“The Testaments” is the long awaited sequel to Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, which came out in 1985. I first read the book that year and it terrified me. But I never dreamed that the United States would veer so close to this possibility as it is right now.
I never heard about America being a “Christian nation” until after I left the Catholic church and joined an Evangelical church. It wasn’t really preached about it, but more like it was whispered about… “some day when we are truly a Christian nation”…. I never thought it would happen, I knew enough about other religions in the world as I had started studying comparative religions about the same time, and I knew that Evangelical churches were in the minority. And I never made the connection to conservative ideas and Gilead at that time. Not until Donald Trump moved into the White House. Then suddenly the parallels were too hard to ignore.
In “The Handmaid’s Tale” society has collapsed and the government taken over by religious extremists who live by Biblical standards. Of course, no one, other than the men at the highest levels, are even allowed to read the Bible. And women are not allowed to read at all. Women are not allowed to do much of anything other than what men tell them to do. This society has a problem… the birthrate has dropped and not enough babies are being born to sustain the country. Young fertile women are abducted and forced into slave labor for the purpose of “birthing babies” for the Commanders and their wives. These young women are called Handmaids.
“The Testaments” carries on from where The Handmaid’s Tale ends. What happens to Offred, the Handmaid? What happens to Aunt Lydia and the Aunts? Was there any hope for what at one time was the United States of America?
I appreciated the book, because it answered a lot of the questions that so many readers, including myself, have asked in the 35 years since the first book came out. I also appreciated the way the book ended.
I believe that conservative Evangelicals have long dreamed a world like Gilead, that lives by Biblical teachings and has spent nearly 70 years trying to do just that… especially by becoming politically active and electing “Christian first” candidates who will push their own religious agenda on the rest of the country. They’ve managed to do a lot of damage in that time.
But their numbers are falling. Younger generations are rejecting organized religion of all kinds and the memberships of these conservative churches are dropping drastically. It’s unlikely as the older members retire and die out, that the churches will be able to continue the momentum.
Donald Trump was their best hope for getting what they wanted. And even he betrayed them with his own selfishness.
After reading “The Testaments”, I now have a renewed faith that Gilead won’t happen in America and we will have a resurgence of reason and education, not dogmatic religious beliefs.