February 20, 2088

Gunther Behn

Pseudonymous; lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area.

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25 Responses

  1. Roland Dodds says:

    I loved this. Thanks for bringing this narrative to us Gunther.Report

  2. veronica d says:


  3. Jaybird says:

    Hrm. You see the evangelicals growing stronger?Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

      I can see them gaining power on the reactionary rebound following a liberal consensus breaking badly (which has in turn followed Trumpsim breaking badly). As we’ve seen in Iran and Egypt (and the Sparrows), a cohesive religiously minded political movement can gain all the power if the opposition to them is divided, the opposition to them is also against the status quo, and the status quo has some serious real deficiencies.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

        I don’t… now, I see some weird form of “Christianity” regaining some cultural power, but it’s not a “knows the Nicene Creed” kinda Christianity.

        It’s the “Santa Claus statue next to the manger” kinda Christianity. Precious Moments memes posted to facebook between Minion memes. Christmas and Easter, okay, just Christmas. Okay, just the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.

        That sort of thing.Report

        • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

          Power is measured by control.What the church say, you do.
          By this metric, the only people the church still has any sway over, are the ones the other folks didn’t want.

          This is not something the church will recover from. Efforts to breed their way into a better situation will go poorly.
          And for god’s sake, I know someone helping the Catholic Church… reorganize. Caltrops in the gears, and coming out of our ears!Report

        • Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

          If you look at the various religious awakenings in North American post-Columbian history, they’re surprisingly quick things, often seeming to come out of nowhere.

          The occupation of 2088 isn’t the result of the awakening that started circa 1950 (e.g. the Billy Graham Crusade). It’s the one that’s going to start in 2050.Report

          • Kim in reply to Kolohe says:

            *nods* you didn’t hear a peep out of trans people [edited to amend a slur that Kim should probably stop using any time now, by maribou] ten years ago. And twenty years ago they were nearly an urban legend (which doesn’t mean they didn’t exist, mind).

            But you’re missing something, New Religions are designed to make money, and come and go like the breeze. Gluten free should ring a bell.

            “What you need to do in order to solve all your non-existent problems!” (First you start by making up problems: “look everyone hates me!” or “look, they’re all trying to poison us!”)

            Old Church ain’t nearly as profitable, so old church ain’t coming back until we destroy the American Economy wholesale.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

            It’s the one that’s going to start in 2050.

            The only context in which this particular branch of Christianity would take off is one in which it is seen as a preferable alternative to (X).

            In this story, what’s (X)?

            Being in Qatar, I might have some ideas of what (X) might be…Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

          It’s a commonplace that there are as many different kinds of Christianity as there are Christians, of course. And it’s really hard to know what’s going on within someone else’s mind (or heart or soul or otherwise as you prefer) as they engage in some externally-observable observation of piety.

          For instance: my cousin sends me a Christmas card. The card is prominently pre-printed with a Bible verse in lovely calligraphy. It contains a laser-printed “Hi family here’s what our last year was like” message devoid of references to religious activity. I last saw my cousin in a church, quite sadly during his father’s funeral. How much should I read into the Bible verse as a signal of my cousin’s religiosity? If I pick up the phone or send an e-mail to him, just asking I’m likely to get an answer like, “We’re Christians, sure. We go to the megachurch kinda near our home most Sundays and we tithe.” But again, that doesn’t tell me much, until I have a deep exchange.

          Many of my own experiences with overt behavior of Christians at a superficial (which is to say, “surface” rather than “insincere”) level has been that the label gets deployed as a signal or a badge, a promise to the person hearing the identification that “I am a basically moral person” and/or “I generally conform to the dominant culture hereabouts.” Neither of these (to me) are particularly religious statements at all.Report

          • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

            Your cousin’s economic circumstances are more detailed by his statements than his religious ideas. Of course, almost definitionally, the megachurch crowd isn’t truly religious. When the church bottomfeeds, as megachurches tend to, it attracts the desperate rather than the religious.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

            Many of my own experiences with overt behavior of Christians at a superficial (which is to say, “surface” rather than “insincere”) level has been that the label gets deployed as a signal or a badge, a promise to the person hearing the identification that “I am a basically moral person” and/or “I generally conform to the dominant culture hereabouts.” Neither of these (to me) are particularly religious statements at all.

            Which makes this dystopia so odd to me.

            Where do the religious folks *COME* from?Report

      • El Muneco in reply to Kolohe says:

        Also, in the go-to religious dystopia, “The Handmaid’s Tale”, the fundie whackos wouldn’t have been enough to establish that version of Gilead. They found enough fellow travelers and single-issue voters to make common cause with, then once things were in full swing they just happened to find themselves in the driver’s seat.
        But it wouldn’t have been possible without the ability to harness a lot of petty grudges from a lot of otherwise sensible people. Which, as you know, Bob, can’t happen in this real life.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to El Muneco says:

          In this case, what were the grudges?

