By Lauren Cooper, Georgia State University
I love books. Specifically, I love works of speculative fiction that are concerned with a dystopian near-future and the creation of new religious traditions in the face of a deteriorating human culture. But hey, who doesn’t love that kind of stuff, right? This is why I suggest that everyone read Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. In these three novels- Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam– Atwood creates several new Christian traditions that are so realistic to the point of being a little creepy. I think this is because they seem recognizable, almost as if you have heard of them before, on the news or in school or something.
The fake denomination featured most prominently within the trilogy, particularly in The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam, is the God’s Gardeners. The Gardeners are a “green” group that believe all life on Earth is sacred and that one should always follow a strict vegetarian diet as well as recycle. This group is largely reminiscent of today’s Eco-Christians, a group or rather several groups that actually exist. Then there are a few groups that focus on affluence. There are the Known Fruits, which take their name from Matthew 7:16 in the Bible: “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” This group believes that personal wealth is the most obvious result of true religious faithfulness. Similarly, the book also details a group called the Petrobaptists, a group that asserts that oil is God’s most precious gift, thus only his chosen people would have access to it and profit from it. Does this sound like prosperity theology to anyone else? Two other groups mentioned in the novels are the Wolf Isaiahists and the Lion Isaiahists, two divisions that are at odds over the content of the book of Isaiah: does the lion lay with the lamb or is it the wolf that lives with the lamb? This becomes a source of violent conflict. It is not uncommon today for Christian groups to be at odds over a few specific verses in the Bible.
Margaret Atwood is brilliant when crafting these new denominations, and what is even more amazing is that she presents them in such a way that they become just another part of the larger cultural background. These groups are not the focus of the story, yet throughout the novels they can been seen exerting an influence on plot and characters. Atwood takes what has already been seen in the real world and pushes it a step further, making these sects seem both familiar and unfamiliar; these denominations seem slightly outrageous, and yet still plausible in the future. Hey, it could definitely happen.
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