September 1, 2006

Book Recommendation: Kingdom Coming

I just finished reading Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, and I highly recommend it. Author Michelle Goldberg describes the growing threat of Christian nationalism, synonymous with what I call Christian extremism, in America. This is a terrifying read for nonbelievers, but it is a threat we cannot afford to ignore. Fortunately, Goldberg offers a rational 3-pronged strategy for how progressive Christians and nonbelievers can confront the growing extremist threat.

Rather than providing a comprehensive review of this book, I'd like to highlight two emergent themes I found particularly informative. First, this book helped me to realize the true scope of the Christian nationalist/extremist movement. This is not just a handful of fringe lunatics. This is an extremely well-organized movement with a clear strategic plan, considerable grassroots support in every state, and a remarkable long-term commitment to reshaping America in their image. In Kingdom Coming, Goldberg shows how this movement first emerged in America and how their rise to power involved sustained efforts and the flexibility to move in new directions when blocked. She illustrated their use of churches as the key foundation of their grassroots political efforts and their use of homeschooling to deliver thorough indoctrination in the training of future extremists. One cannot help but be somewhat impressed with what they have managed to accomplish even if one disagrees with their goals.

The second insight I want to mention is closely related to the first but somewhat more difficult to express clearly. Many liberals and nonbelievers highlight the fascist nature of the Christian right. This is nothing new, but often ends up being little more than futile attempts to inflame the passions of a sympathetic audience. On the other hand, Goldberg builds a compelling case that the Christian nationalist movement is a totalitarian movement with striking similarities to Germany at the beginning of Hitler's rise to power. Let me be clear that she does not compare Christian extremist leaders with Hitler or claim that their followers are Nazis. However, she effectively demonstrates that the stated goals of the Christian right are anti-democracy and totalitarian, even fascist, in nature. The strategies employed by the Christian right and their attacks on gays, evolution, the "liberal" media, the courts, etc., are so similar to Hitler's early goals as he first started to gain power that it is impossible for a rational person to deny the parallels.

As I mentioned, this was a terrifying book. There were plenty of times when I had to put it down because I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep if I kept reading. I actually did spend two sleepless nights because I was so disturbed by what I read! But I want to repeat what I said earlier about Goldberg offering sensible strategies for what we can do to oppose the threat. She does not simply leave the reader hanging without workable solutions.

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