Christian Nation is a work of speculative political fiction, arising from the counterfactual of a McCain/Palin victory in 2008 followed soon after by McCain’s sudden death and Sarah Palin's ascension to the presidency.
When the book opens, eight years have passed since the Holy War ended in victory for the fundamentalist Christian forces. Americans live in bondage to a comprehensive authoritarian law called The Blessing, enforced by a totally integrated digital world known as the Purity Web. The Narrator, Greg, whose best friend led the opposition to the theocratic movement, is brought to a secret abandoned cabin in upstate New York and told to remember and write.
The Christian right made no secret of its decades-long quest for political power, and did not hide what they would do if they got that power. Greg writes: "They said what they would do, and we did not listen. Then they did what they said they would do." Struggling with perspective and memory, the memoirist recounts the country's long slow descent to religious authoritarianism, propelled by economic distress, a second major terrorist attack, and the fanatical ambitions of an extremist evangelical minority.
Living out their 20s and 30s against the backdrop of dramatic political change, Greg recounts how he (a Wall Street lawyer), his girlfriend Emilie (a New York investment banker) and his best friend Sanjay (a gay Indian-American internet entrepreneur) react and interact as the country slowly slips toward theocracy. The three struggle with the tension between personal ambition and moral responsibility, and the memoirist ultimately finds that he must make a choice.
Readers will find themselves haunted by the question his shadowy hosts demand that Greg answer in the book, echoing Hannah Arendt's struggle to explain the origins of totalitarianism in the 20th century: "What happened, why did it happen, how could it have happened?"
"Brilliant 1984-style dystopian novel of a Christian theocracy under President Palin and her successor . . . read Fred Rich’s Christian Nation and learn fear."
"An extreme and persuasive fiction of fearsome dimensions. You can sense in every detail the awesome possibilities of fundamentalist evangelical fervor: what ruthless exclusions and narrowness it could lead to. This feels like listening to a timely radio broadcast warning: IT COULD HAPPEN HERE!!!"
—Mary Ann Caws, Distinguished Professor of French, English, and Comparative Literature at the Graduate School, City University of New York
"If recent experience has taught us anything, it’s that people who are afraid will gladly surrender their liberties, not just for security but for the mere promise of security . . . The Americans of Christian Nation, reeling from the smoking ruins and body count of a horrific terrorist attack, are very scared indeed. In the end, that’s what makes Christian Nation so interesting—and disturbing . . . Rich, a New York City attorney, clearly did his homework for this book. His analysis and understanding of the goals and methods of religious right groups is deep and penetrating . . . Read Christian Nation. You’ll walk away convinced that it could, in fact, happen here—and with luck you’ll resolve to make certain that it never does."
"Frederic C. Rich’s book, Christian Nation: A Novel is a thought-provoking futuristic look at what the evangelicals and their Republican Party enablers might envision for America’s future."
—D. Leslie Schreiber of Bacon’s Rebellion
"Well written and persuasive . . . It does achieve its intended purpose by demonstrating how a theocratic government could arise in this country. It has an imaginative plot of a seriously conspiratorial nature. For those who might enjoy a work that entwines political, legal and religious themes, “Christian Nation” is a worthwhile read."
"[A] wonderful book . . . wonderfully cinematic, I’d love to see it as a TV series. I highly recommend it."
—Erroll Louis, "NY1"
"Though 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."
"Required reading . . ."
—New York Post
"In 2029, Greg sits at a simple typewriter, the last vestige of technology not under the government’s watchful eyes, to record the series of events that led to the creation of an American theocracy. The systematic transformation is forbidding in its plausibility as each step toward authoritarian rule is heavily documented by Rich’s expert legal explanations. The story is given a note of warmth by threads of heroism and friendship. Read as a cautionary tale or a terrifying what-if, this dystopian alternate reality makes riveting, provocative reading."
"Could a Sarah Palin presidency spark a faith-based civil war in America? You betcha, according to Rich’s debut novel. . . .[Rich] shrewdly shows how a few legal measures, a bad recession and a terrorist attack can unravel the liberties many take for granted. In that regard, it’s an inheritor to Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here . . .Dystopian, wonkish fun for the Maddow set."
"Rich’s Christian Nation is more than a ‘what if’ – as the ‘theocratic program’ unfolds our usual ‘So what?’ regarding fundamentalism of any variety becomes the real danger. Pay attention. What’s at stake is the heart and soul of American democracy. Philosopher and lawyer Rich has it right: we were not founded as a Christian Nation, but fundamentalists ready to take on anything secular and progressive see us as the enemy who deserve to be vanquished."
—The Very Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski, Dean, The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
"While others have provided academic and political analysis of some of the dangers at the intersections of religion and politics in America, Mr. Rich’s narrative brings these issues into relational and personal view. His is a compelling and timely parable for our time."
—Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill, Professor, New Testament and Pastoral Theology, Boston University
"The scariest thing about Christian Nation is that it’s so plausible. No violent revolution, no blood in the streets, is necessary for Americans to lose their freedoms – just a failure to defend the liberties that we often take for granted. As Frederic Rich reminds us in this chilling tale, the Religious Right has said what they will do. It’s up to us to make sure they don’t ever get the chance to do it. Remember, it CAN happen here."
—The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State
"Fred Rich’s gripping novel reminds us of two important truths, all too easily forgotten until it is too late: bad economic times create the conditions for extreme political change, and revolutions are achieved by small groups of dedicated activists, often before the rest of society knows what has happened. The current sorry state of our institutions of government—with deadlock and polarized politics in Washington, and our campaign finance system the captive of special interests seeking government favors—makes our democracy all the more vulnerable. Both Republicans and Democrats should read this book."
—Trevor Potter, Former Chairman, Federal Election Commission
"This riveting novel should join Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here as an American classic. Rich uses actual proposed and enacted laws to build his fictitious account of 21st century America’s descent into theocracy. As Rich so vividly shows, our present politics could lead to his dystopian Christian Nation unless all who cherish freedom redouble their commitment to tolerance and democracy. Please, read this book and then pass it on to six other people, making it into a chain letter for liberty."
—Nadine Strossen, Former President, American Civil Liberties Union
"Rich plots an all too believable 16 year alternative history from bitter division to Dominionist insurgency, from succession to civil war, and from theocratic victory to an uncertain future."
—Alastair Lichten, National Secular Society
What Do Ordinary Readers Say?
"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."
"The book actually gave me nightmares."
"[F]ine, page-turner of a novel. . . . Mr. Rich’s book should be read by every thinking American."
"For those who see this novel as “liberal hyperbole” or “anti-Christian” I’d counter that it is anything but that . . . Highly recommend this as a summer must read."
"I was hooked on Christian Nation by the second chapter and finished the book in two days. . . . He writes clearly and well. The book is anything but dry. . . . Mr. Rich has done America a real service AND written a wonderfully readable page turner."
"True Christians will find respectful treatment and will probably be just as disgusted by how completely and perniciously dominionists have hijacked their faith. . . . Horrific and utterly unforgettable. Highly recommended."
"This book is well-written, with characters you feel (and cry) for."
"It’s captivating, realistic, and rather terrifying."
"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."
"This is the most gripping, engaging and chilling novel I have read in a long time!"
"A genuinely frightening look at a possible future. Rich lays out a very plausible possibility. The book is exceptionally well written and the definition of a page turner. I had a very hard time putting it down, particularly towards the end."
"Very chilling. I couldn’t put it down. Very well written and the story moves along at a good pace."
"This was an intelligent, compelling, and very engaging novel. . . . This was a novel that needed to be written, and Mr. Rich did an outstanding job. I hope he writes more."