The Chronicles of Spartak–Rising Son is based on our world not a galaxy far far away. No Chewbaccas or vampires. Reality is scary enough.
On one level, the novel is an action adventure with a bisexual protagonist set a century out in San Francisco. Yet it is also intended as a commentary on political and cultural issues today and how our actions can change America in the next century. What we do now impacts the young Spartak, perhaps a great grandchild of a family in 2017. He tells his own story of the reality we made for him. With President Trump, I think Spartak’s story is well timed.
A religious movement called Dominionism dominates much of life in Spartak’s world. Is it a real religion? Does it exist today?
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” and Dominionists too. But they may not be as lovable.
Musing the mind-boggling numbers.
Most religious scholars peg the number of major religions in the world anywhere from a dozen to nineteen, subdivided into hundreds, perhaps thousands of smaller groups. One research organization states there are over 10,000 distinct religions in the world and 150 of them have more than a million followers. So Dominionists are in there, a subgroup of Christianity, numbers unknown but their hard line ideology seemed like a good fit for a novel. So many versions of the absolute truth.
Dominion theology, according to many, espouses that America should be a government by Christians or governed by a conservative Christian view of biblical law. The term Dominionism is derived from Genesis 1:28 in the King James Bible, where God gives humans “dominion” over the Earth. I recognize that this is a fast and dirty description and invite readers to do their own research.
The term came into use during the late 1980s, coined by several prominent evangelical scholars. Some claim the writers went beyond “subduing the earth” and included subduing non-believers as well so Jesus could return. The need for religious followers to take over all governments for the return of a messiah is not unique to Christianity. Some call Dominionism a form of Christian nationalism, wanting a nation ruled by Christian theology and denying the Enlightenment roots of democracy.
Others claim it is all a liberal plot to defame conservative Christian beliefs and the interpretations twisted. Figuring this out, balancing fact from politics, would make for a great and never ending research project.
Musing on picking nasty bad guys.
Evil, self-righteous antagonists make good novels and religion is a popular foil (and sometimes hero). Faith groups play a major role in American politics as well as nations around the world, for good or bad, depending on your view. The rise in fundamentalism is seen as part of the problem; intolerance replacing respect and imbued with an old-fashioned lust for glory and power. Fighting in the Middle East, pogroms in some countries, terrorists are clearly part of the evil. Could we one day have Christian terrorists not unlike the jihadists today who cite their interpretation of Islam as proof of their right to rule?
I choose Dominionism because it has the potential for excess and intolerance imbedded in its core. And I imagined it advancing in stealth mode, seizing power within more open-minded churches and dominating ever-malleable politicians. No member of Congress, to my knowledge, has ever stated they have questions about the existence of God. All are religious, even those who are not. And the only religions to get criticized have a small U.S. footprint since pitting the big against the small can have political benefits for the accuser.
Dominionism’s symbol in the novel is a golden cross sewn over the stars in the American flag. As the book opens, the Supreme Court has already upheld Christianity as the official state religion, a goal of some religious and political conservatives today. And leaders in the Dominionist movement, in the book, have taken over most churches and seized upon environmental catastrophe as proof that the End Times are near and the faithful must take over all levers of power for Jesus to return.
Musing loathsome comments.
I’ll leave it to others to analyze the good in Dominionism. A great place to begin to understand the criticism is Chris Hedges’ article in Harpers Magazine from September 25, 2004, “The Christian Right and the Rise of American Fascism.” He claimed that the Dominionist movement promoted an ideology that advocated violence to create a Christian state. Here is a sample of his full-throated assault:
“This movement will not stop until we are ruled by Biblical Law, an authoritarian church intrudes in every aspect of our life, women stay at home and rear children, gays agree to be cured, abortion is considered murder, the press and the schools promote “positive” Christian values, the federal government is gutted, war becomes our primary form of communication with the rest of the world and recalcitrant non-believers see their flesh eviscerated at the sound of the Messiah’s voice.”
Goodness. The Christian right went ballistic over the piece calling it liberal fear mongering. And their arguments are easy to find on the web. Mr. Hedges wrote this before gay marriage was legalized.
Musing Spartak’s quandary.
In the novel, Spartak saw the movement as inherently political and untrustworthy, an attempt by a few religious leaders to gain power. His views on religion and God remain unformed and often skeptical. His whole life the media has carried a heavy schedule of Dominionist doctrine, obsessing on sin and obedience and not much about helping people improve their lives. Church leaders appear loathsome to him. Yet, in his own readings, he enjoys the beauty of the Gospels when promoting love and help for the poor.
There is a quote—widely circulated on the Internet—that might inform his cynicism.
“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”
It is generally attributed to Lucius Seneca (4 BC-AD 65), a tutor and later advisor to the Roman Emperor Nero. Did he actually say it? Researchers have never been able to verify it, the problem with so much on the Internet, particularly ancient quotations. Sort of like religion itself, proving something isn’t so can be nearly impossible. You take it on faith.
What do you think? What should Spartak think?
The provocative image of the American flag with a cross came from a fascinating blog called The Public Professor.
Here is a quote: “History is not a race that moves ever forward. There are no guarantees about history except that it is dynamic; things always change. And change does not occur in some neat, linear pattern. Societies often retrace their steps in one way or another, and totalitarianism of various shades can come and go.”