Book review: Kingdom Coming

by Michelle Goldberg


Goldberg, a secular Jew, provides a hard-nosed look at the agendas and power of ultra-conservative Christian organizations in the United States. Goldberg calls this trend “Christian Nationalism,” after the openly-stated goal of many fundamentalist leaders to “take back America.” From, of course, the gays, the morally decadent (such as distributors of birth control), the Darwin-lovers, and the unpatriotic atheists who believe in separation of church and state.

Goldberg comes on strong and occasionally a bit sarcastic—for example, she bemoans the way Intelligent Design proponents have flaunted academic degrees to present their theories as “something more respectable than creationism in drag”—but her anti-fundamentalist rhetoric may not be overstated at all. Her research exposes the very real underground motives of the religious right, who feel bound by their beliefs to combat a spiritually bankrupt nation. There’s no greater motivation than the conviction that one is following God’s explicit orders.

“Dominion theologians” nationwide take Genesis 1:26-28 (where God tells Adam to assume dominion of the world) as scriptural direction for Christians to assume control by divine right. The Christian duty is to seize it. Evangelists with crazed followings preach that the separation between religion and politics is “what Satan likes most,” and call for a regime that will clean up the “dung-eating dogs” (gays). Jews better repent, too, since the holocaust God planned didn’t seem to get through to them. But more dangerous than these extremists are the everyday right-wingers who are raised to carefully infiltrate government and the Judicial bench for the good of Christ, so that that our nation can be set right … so that we can quit handing out condoms, quit treating gays like they’re equals,  quit pretending evolution is more scientific than creationism. Under President Bush’s lead, government grant money by the millions poured into these agendas. The back cover promises a “witty, funny” read, but I couldn’t laugh. Religion-gone-bad is jaw-droppingly frightening, and this is a hard book to put down.

Goldberg calls for action. She explains that “the anxieties that underlay Christian nationalism’s appeal—fears about social breakdown, marital instability, and cultural decline—are real. They should be acknowledged and, whenever possible, addressed. But as long as the movement aims at the destruction of secular society and the political enforcement of its theology, it has to be battled, not comforted and appeased.”

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