          What were the mistakes that may have been made? The “okay, if we hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t be in a dystopia”?Report

          • El Muneco in reply to Jaybird says:

            Haven’t analyzed it that deeply yet. Just chipping in that they don’t all have to have been fanatics going in even if they are coming out. In Atwood, only a plurality actually wanted to get to the endgame they wound up with, but once it was entrenched it became the new normal for the useful idiots.Report

  4. North says:

    Wow, that’s some evocative writing.Report

  5. Burt Likko says:

    I was taken aback by the complexity of the story here. This is some high-caliber writing and I’m pleased to have it here.

    One thing I wonder about: New Zion, as the successor to the USA, would have inherited a massive military. How would the Coalition — which seems as if it’s based in Europe — have been able to come in and impose its will? I infer some sort of global military conflict that New Zion lost. But the fact that the protagonist is working in a “Mission” rather than some sort of civil government suggests that perhaps the New Zion government and economy collapsed so completely of something that the Coalition was invited in as some sort of UN (or successor-to-the-UN) foreign aid mandate.

    It’s actually rather delicious to mull that one over a bit so don’t feel a need to clarify that any time soon, @gunther-behn . Instead, know that I enjoyed the ever-loving snot out of this fine piece of dystopian writing.Report

  6. Gunther Behn says:

    Just a couple of comments off the upstream threads: When asked about my level of concern over Trump’s election, I’ve replied that it’s moderate. I’m not frightened so much of him; it’s those people who might follow after him, depending upon how destabilizing future events may be. If that betrays an expectation of Bad Moon Rising, well; so be it.

    Burt makes a good point about nominal Christianity and local coloration. This may be a bad analogy, but in San Francisco everyone is a “get along to go along” Giants fan (okay; except me: Go Dodger Blue!). In my experience, outside America’s urban areas many people are ‘surface Christians’ in that same way. Jesus is the home team: of course I’m a Christian, ya moron, and most everyone will show the team colors if necessary.

    For ‘Large-C’ Christians I know, their faith appears to inform their values, which they try to live by without fanfare. Judgement of others is frowned on — and if politics is mentioned at all, it’s an afterthought. By comparison, the values of small-c, radical conservative christians seem to lead their faith, and they have little hesitancy to render judgement. One is about perfectibility, a person at a time; the other believes political power and mass action are the the ways to bring the greatest number to salvation — and, punish the wicked and sinful.

    We could be dealt a bad Tarot hand in the future (which could more easily come from a very bad virus, a regional war, or a Crash of the Chinese economy, than Mr Trump). We may not — and if so, we may turn out to be more resilient and unified than we think.

    But societies that fragment follow a depressingly similar pattern, one where “get along to go along” isn’t enough. The strongest group(s) become dominant (here, radical political evangelicals), and suddenly living is less about ‘Freedom’ and more about Fealty — “If you want to survive you must belong”.Report

  7. Saul Degraw says:

    I found this to be very well written but I am not sure if the religious right is going to be able to impose theocracy.

    A lot of Evangelicals threw their vote behind Trump. I think they did so because of the Supreme Court. They certainly got the most sympathetic Veep and Attorney General nominations that they could. Yet they also had Ashcroft as Attorney General for a while and he might be even more sympathetic to the fundamentalist Christians than Sessions. Ashcroft attempted to enforce a kind of social conservatism but it failed.

    Frankly there is a numbers issue. There are not enough right-wing fundamentalists to occupy the vast geography and space that is the United States. At best they can turn select states into their havens but really it is mainly municipalities if that.Report

    • veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      @saul-degraw — They got HB-2 passed, and North Carolina is not Mississippi.

      Plus we need to take into account the triple whammy of climate change, fossil fuel shortages, and economic collapse. Frightened people are stupid people. Desperate people are cruel. Sure, a vibrant America won’t turn to a god of hate. That’s not my fear.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to veronica d says:

        I’m somewhat more optimistic, but for some fairly dark reasons. To put it bluntly, there aren’t very many trans or gay people compared to straight cis people, so trans and gay rights require some level of empathy on the part of straight cis people to get to a majority coalition to resist their oppression. Brutally oppressing all women, on the other hand, means you can get to a majority of resistance with nothing but self-interest.Report

  8. Oscar Gordon says:

    Excellent piece, @gunther-behn !

    As for the how, it would take a considerable ‘come to Jesus’ event, where enough of the population was willing to accept that brand of evangelical politics because they were already highly sympathetic to it. IMHO, it would take either a near collapse of the economy, or a major disaster (like the Yellowstone Caldera letting go, or a meteor strike) to get enough people finding solace in evangelism.Report

    • Gunther Behn in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Thanks. Not sure it’s a matter of numbers, though. People in desperate circumstances will accept the rule of almost any group, if they seem reasonably able to provide stability and security. It’s a tradeoff — but I agree; things would have to be exceptionally bad for this to happen.Report

  9. Joe Sal says:

    Good work, I am curious what the end conditions are. It sounded like a Coalition overcame the religious police state, but then some form of state justice apparatus came in to create trials and caseloads.Report