The logician Kurt Gödel, who contemplated becoming an American citizen, decided that the Constitution had loopholes big enough to drive a dictatorship through. His insight is vindicated by Frederic C. Rich’s Christian Nation, a speculative novel in which militant evangelicals incrementally take over the American government and proceed to eviscerate the Constitution.
It’s 2009, and John McCain is president. After dying rather precipitously, he is replaced by Sarah Palin. She quickly loses what little credibility she had, and drifts. That is, until terrorists down several American planes using surface-to-air missiles. Martial law is declared.
Meanwhile, FOX News has merged with a family values organization, spawning a “Teavangelical” mouthpiece. Homeschooling grows in prevalence in order to inculcate Christian values. A state law banning abortion snowballs into a reversal of Roe v. Wade. Finally, after the election of the dryly named President Jordan, God usurps the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.
After the real 2004 election, a satirical map circulated, designating the blue states as “The United States of Canada” while the red states became “Jesusland.” In Christian Nation, several blue states form a “Secular Bloc” constituting nearly half of the country’s wealth. This bloc is then invaded by the federal military, with San Francisco and New York bearing the brunt.
This scenario would be terrifying if it weren’t occasionally ludicrous. Picture now-governor Mike Bloomberg discussing the Siege of Leningrad, or the protagonist pleading with him, “Mike . . . think of the gays.” At moments like this, Christian Nation flounders as fiction. But as a primer on how extremists can contort the law, it can be very compelling. Rich, a lawyer, might well have chosen to write a legal history instead. His command of relevant legislation is frequently devastating.
Though John McCain did not win the 2008 election, in recent years controversial actions like drone strikes, invasions of privacy and unlawful detainment have been condoned in part due to greater worries over terrorism. So it’s not for us to say, “It can’t happen here.” This disturbing book argues that much of it already has.