Friday, October 28, 2011

The Collision of Religion and Politics: A Review of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg

Title: Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism
Author: Michelle Goldberg
Edition: Paperback
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company (2007)
Pages: 253
Challenges: GoodReads 2011 Reading Challenge
How I Came by This Book: I've mentioned before that I'm researching a book that encompasses myriad topics. This particular book was cited in something that I read (although I can't remember what) and I was instantly interested in reading it. It was obtained from my library.

About the Author: Michelle Goldberg is a contributing writer to Salon. Hew work has appeared in Rolling Stone, the New York Observer, the Guardian (London), Newsday, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Synopsis: In this journey through an America in the grips of a fevered religious radicalism, Michelle Goldberg takes us from the classroom to the megachurch to the federal court, demonstrating how the growing influence of dominionism--the doctrine that Christians have the right to rule nonbelievers--is threatening the foundations of democracy.

Review: I've discussed my views on religion (as well as my own non-religious identity) on here before, but I think that it's important for me to revisit that before I review this book. I'm a live-and-let-live kind of guy. I respect the right of every citizen to hold their own beliefs, whether they be highly religious or not at all. I do, however, strongly believe that no one's personal views on the existence of a higher power should ever infringe on someone else's freedoms. This means that you can believe what you want to but you can't tell anyone else what they can or cannot do based on those beliefs. This is why the idea of Christian Nationalism scares the crap out of me.

There are many in this country who erroneously believe that Muslims in America are just itching to implement Sharia law. After reading Goldberg's book, my attention has been turned elsewhere--to the small but vocal population of evangelical Christians who are actively seeking to impose Christian law on an increasingly secular United States. Kingdom Coming is well-researched and uses sources from evangelicals, secularists, and everyone in between to construct a convincing and terrifying picture of the growing influence of Christian fundamentalism in U.S. politics.

Relying not only on books, journals, and newspapers, but also on her skills as an investigative journalist and a number of interviews conducted with leaders and followers within evangelical Christianity, Goldberg shows the ways in which those with radical religious beliefs are trying to mold domestic and foreign policy to fit their own agenda. From abortion and sex education to gay marriage and charity work, Goldberg provides ample evidence for her claim that the growing number of evangelicals in this country have set their sights on taking control of government. This is not to say, of course, that every evangelical believes in dominionism or that every single leader in one of these churches is using his or her position of power to influence their followers into voting for a fundamentalist agenda. Yet, Kingdom Coming does an excellent job of raising awareness of those who do and it uses their own words as well as incredibly sound analysis of the available evidence to shed light on what is becoming a big movement within Christianity.

One of the most troubling aspects of the Christian Nationalist movement is the use of revisionist history and other agents of disinformation. Rewriting history to suit one's own needs is always verboten in my mind, regardless of who is doing the rewriting. What's really scary is that these misinformation artists are gaining popularity and believers, people who truly don't realize that the founding fathers didn't create the United States as a Christian nation and who will fight to their last breath to prove the complete falsehood that separation of church and state is an evil to be eradicated. Even people as notable as former VP Dan Quayle are guilty of pushing the idea that only those who believe as they do should have freedom in the U.S. Goldberg's book is full of well-documented and damning evidence showing the large number of people in power who have bought into the nationalist movement and who are using it as an excuse to curtail liberty and justice for all.

Kingdom Coming is a short, easy-to-read book that raises (and answers) a lot of interesting points. Although published before the advent of the Tea Party and other current radical right-wing movements, the information contained within its pages is just as (if not more) relevant to today's political landscape. Even after the end of the Bush presidency, the influence of radical Christianity in government and society is pointedly obvious to anyone paying attention. This book is a must-read for those who are looking to place this influence in context or for those who simply wish to gain an understanding of dominionism and Christian Nationalism.

Much of the book is shocking and quite a bit of it will make you rethink what you thought you knew about religion, the political process, and conservative politicians. Her interviews give a human face to the movement and to its people. You find that many of its proponents are regular people who only want the best for their families and who have been sucked into powerful religious organizations because of their fears about the world at large. They are people of faith who have been led to believe things that aren't true by people with lots of influence and deep pockets. This, I believe, is the saddest part of all. I truly feel that a good, honest education (without an underlying agenda) is a right for all Americans and the fact that there are people who are being purposely miseducated makes me beyond angry.

I'm giving Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism 5 out of 5 Gabriels.



  1. I read Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale when it was first published and, although I found the premise horrifying, I dismissed it as casually as I have so many other dystopian novels.

    Now I think about that novel and shudder because what seemed so unlikely now seems imminent unless something changes.

    I think how you described your own beliefs is spot on and well explained. No ambiguity. Nicely done.

  2. Definitely something I've been concerned about and interested in. I may have to pick this up. Thanks for the review.

  3. Satia: Atwood seems to have a remarkable ability for capturing the essence of an age and twisting it to create nightmare scenarios that are all too possible. I love her books more than I could ever adequately express.

    I definitely agree about the terrifying imminence of a repressive Christian state. This book only compounded those fears.

    Sarah: This is such a great book. She's an eloquent, often funny writer who does a good job of backing up her argument with a number of different sources, both academic and otherwise.

  4. I’m impressed, I must say. Really seldom do I learn a weblog that is equally educational and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head.