In this novel is imagined what a society ruled by conservative Christianity would look like. I pray this never becomes reality and that the lies about the separation of church and state do not give way to the Sect, the Clerics or a Magisterial Court.
I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb…the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of earth will bring their glory into it. People will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations…but nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:22-27
Queen moved silently through the streets. It was after curfew, and she could not afford to be caught. As she moved down an alley, she passed a store raided long ago, whose glass had been knocked out; spray painted on the plywood nailed over the space was “Godless liberals are our misfortune.” Queen paid it no attention; graffiti like this was all over the city. The city had, one hundred years ago, been called New York; when the Sect took over the government and declared martial law in 2012, they had renamed the city New Jerusalem. Some of the more daring opponents of the Sect spray-painted crosses upside down in the alleys but this happened rarely; cameras were everywhere, even hidden in the walls of buildings. Punishment was death for such anti-Sect protests.
Glass shattered behind her. Stopping quickly and moving into the shadows, she held her breath, heart thumping. A Cleric Guard walked past her quickly, on the trail of some poor soul, no doubt, she thought. The Sect TIPS program enabled people to report on one another and had divided neighbor against neighbor, brother against sister, husband against wife, children against parents. In a culture where no one could be trusted, Queen had learned to become like a cat, moving lithely through crowds unnoticed, and speaking little. Tonight she was intent on moving food supplies to the Underground. The members of the Underground were hidden everywhere; some in attics, others in basements, some hidden in holes in floors of houses, some literally under the ground in abandoned warehouses outside the city. Queen had monitored shipments of food, clothing, weapons, whatever was needed by the Underground. The Underground was made up of men, women and children; some of them were old enough to remember when New Jerusalem was New York City, and they told stories of being free to walk anywhere, practice any religion, where food was plentiful and no one lived in fear of being jailed or shot for disagreeing with the government. “Fairy tales,” the younger adults scoffed, but they listened anyway. A free America was what they were told daily they had now—as long as they abided by the laws of the Sect.
When the Sect had taken power, they had used the Constitution as a “return to the God of America.” They had interpreted the Establishment Clause to mean there was no separation between church and state; that indeed, the appearance of the words “Creator” meant that they should be the government. They did, after all, they said, possess the Truth, and were the only ones who recognized America was the nation of their god. While they kept the Constitution, they burned any letters and documents written by the original Founding Fathers in the private collections of universities around the country and in the Library of Congress (which had been closed shortly afterward and torched), that disagreed with their views. Queen had heard stories from the old ones about the day the justices of the Supreme Court were guillotined and promptly replaced by ministers of the Sect. The nine justices had been replaced by seven ministerial magistrates; the Court renamed the Magisterial Court. 236 years of constitutional law cases were burned, and one book replaced them—the Book of the Sect. The Ten Commandments were now the only law, enforceable by the death penalty.
Protest was seen as rebellion brought on by Satan, and many protesters simply disappeared; the Sect had retained the “Patriot” Laws of the former administration which allowed them to declare martial law with impunity and jail indefinitely anyone considered by them to be “terrorists.” “We will expunge the terrorist rats among us who defy God and His Holy Laws!” the Alpha and Omega proclaimed on giant TV screens daily. The only allowable programs on television were the 24/7 propaganda broadcasts and Christian programming. Poets, professors and writers of fiction were jailed or executed at the beginning of the sect administration, and secular state universities and private colleges closed. Now, a citizen of New Jerusalem could only attend college if they passed a theological examination and if the Sect government determined after a lengthy background check that the applicant and their family were true Christians, which entailed a three day long interview at which the applicant had to prove a conversion experience consisting of six steps: contrition, in which the applicant had to demonstrate that they understood the Law of the Sect God and make an examination of their life and state of being according to the Law; humiliation in which the applicant had to demonstrate conviction of conscience by which they realize that they are under sin; vocation in which they experienced for a prolonged period of time the despair of salvation, in respect to strength of self and other creatures—this led to implantation; which was true humiliation of heart, grief and fear because of sin, and confession which led to exaltation, the first entrance into the state of what the Sect called “saving grace” but what the Underground really called “breaking down” due to the stress of being locked in a room with ministers for three days—and finally possession, or the awareness of presence of faith. The applicant also had to prove baptism, and unbroken, regular church attendance over the span of their life. Church attendance was the provenance of district churches in every county in every state in the Union who kept books on members and how often they attended; these files were uploaded to the Sect government’s servers in the Vaults and accessible at a moment’s notice for use in deciding court cases. If a citizen committed murder, yet attended church regularly, they would get a lighter sentence than a citizen who stole and had sketchy church attendance.
These conversion experiences were recorded and kept in the Sect’s vaults.
No one knew for sure where the Vaults were, but if a citizen had a conversion experience recorded in the Vaults, and they later recanted or decided to stop attending church, the conversion experience would be declared a lie, and a violation of the Ninth Commandment, and the citizen would be stripped, beaten with a glass tipped whip, and executed after lengthy torture. As a result, not many citizens applied for the Christian universities, and those that did had ties to the Sect government.
Queen did not know where she came from. All she remembered were vague flashes of memory, a kind woman, a smiling man, trees, a house in the country, a great fire, the man and woman lying on the floor in pools of blood. She had grown up in the Catacombs, and had later been taken in by members of the Underground. She had been given a cross to wear for safe passage through the crowds of New Jerusalem, educated in the Book of the Sect, the Ten Commandments, and heavily educated in theological law in order to blend in. She still did not know how they got her identity card. To get an identity card a citizen had to make a declaration of faith and this declaration had to be reviewed by seven ministers as well as the Magisterial Court, then the citizen had to take a lie detector test to verify their faith, their church attendance would be verified, and the citizen had to file a conversion experience in the Vault in order to ensure their loyalty to the Sect. In the beginning, only 29% of the far right Republic electorate in the entire country had declared their loyalty to the Sect and been able to obtain identity cards. They had also been the ones responsible for arranging the mass executions of high ranking members of the Democracy party, remnants of whom now composed the Underground. Most of the Republic electorate in the beginning of the Sect rule had connections to the original Sect leaders or had bought their cards with their corporate connections, and it was they who had decided upon the procedure for future individuals to get an identity card. Without an identity card, a person could not buy food, shelter, or clothing, or anything else.
Queen came to the abandoned warehouse district. Warily she looked around; even with an identity card her presence in the streets after curfew would be viewed suspiciously if the Cleric police caught her. No one was in sight. She darted across the open lot and slid quietly through a hole in the warehouse wall, and reached a spot in the flooring at the back of the warehouse that looked, from the outside, like a mere concrete slab. She pressed a button hidden cleverly in the slab. It lifted silently, and she found herself looking into the muzzle of an old M-16. “What say you?” a harsh voice whispered into the night. “What say you?”
“Shibboleth,” Queen spoke quietly. The muzzle of the gun disappeared, and a helping hand was extended instead. “Queen! Where have you been? We’ve all thought you were captured by the Clerics!”
Continue to Chapter 2.