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The Apocalypse Directive Paperback – July 29, 2008
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Publisher: Leisure Books; First edition (August 2008) Language: English ISBN-10: 0843960884 ISBN-13: 978-0843960884
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From the first page, where MacKinnon, in DaVinci Code fashion, presents a "fact list," and throughout the book, the examples of the fundamentalist Christian infiltration of our military are real. I know this because I took part in uncovering some of them, having worked for MRFF since the tail end of the Christian Embassy scandal, when the DoD Inspector General found seven officers, including four generals, guilty of violating multiple regulations by appearing in the infamous Christian Embassy promotional video, a video from which MacKinnon directly draws dialogue for a meeting of his book's "Christian Ambassadors."
The president in MacKinnon's fictional administration, set in a time in the not too distant future in which the current wars are not only still going on, but more terrorist attacks have occurred here at home, is a fundamentalist Christian who believes he receives his instructions directly from Jesus. The instruction he gets as his second term is coming to an end is to bring on the apocalypse. The president, along with his fellow Christian Ambassador and former Air Force Academy classmate, now an Air Force general, lead the way to put into motion a plan to annihilate most of the world.
At one point, MacKinnon goes back in time to when the president and the general met, describing the fundamentalist influence at the Air Force Academy that sowed the seeds for these two cadets to blossom into religious zealots who, decades later, see it as their duty to their savior to destroy a sinful world. This look back into the "past" is, in reality, the present day climate at the Academy. The details are pulled from actual news reports of investigations initiated by MRFF. The Christian indoctrination by the fictional Commandant of Cadets, the "I am a member of Team Jesus Christ" banner in the locker room, and the unrestricted access of the mega-churches surrounding the Academy to the cadets, are, unfortunately, all quite real. Just how intertwined are the Colorado Springs mega-churches and the Air Force Academy? Well, Focus on the Family members, for example, were permitted to use the Academy's firing range until MRFF stepped in.
As a former Campus Crusade for Christ Air Force Academy program director said in a promotional video filmed at the Academy, Campus Crusade's purpose is to "make Jesus Christ the issue at the Academy" and for the cadets to be "government paid missionaries" when they leave. Campus Crusade, the parent organization of the Pentagon's Christian Embassy, is also alive and well at all of the largest enlisted basic training installations, where they teach new recruits that "The Military = 'God's Ministers'" and that one of their responsibilities is "To punish those who do evil" as "God's servant, an angel of wrath."
Some of MacKinnon's other examples include the plan to send, with the support of the Pentagon, copies of Tim LaHaye's Eternal Forces video game to our troops in Iraq so they could unwind by pretending to kill non-Christians and U.N. representatives in their spare time (a plan thwarted by MRFF last summer) and the shipping into Iraq of both English and Arabic language evangelizing materials (this is still going on, but we're working on it).
I found the religious variety of MacKinnon's characters to be an unexpected plus, and quite believable to someone like myself who is familiar with the real life battle against the Christian fundamentalist takeover of the military. Many of the characters attempting to stop the Christian Ambassadors are Christians themselves -- from nominal Christians whose faith is not a central part of their lives but who nonetheless define themselves as Christians, to the Vice President, a devout, evangelical, pro-life, anti-gay marriage, etc., Baptist. If a scenario like that in The Apocalypse Directive were actually to happen, most Christians, even those among the most devout and conservative, would think it was nuts. A real life fact is that 96% of the service members who contact MRFF for assistance are actually Christians, but not the "right kind" of Christians for today's military.
One last part of MacKinnon's book that I want to mention, just because I found it oddly amusing, was that as the actuation of president's plan became imminent, and the various government and military officials who had been, in some cases unbeknownst to each other, tracking the Christian Ambassadors for years, were gathered together with a window of only hours to stop Armageddon, they were careful to make sure they did it according to the Constitution, and that all the officials necessary to invoke the 25th Amendment were present. For the good guys, not even the impending destruction of planet earth justified ignoring the Constitution!
Could the scenario presented in The Apocalypse Directive really happen? Well, according to this work of fiction, all it would take is a secret facility capable of sustaining a few thousand true believers during the destruction of much of the world and its aftermath; a few young fundamentalist Christian Air Force officers with the codes to launch ballistic missiles eagerly awaiting orders from a president with a direct line to Jesus; and a nuclear submarine commander prepared to sacrifice his own life and the lives of his crew to carry out the will of the lord. As pointed out in the facts list at the beginning of the book, Green Brier, the top secret facility built in 1959 to house essential government officials in the event of a nuclear war, was capable of sustaining a thousand people for sixty days, and remained a secret until being exposed in 1992, so we know that's possible. A handful of strategically placed military officers fanatical enough to blow up the world if they thought the directive came from Jesus himself? Hmmm...
President Shelby Robertson thinks the time is near to wipe out the nonbelievers, the Muslims, the Jews, and anyone else who isn't a "True Believer," like himself. He believes he's doing God's work, and so do several members of a group of which Robertson is a charter member.
Several people, including Ian Campbell, an ex-Navy SEAL, reporter Rachel Hiatt, and the Vice President, Eileen Dale, an evangelistic Christian, want to stop Robertson's plans, but to do so, they have to risk their own lives.
This is an exciting thriller that doesn't waste time getting to the "good parts." The frightening thing is, this could really happen. Some ambitious people also happen to be dangerous, and any religion can be twisted and any power can be used for doing wrong.
I don't read a lot of genre fiction, but I'm not some sort of precious little literati who doesn't enjoy a good yarn sometimes. I used to like Crichton, Robin Cook, Jonathan Kellerman, folks like that. But MacKinnon's really not even in their league.
But here's one thing he DOES have, in abundance: An understanding of the topic. His prose is sometimes almost laughably clumsy, but the topic itself pulls you along, and the chapters are so brisk that the story never flags. Early in the book it seemed as if each chapter was just going to equal one character introduction, but eventually the story gets going, and what makes it so compelling is its plausibility.
After almost 8 years of monitoring the theocratic impulses of the current administration, and reading reports of the rise of fanatical Christianity within the military, there is nothing in "Directive" that rings wholly false. And that's quite chilling. I thought with the passing of the George W. Bush administration, we might see relief from this menace, but with the rise of Palin, this is once again by no means certain.
So...does the book succeed on a literary level? Clearly not. But as an entertaining meditation on the dangers of religion run amok, this book packs a punch.
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