A Handmaid’s Tale is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion for Christians

By Joe Long Published on October 27, 2018

A Handmaid’s Tale is becoming, for American Christians, what the Protocols of the Elders of Zion has been for Jews. Margaret Atwood’s dystopian 1985 novel tells stories of women living in a hellish American theocracy. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion claimed to be the minutes of a secret Jewish conspiracy meeting, held late in the 1800s.

Protocols was written as slanderous propaganda, intended to justify hatred. Whatever Atwood intended, that’s become the role A Handmaid’s Tale increasingly plays here — especially now that it’s a hit Netflix show.

The Protocols

In the nineteenth century, the market for paranoid anti-Semitic fantasy blossomed. Then an unscrupulous author created the notorious Protocols. It purported to be the actual handbook of the Jewish conspiracy. Millions who wanted to hate the Jews believed it. Some were already Jew-haters. Others formed their very first impressions of Jews by reading the slanderous Protocols.

Like fans of the Protocols who insisted they could see the evidence of Jewish conspiracy all around them, Handmaid’s adherents saw in Donald Trump’s populism the rise of theocratic “Gilead.”

The book was a masterpiece of creating fear and hatred. It treated readers to an inside look at the conspiracy, confirming their darkest suspicions. Translations inspired assassinations. Hitler endorsed it in his autobiography. Henry Ford distributed the book in the United States. Though debunked long ago, it remains in print around the world. In 2002, Egyptian television aired a series based on the book. In 2003, a television series based on the book ran on Iranian and Jordanian stations. Doubtless both will survive in reruns as long as an audience for bile remains.

A Handmaid’s Tale

A Handmaid’s Tale was composed as speculative fiction. Atwood published it as a cautionary tale of how very wrong things could go. She meant the story to seem plausible, at least to people unfamiliar with Christianity. She skillfully portrayed just how bad she thought everything would be if fanatical Christians took over the country.

The book won literary and science fiction awards. It became a feminist classic, even inspiring an opera. Countless college professors assigned it. There it may have lured countless young women into paranoid feminism, while it likely drove multitudes of disgusted young men into the consolations of the alt-right’s version of masculinity.

Finally, thirty-two years after its publication, Handmaid really hit the big time. A celebrated, award-winning 2017 television adaptation catapulted the book into popular American political culture.

Like fans of the Protocols who insisted the work’s truth was obvious, because they could see evidence of Jewish conspiracy all around them, Handmaid’s adherents saw in Donald Trump’s populism the rise of theocratic “Gilead.” Celebrities chimed in with dire warnings. At the Kavanaugh hearings, protesters dressed in “handmaid” costumes to declare that he represented the coming theocracy.

Like believers in the Protocols, Handmaid fans think they see something the rest of us don’t. They also think that they have to save the world from it.

The Darker Side

It would be easy to laugh off the 1985 novel’s new political propaganda role. Certainly, this Halloween’s “Sexy Handmaid” costumes add an element of farce. There’s a darker side, though. Just like Protocols, Handmaid imputes malicious motives to a religious group. And like Protocols, its promoters give it all the force of a journalistic exposé.

The greatest poison in both of these works is the suggestion that your neighbor (if Jewish or Christian) serves a movement that wants to oppress you. They hold beliefs that lead directly to tyranny, should they ever get the power. They may not know it themselves, but that doesn’t matter. They’re Jews or Christians, and you know what those people really want.

The effect is insidious. Once you think your neighbor’s religion commits him to oppress you, you can’t be friends with him. You must fight his faith however you can. He might be a good guy, but he’s one of them, and you know what they want. He may say he’s not interested in enslaving you. Isn’t that just what one of “them” would say?

Worse, your country has tens of millions of serious Christians. And they have political power. They elected Trump! They’re rolling back abortion freedoms! They’re oppressing trans people! They even put a sex abuser on the Supreme Court! These Christians are building Gilead right in front of your eyes.

The Self-Styled Resistance

In this way, a self-styled “resistance” finds an imaginary future tyranny to “resist.” Meanwhile, we who’ve been identified as the danger to society have to figure out how to refute that we have secret, nefarious goals. After all, if the continuing success of Protocols among the world’s anti-semites is any indication, we might be dealing with the slanderous Handmaid’s Tale for a very, very long time.


Joe Long holds an MA in History. He has been published in Civil War Historian magazine, the Journal of the South Carolina Historical Society, and American Greatness online. He lives in South Carolina.

