I started writing Rabbletown: Life in These United Christian States of Holy America before 1984. I had a notion that when 1984 rolled around, there would be a lot of attention given to George Orwell's famous novel by that name and that I might get some attention for mine. I'd call it "2084." Nice idea, but the novel didn't get written. I had envisioned a long, complex novel that would create the characters that showed how the religious right gained political power over the United States and what they did with it.
Never been good at long, complex stories. So I cut to the chase and went right to the year 2084.
Then I created a manageable set of characters and let them live their lives in an environment where pastor governors and the Pastor President rule with a Bible in each fist and the computer in your hovel. But I wrote myself into a corner with Bobby. It took me a while to realize I had to let Bobby perform his miracles.
Best explanation of what Bobby is all about comes from an early review by one of Amazon's top 500 reviews:
I expected a few things when I started reading this book. I expected to be amused by a satirical take on the Fundamentalists that are doing their utmost to take over this country - sadly, it is difficult to make amusing, because the idea of Fundamentalists taking over this country and turning it into an Evangelical theocracy is absolutely terrifying. I expected to be outraged by the excesses of Fundamentalist leaders who grow rich, while the common people live in poverty. What I did not expect was to be profoundly moved. I did not expect goose bumps or a profound feeling of "rightness" to come over me while reading.
12-year-old Bobby Crowley is special. He has an amazing memory for Bible verses, and a strangely wise way of saying just the right thing at just the right time. And he has been carefully watching the formation of a significant alignment of stars in the sky, including a new star that just appeared three months ago, which are forming a cross. On a Friday like any other Friday - one that would see the stoning to death of a 6 people - Bobby takes his place among the great religious leaders of the world when he steps forward and speaks the words "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" and in the process saves the life of a beatific young woman: he gains a following and begins performing miracles, and providing proverbs of hope, peace and love.
Caught in his wake are a number of people; they go into Rabbletown, the slums of Topeka, where Bobby spreads the way of peace, love, acceptance and kindness, rather than the hate and manipulations used by those in power. And in a world where the leaders all emulate the practices and beliefs of the disgusting Fred Phelps, those sorts of teachings are threatening. Bobby and all who believe in him and his miracles are declared anathema and the Inquisition is sent after them.
This book does two things: it exposes the horror of a theocratic, fascist Evangelical Fundamentalist power structure, and it provides hope for redemption for anyone who chooses to live a truly good life, and follow the basic teachings that so many modern-day dogmatics seem to forget are the only two rules laid down by Christ - you know, the one Christians are supposed to emulate? 1) love each other and treat others like you would like them to treat you; 2) love the Higher Power of Creation, in whatever form you choose to comprehend It. This book - reading this book - will cause a profound shift in perception and I believe, honestly, that the world would be a better place if everyone followed the example set by Bobby. We all need to become Bobbites. Read this book and see if you don't find these truths to be as profound as I did.