Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Handmaid's Tall Tales

Somehow, this article, made its way into my news feed. Which is how I learned that the references to "The Handmaid's Tale" I occasionally come across aren't actually to Chaucer, but rather to a 1985 novel:

The Handmaid's Tale is set in the Republic of Gilead, a theonomic military dictatorship formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America.

Beginning with a staged attack that kills the President and most of Congress, a fundamentalist Christian Reconstructionist movement calling itself the "Sons of Jacob" launches a revolution and suspends the United States Constitution under the pretext of restoring order.

So, Christian Reconstructionism is a thing, or was. It's thought leaders include Rousas Rushdoony and "paleolibertarian" Gary North, about whom more in a minute. (Cornelius Van Til is often counted as an inspiration, although he himself evidently disavowed it.)

Full disclosure: it's roots lie in Reformed (i.e. Calvinist) thinkers and theologians, a background I share. That said, the only mention of Reconstructionism from the pulpits of the Reformed (i.e. Presbyterian) churches I have attended have been to reject it, as far as I can recall.

[Rushdoony] nevertheless repeatedly expressed his opposition to any sort of violent revolution and advocated instead the gradual reformation (often termed "regeneration" in his writings) of society from the bottom up, beginning with the individual and the family and from there gradually reforming other spheres of authority, including the church and the state.

So, already the novel has departed from what real-life Reconstructionists have said.

From "The Handmaid's Tale":

In this society, human rights are severely limited and women's rights are strictly curtailed. For example, women are forbidden to read . . . . [W]omen are forcibly assigned to produce children for the ruling class and are known as "handmaids", based on the biblical story of Rachel and her handmaid Bilhah.

. . . Finally, [Republic of Gilead Commander Fred Waterford] gives [the handmaid] lingerie and takes her to a government-run brothel called Jezebel's. This brothel is meant to add variety to men's sex lives which, as claimed by the Commander, is necessary.

Wow. I don't know about brothels, but that first bit looks to me like life under the Taliban; meanwhile, the Wikipedia article is pretty short on citations to anything a real-life Reconstructionist ever said. And considering that Reconstructionists want to restore the rules and punishments of Leviticus 20, I would be surprised to find any of them sanctioning brothels.

Also, in the news:

Joseph Fiennes, who stars as the brutal Commander Fred Waterford on "The Handmaid's Tale," [a Hulu television series based on the novel] is opening up about how the Hulu series mirrors the news headlines. The actor talked about parallels between the show and real life during a new interview with Tanya Rivero on CBSN.

For example, one recent storyline focused on family separations even as protests erupted over immigrant families being separated at the U.S. border. "Our writers are clairvoyant," Fiennes said. "I think our writers, like Margaret Atwood and Bruce Miller, our showrunner, have really tapped into something extraordinary, creatively, and tapping into the energy and psyche of society the way they do has sort of brought about a parallel between our show and what's happening."

I'm not sure how much seriousness this deserves. On the one hand, Fiennes is obviously an idiot, but to play along for a moment, let's point out the irony. Proponents of immigration are quite specifically attempting to mandate a fundamentalist interpretation of Leviticus 19:33-34. Granted, most of this is in bad faith, but Gary North is apparently also against immigration control, so the Reconstructionists are consistent. Otherwise, I will show you a thousand people who will quote from Leviticus 19 to support immigration for every one that quotes Leviticus 20 in support of stoning homosexuals.

But this is over-thinking it. The TV series exists only as a vehicle for the left to project their fantasies onto the rest of us, and it uses whatever their obsession du jour happens to be.

1 comment:

heresolong said...

Having never seen and having no interest in seeing the show, I'm still amused about how it is portrayed as a Christian wet dream fantasy piece. Meanwhile actual Muslims do the actual things portrayed every day in multiple countries around the world (except maybe for the brothel part since they have young boys to do that). Having grown up in the brethren church, a fairly ecclesiastical and fundamentalist movement, I can tell you that I have never once met anyone who wanted anything remotely like this.