Print Friendly
Comments ()
The Stream encourages comments, whether in agreement with the article or not. However, comments that violate our commenting rules or terms of use will be removed. Any commenter who repeatedly violates these rules and terms of use will be blocked from commenting. Comments on The Stream are hosted by Disqus, with logins available through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts. You must log in to comment. Please flag any comments you see breaking the rules. More detail is available here.
  • Karen

    This would be more persuasive if you stated what part of “The Haidmaid’s Tale” is slanderous and how your positions differ from those parts.

    • Patmos

      Lol, you pretty much proved his point. Why do you even post here? You put your ignorance on display? What a weird thing to do.

      • Karen

        If you will deny firmly and completely that you would support a fascist and misogynist dictatorship, or at least state specifically which policies of the Republic of Gilead you oppose and why we shouldn’t fear you running the country, then I’ll quit posting here.

        • I don’t deal in satanic fiction. Apparently you take this place very seriously.

        • Andrew Mason

          Since I’m not familiar with the policies of this liberal fantasy I can’t say which I oppose, and frankly I don’t believe it’d matter. Anything less than complete obeisance to the liberal agenda would be construed as support for a fascist and misogynistic dictatorship. And if we can’t agree to disagree then how could we convince you not to fear us running the country?

          • Karen

            You’re deflecting, but I will give you a couple: In Gilead, women are not allowed to learn to read, cannot hold jobs, cannot own property, cannot leave or immigrate, and are assigned to a male who controls everything about their lives. Even their clothing is assigned by the government. The government is an oligarchical dictatorship led by the “Commanders of the Faithful,” all men. The Commanders have access to government-run brothels staff with attractive, young sex slaves. Anyone who opposes the regime or deviates from the strict gender roles, and most women past childbearing age or who are not conventionally attractive, become “Unwomen” and are shipped to polluted and radioactive “Colonies” and worked and starved to death.

            The Handmaids are young women who were divorced, or single mothers, or just young and pretty and possibly fertile. The regime assigns Handmaids to the Commanders, with the intention that the Commanders impregnate the Handmaids. Most of the men in Gilead are impotent, but the regime lies and blames the declining birthrates entirely on women. (That part at least should sound familiar to you, and you agree with it.) If the Handmaid doesn’t bear a live and healthy child after her third three-year assignment to a Commander, she becomes an Unwoman and is shipped to the colonies.

            Things that the Religious Right believes that are exactly the same in Gilead: the falling birthrate is a bad thing, and women are all to blame for it. Men need respect and in a world where they have to compete with women, men don’t get respect. Women need to defer to men. It is bad for society for women to have any political power.

            Now it’s your turn. Tell me where you disagree with Gilead? What are women allowed to do and not do in your ideal world?

          • Paul

            If we could post pictures here I’d include a double facepalm meme. You’re stuck in some feminist fantasy land that is arguing the truth of fiction. It is as absurd as the right wingnuts who feared Obama was going to cancel the elections and remain president for life. When people are so disconnected from reality there is no debating those issues with them, and unfortunately that’s where you are with this handmaid nonsense. Your fearful fantasy is fiction, let us know when you want to discuss reality.

          • Karen

            And in all that paragraph you never deny that Gilead appeals to you.

            So, do you support laws that restrict the roles of women or do you not? Do you support laws that make it easier for women to work out of the home or do you not?

          • Paul

            I’m not interested in debating your fiction, it is pointless

          • childofjehovah

            Karen, I want you to denounce this instance the incoming Klingon invasion from kronos. its not just, its our planet not theirs and they have no right to enslave us. If you do not denounce the Klingon invasion RIGHT NOW you are complicit and just as bad as them……..well….im waiting.

          • Ken Abbott

            I’m game to respond to the Gileadian policies you have listed.

            1. As I advocate universal literacy (being part of the people of the Book, after all), I disagree–profoundly and emphatically–with restrictions on it.

            2. Any person, man or woman, qualified and competent to hold a particular job and capable of fulfilling its requirements should be eligible for employment therein.

            3. Given that property rights were one of the inalienable rights (life, liberty, and property–Jefferson was persuaded to change that to the pursuit of happiness) that God has granted all human beings, women should be able to hold property on an equal standing with men. The civil government may not lawfully deprive humans of their God-given rights.

            4. Freedom of movement should have no sex restrictions. That’s part of individual liberty, for which further see above number 3.

            5. Involuntarily “assignment” to another human is slavery. Christians are on record as opposed to slavery (see William Wilberforce, for example).

