden cabin run by a resistance group. He remembers his rise to the top of a New York law firm in the early 2000s and the way everyone ignored the signs all around them coming from the Tea Party and the Christian right—everyone but Greg’s college friend Sanjay. Sanjay becomes the prophet warning of the doom to come; and when the Christian Nation is created, he helps lead the opposition. It is interesting that the author makes Sanjay into a Christ-like figure even as his opponents call him “the antichrist.”

The story is riveting, truly like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Unlike a fictional world where teenagers are sent into an arena to kill each other, this is a world we know, filled with real people we read about every day. I found myself constantly asking if this could really happen here. (Rich gives plenty of credit to Sinclair Lewis’s It Can't Happen Here, written in the 1930s and horrifically prophetic of the type of totalitarian state Hitler created.)

Fortunately there are also lots of good reasons to believe this really can’t happen here. For starters, I don’t think any group of evangelicals could stick together for more than a few months without finding something to drive them into separate camps(there’s a reason why there are literally hundreds of various types of Christians, many of whom believe their particular brand of Christianity is the “one true faith). I also don’t think the international community would stand by while America’s military might and nuclear arsenal came under the control of religious fanatics. I can only hope (and pray) that I’m right.
166 reviews4 followers
August 9, 2013
I've never been so eager to recommend a book. Rarely do I find it so difficult to put a book down. I went into this book very cold, all I knew was that it posited a Sarah Palin presidency. That's just the beginning.


I didn't know what to expect of the novel. I thought it would be a political book, like a fictional "Game Change," but it outlines an exaggerated Christian dystopia, similar to Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale." It reminded me too of Phillip Roth's "The Plot Against America." Rich is not the writer Roth is, his characters Greg, Sanjay, and Emilie act as vehicles for ideas rather than plausible humans. The book can almost be separated into two distinct pieces:

1) The engine - This book is driven by the imaginative plot. I kept wondering what freedom-crushing depravity Rich's red staters would embrace next.

2) The ideas - Before things get really outlandish (the US lays siege to the godless liberals holding out on Manhattan) a lot of the book is devoted to Sanjay, a Christ-like figure (calm, peaceful, nonjudgmental) who is alarmed by the growing strength of the Christian right. Sanjay has monologues that fret about the Christian right's growing power, these are mulled over by Greg and Emilie.

It's remarkable how Rich weaves the fiction and the non-fiction. I kept going to Google, is David Barton real? Doug Coe? Stephen Jordan? Rich's novel matches and trumps the surreality of our times. Glenn Beck had a *news* show?

"Christian Nation" is a thought-provoking page turner. Highly recommended for liberal political junkies.
Profile Image for Laura.
109 reviews8 followers
August 14, 2013
I don't think I'll ever hear a politician refer to America as a "Christian nation" the same way again.

Really interesting dystopian novel. The author notes in the afterword that it's not meant as a prediction of what is likely to happen, but only a suggestion of what could happen -- and he laid out a series of events and developments that made an unimaginable outcome seem not entirely implausible. Some evangelicals will probably (and somewhat understandably) feel defensive or offended by this book -- but those who, for example, want same-sex marriage or even "sodomy" to be illegal because they believe the Bible is against it should ask themselves what a society that restricts rights based on religious texts would actually look like. Theocracy and freedom seem to me to be pretty incompatible.

I would have enjoyed a little more detail in a few places. For example, I was left curious as to how the dynamics of the 2008 election were changed so dramatically as to result in a McCain/Palin victory. Considering that was the event that set the stage for the rest of the book, it seems like it maybe deserved a little more attention!
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