Set in America at the dawn of the 21st century, religious right wing fundamentalists have overthrown the government and replaced it with a numbingly repressive society. Reading is outlawed. Minorities and “non-believers” have been sent to work camps while white women are compelled into the roles of wives, domestics and childbearers. The different classes of people wear identical costumes and are identified by bar-code bracelets read by scanners at military checkpoints.
The cumulative effects of pollution, nuclear accidents and genetic experimentation have finally taken their toll, rendering most women infertile. Those still capable of child-bearing are deemed “handmaids” and are assigned to Commanders, the men of the ruling elite.
Refusing to submit to life under the new regime, Kate tries to escape to Canada, but gets caught at the border, is tested for fertility and sent to a Training Center where she is forced to become a handmaid. There, Kate meets Moira, a lesbian whose fertility has saved her from a “gender treachery” crime punishable by public hanging. Training completed, Kate is renamed Offred and assigned to a barren couple, Fred, an important Commander and his wife, Serena Joy, a former television evangelist.
During her monthly fertility, the three of them engage in a sexual ceremony taken from the story of Rachel and her handmaid in the Book of Genesis. It’s a cold and humiliating act for Offred (or, of Fred), completely devoid of any tenderness and passion. If she fails to become pregnant, she will suffer the fate of the “unwoman,” doomed to clean up toxic waste until her death.
Over time, the Commander’s relationship grows warmer with Offred, and he offers her forbidden objects from the past, including old women’s magazines, banned because “they confused people’s minds.” Serena Joy, however, fears that the Commander may be impotent, and suggests that Offred have sexual relations with Nick the chauffeur. Offred thinks it might be a set-up.
Margaret Atwood, author of the book on which the movie is based, says she wrote her “cautionary” tale to alert America to those who would use “their own brand of Bible-based religion as an excuse for the suppression of the majority of the population.” The film, though, will probably have the effect of fueling reactionary emotionalism, making people even more adverse to religion by perpetuating fear and paranoia, as it tosses around popular phrases like “let us pray,” “blessed be the fruit,” and “in the Name of God.”
Let us look at the driving force behind the movie, summed up by the Commander as he describes America before the new order: “People had itches, the itch for sex, the itch for money, the itch for power. There was nothing to believe in, nothing to fight for. Nobody felt anything — reverence, respect, values. The country was a mess. There were pressure groups — blacks, homos, women — so we had to clean it up, wash the place clean. Chosen by God to fulfill his task, we are weeding out the godless. We are winning God’s fight.”
This film is a blatantly dishonest attack on the Body of Christ which every Christian needs to rebuke. It is a ruthless example of anti-Christian bigotry. If the same thing were said about any other group (such as: Jews or Blacks), there would be a tremendous public outcry against this cruel bigotry which will only promote religious persecution. This is the type of hate-mongering which Adolf Hitler employed to work up a feverish desire in Germany to persecute the Jews. Such bigotry must be rebuked and condemned.
Some of the key points of refutation are: Throughout history strong Christian commitment has brought civilization, freedom and toleration to nations, while humanism has resulted in totalitarianism and genocide. Christianity is the root of our republican democracy, and the American government is built on biblical principles. Justice and mercy are at the heart of God’s Law from which flows freedom, while humanism gave birth to Marxist-Leninism and Hitler’s National Socialism.
It would be impossible for biblical Christians, controlled by God’s Holy Spirit, to institute a repressive society.
Renewing one’s mind and seeking wisdom, knowledge and understanding are at the heart of biblical Christianity.
The proliferation of Christianity has always brought greater literacy to a culture, while humanism has decreased literacy. At the time of the American Revolution, over 90% of the Americans people were literate, reading not only the Bible, but also LEX REX, THE WEALTH OF NATIONS, CATO, LOCKE, and numerous other biblical and classical writers. In fact, biblically based literacy engendered the Declaration of Independence. With the growth of humanism in America over the last 100 years, functional illiteracy has increased to 60% and many schools and public institutions deny people the right to read the Bible and great religious books.
True Christianity has been known throughout history for its care and compassion for all races and religions, while socialism produced the holocaust in Germany and the Gulag and purges in the Soviet Union.
Christianity values individuality because God created and loves each individual, while humanism has always sought conformity. Christianity has always stressed stewardship over all creation, while humanism has spawned genetic engineering, death camps and the murder of innocents.
Christianity has always brought moderation to transform societies consumed by the blood lust of the Roman Ceasars or the inhuman slavery of the concentration camps. As Ecclesiastes 7:16-18 says, “Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise — why destroy yourself… The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”
Unfortunately, the film haunts. It draws you in, making you think and feel deeply. However, what it draws you into is a bigoted lie. Furthermore, there is obscene language, which is mostly confined to Moira’s character who has limited screen time. Nudity occurs briefly and, of course, there is adultery. The whole lesson in Genesis 30 is missed in the movie. As Jacob says to Rachel in verse 2: “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Thus Jacob, who forever was trying to secure God’s blessing by his own efforts, here acknowledges that the blessing of offspring could only come from God. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, like Rachel, also attempted to solve the problem of her barrenness through Hagar, generating repercussions still felt today in the Middle East.
ANTI-CHRISTIAN BIGOTRY; Profanity and obscenity; adultery, lesbianism and female nudity; violence; and, blasphemous distortions of Scripture.