            6. The concept of government-authorized and -regulated brothels is inimical to Christian sexual mores emphasizing the one man-one woman nature of marriage and the illegitimacy of sexual activity outside of marriage.

            7. The Bible stands foursquare in favor of rendering respect and honor to elderly women and widows, not to mention that the fifth commandment enjoins honor to mothers.

            Hope that helps.

          • Karen

            If you believe those things, you should say that more often. Make it clear that women are the equals of men and that you reject any politics that would deny that.

          • Ken Abbott

            To the extent that I have a platform–or the opportunity–to say these things, I do. I’m not an official contributor to this site (or any other, for that matter). So long as “equal” does not mean “same,” for the genuine complimentary differences of women and men are critical to God’s design and should be celebrated, not denied or erased.

          • Charles Burge

            We don’t say these things because it doesn’t occur to us that there’s a need to. We simply take it for granted that they are true. It would be like repeating over and over again that the sky is blue. You would know this if you truly listened instead of simply projecting your own twaddle. Have a genuine conversation with any Christian wife and she’ll tell you as much.

          • Karen

            Plenty of people completely disagree with those statements. I suggest you read a few alt-right websites, including ostensibly Christian ones, to see just how wrong you are that every agrees that women have the same rights as men.

          • Charles Burge

            The fringe does not represent the whole. You know how wound up leftists get when anyone implies that all Muslims are bloodthirsty jihadists? Well, you’re doing the exact same thing.

          • Andrew Mason

            Thanks. It’s not a series I ever plan on engaging with. Ken’s already addressed your points but I might add a slightly different dimension.

            If it wasn’t for my mother I’d be a poor reader at best. Prohibiting women from reading IMHO thus harms men. From a purely self interested perspective it would seem to me that curtailing literacy would thus benefit a minority of men – many (most?) would be harmed. Aside from control I can’t really think what benefits would accrue. As for not holding jobs, depending on how that works in practice it may or may not be akin to pre-modern times. Do maids or peasant wives hold jobs, or do they simply work? Inability to own property is certainly fairly common historically speaking where a fatherbrotherhusband would holdinherit it. Not quite sure what you mean by leave or emigrate unless you mean solo departure – I’m thinking how this compares to history too. Government assigned clothing is rather disturbing. Does this apply to men too? Obviously the brothel thing is a profound problem. While I get regime opponents being shipped to the colonies – wherever they may be, and that absolutely has precedent, I don’t quite get post childbearing aged and ‘ugly’ women being treated likewise. Does marriage not exist in this world of yours? Are women just … dairy cattle to be milked for children then disposed of once they stop producing?

            Not quite sure what should sound familiar or be something I agree with. Perhaps you mean the ‘inability of King Henry VIII’s wives’ to produce sons?

            Oh I absolutely agree a falling birthrate is a bad thing, as should anyone with an ounce of common sense and logic. No children means nobody to take care of the elderly – yes this is a gross simplification. As for blaming women for the falling birthrate, that’s a gross oversimplification. Yes men need respect, no I don’t think competing with women denies men respect, though it may complicate things – depends on what they’re competing over. As for women deferring to men, that really needs some context to justify! As for it being bad for society to have women with political power, wouldn’t that depend on the woman in question? Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, and Margaret Thatcher for instance are all held, by Conservatives at least, as women whose political power shaped society in positive fashion – as far as I can tell the Left hates such women.

            I haven’t addressed your post so much as an I agree withreject XYZ but more of a this has historical precedent or not fashion. I think it’s fairly clear that I find some things rather troubling, and I’m not really aware of precedent for them. As for what women could do in my ideal world, that’s really not something I’ve thought about. Probably the one point I would make is that there will be a difference between what a woman can do and what a woman perhaps should want. Not all women can be wives and mothers for instance – gender imbalance, personal preferences, who you meet, and health, so alternative pathways must exist. In the past this has included the spinster aunt role, joining a nunnery, or perhaps working as a governess. And while I think about it, it seems to me that women’s role in charity work was much much greater when their role in paid employment was so much less. Charity is increasingly just another industry with paid employees, though I don’t think they have profit margins, yet. My ideal world might have a culture closer to that of the 1900’s but there’s so many factors and details to consider – and absolutely no time or culture is perfect, that even a best case would have problems for you to point out, and things I’ve overlooked. This help?

    • Kathy

      Ladies, is it your dream to be bitter and angry all of the time? Take a lesson from Karen…she’s the expert on these enviable traits.

    • Charles Burge

      Your type of Christian believes women should be restricted to a purely domestic role: no jobs, no outside income, and adecisions made primarily by the husband.

      This tripe is getting truly tiresome. If you’re going to demand supporting evidence from anyone else, why don’t you start by showing that any of your drivel is anywhere close to being true?

    • The book was designed to spur “useful idiots” into violence. It worked as you do that to Christians by the day, taking your book over what actually is.

      Women are Mothers. What does Motherhood entail?

      • Karen

        There are two types: 1. Physical motherhood is pregnancy, birth, and lactation. The human mind plays no part in this version; it is entirely and exclusively a biological function and has no magic in it at all. 2. Childrearing, by contrast, is showing a new human what the world is like and teaching her how to live in it, including teaching her that she is obligated to correct the unjust parts. This is mostly a mental function, and men can do it just as well as women, although too few of you do so.

        • No, motherhood is bearing children and it is Love.

          So you call the child “it” and then “her/she,” and then you claim men can be mothers. A tour of satanist claptrap.

          I know you killed your own children in sacrifice to the devil, which is the source of the absurdity and adherence to what denies what is born in every woman. This is because you have no Love in you left.

          The question then becomes why did you become a satanist, when sacrificing your children clearly did not provide the power you were hoping to gain? In fact, it totally destroyed you.

          • Karen

            You have leaped pretty far to reach those baseless conclusions. Please review this comment and ask yourself what actual evidence you have to support this?

          • That Motherhood is bearing children and that women are mothers? That is self-evident.

            I repeat:

            The question then becomes why did you become a satanist, when sacrificing your children clearly did not provide the power you were hoping to gain? In fact, it totally destroyed you.

  • Middle C

    Typical of the progressives in Europe and the US – they live under the constant threat of jihadi violence, and yet they paint Christians as the supreme villains. It is not Christians who oppress women or fly planes into buildings. Liberalism really is a denial of reality. In England it is now illegal to criticize Islam.

  • Charles Burge

    The irony in all of this is that Islamic societies are much closer to resembling Gilead than anything in Christendom. Yet typical leftists bend over backward to coddle and defend Muslims at every turn (see the recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights as a prime example).

  • Kevin Carr

    The odd thing is they see imaginary Handmaids Tale while we are living 1984 and the Animal Farm.

    • Andrew Mason

      Those who see Handmaid’s Tale as a reality to fear don’t believe 1984 or Animal Farm are.

      • Ken Abbott

        George Orwell? He’s a dead, white, European male. What did he know? /sarc

      • Athena771

        I actually believe all of these are possible, 1984, Animal Farm and the Handmaid’s tale. The depravity of human beings tell me that anything is possible. Freedom is very fragile all you need is to have the right people in power to accomplish any of these nightmare scenarios.

      • Kevin Carr

        Sad, but true.

  • TheGhostWriterTomes

    Whoa, slow down, A Handmaid’s Tale was always only represented as fictional literature for the express purpose of stimulating profound thought. The Protocols was never anything but a deliberate attempt to fan the flames of Jew hatred. The hopelessly dishonest and superficial left unleashed an unrivaled deprivation/mass murder horror story for civilization (rivaled only by the history of Islamic conquest and supremacy), from the early days of the Soviet Union and Communist China to Venezuela today.

    • What profound thought could come with base slander and marxist rhetoric?

  • Andrew73

    For a document described as ‘slanderous propaganda’ it is disturbingly prophetic.

    • Bryan

      In the case of Protocols, it would seem to be the same self-fulfilling prophecy as described at the end of this article.

  • GLT

    I can’t fathom how this came to be. How can anyone take seriously the drivel which is anything written by Margaret Atwood? This woman could not write a grocery list. I guess it only serves as an indication of how far we have descended intellectually as a civilization when this kind of slanderous, hate-filled tripe is held up as great literature.

  • Ken Abbott

    Actually, Atwood is on record as saying that she did not conceive of Gilead as a Christian polity but that of an aberrant group that overemphasized and distorted certain aspects of Old Testament legal strictures governing the relationship between men and women. The current difficulty is that many of Atwood’s acolytes fail to make the distinctions she claims to have made.

    Atwood’s Gilead banished “non-compliant” Christian groups such as Roman Catholics and Quakers and sent black persons packing, making it just as racist as it was misogynist. A thoroughly unjust society.

  • Maria

    Very insightful.

Lessons From a Stolen Bike
Alex Chediak
More from The Stream
Connect with Us