If you need a reminder that political swings are not the end of the world, in any figurative or literal sense, then this book, and the less histrionic American Theocracy should help vaccinate you against future outbreaks.
Only twelve years ago, otherwise sane and responsible people were warning that theocracy was imminent in the United States. This wasn't plausible then, as subsequent events have shown. Whatever dramatic theory you are entertaining now isn't actually likely either.
This review appeared originally in the March 15, 2006 issue of Kirkus Reviews.
Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism
By Goldberg, Michelle
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. (224 pp.)
May 15, 2006
American democracy and the Enlightenment itself are menaced by would-be theocrats and their Republican operatives.
Salon.com reporter Michelle Goldberg sometimes noted how reasonable were the politically engaged churchgoers she met as she traveled the country to research this book. Nonetheless, the book usually rises above its better nature to brand conservative Christian influence in public life as proto-fascist and a Western version of Islamism. The subversives are everywhere, passing anti-gay-marriage initiatives and lobbying for anti-abortion judges; more subversives are on the way, because homeschooling is simply an incubator for revolution. The menace is “Christian nationalism,” a movement whose elements she seeks to refer to the Reconstructionist theology of the late R. J. Rushdoony. Rushdoony was a genuine theocrat, a postmillennialist who held that Christ would return after believers had thoroughly Christianized the world. In contrast, the premillennialism of American evangelicals holds that Christ would return to a collapsing world. This implied that political reform by believers would be ultimately futile. One of the great stories in the political history of the past generation has been the search of newly vibrant American evangelicalism for a political theory. The author infers that Reconstructionism is the new master philosophy, in part because conventional politicians and religious leaders sometimes appear at the same public events as Reconstructionists. (There is no mention of the systematic efforts by some evangelicals to engage Catholic social theory). We do get some good reporting, however. We learn that the fiscal controls on the Bush Administration’s faith-based initiatives are loose. Also, the author slows down enough during her investigation of abstinence-only sex education to let its proponents make a case she finds unpersuasive but plausible. Nonetheless, the author says that now is the time to fight the Christian nationalists, not to placate them. She ends by exhorting her readers to retake the country from the grassroots up.
If you think that Christianity is the new Communism, then this is the book for you.
Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly