When I first sat down to write the story that would become Wages of Sin George W Bush was still president. Obama had just changed the world by becoming the first man of color to be elected to the presidency and people closest to me were jubilant. Hope was in the air. Change. Equality. You could smell them, tantalizingly close.
But there was something else in the wind too. Behind the liberal cacophony there was a stirring reassertion of the old ways. In my small town in the rural south the world was beginning to look darker and more threatening. I began to hear people I considered to be rational, modern humans use the N-word to describe the next leader of the Free World, and then their neighbors. I heard them say he was a dirty Muslim, or an atheist, and then go on to trash anyone who didn’t believe in their god. I heard them lamenting the end of the American Family. If those people were allowed to marry and have children, then it was all over. And all of these statements were made by people who thought of themselves as “Good Christians.” While the racism and homophobia were pernicious in their own right, it was this openness of their disparagement, and the subtle linkage between hatred and religious license that I found particularly chilling.
This story represented a “what if” scenario that came to me in bits a pieces as I listened to people around me in stores and restaurants, offices and movie theaters. Their words etched the story on my imagination. What if the tide of religious zealotry and anger had risen much higher during the Bush Administration? What if these people who hate gays so much had seized power in a violent, unforgiving way? What if the legal system was transformed to enforce the most extreme version of their Biblical values? What would have become of me?
From the vantage point of mid-2017, perhaps the world of the Christian States of America seems even more plausible. The power of angry Good Christians proved to be greater (at least at the polls) that I really thought it was back in late 2008 or early 2009. Now we confront a world in which Christianity and law threaten to become more and more intertwined and in which, for many of us, the wages of sin might once again be death.
Anthologies which include this story: