I've just finished reading In the Land of the Believers by Gina Welch, an atheist who went undercover at Jerry Falwell's church to learn more about Evangelical Christianity. Reading this book was part of my systematic going through of all of my old Bust magazines and requesting from the library anything from the book review section that looked interesting. That was a rather long-winded way of saying that I heard about this book from Bust magazine.
Anyway, it was really great and I highly recommend it. There were times I wasn't totally engaged in the story, and I kept losing track of who some of the more "minor characters" were, but I think this was a function of the author's respect for the privacy of the real people these "characters" are. For the most part, however, I was engaged, but more than that, I think what Welch was doing with the book is really important.
The goals of the book at least as I interpret it, are promoting tolerance and cooperation, with some emphasis on identifying common, as a means to doing this.
For the record, I was raised Episcopalian, so I didn't have the negative church experiences that many of my friends report. My experience with the Episcopal church was of tolerance and patience, not guilt or prejudice. A female priest led my confirmation class, and for my readers who don't know, the Episcopal church is the one that caused a big stir by being very much okay with homosexuality.
A little tangent--I read a newspaper headline today that Presbyterians are moving in the same direction. And then there's this, the Kentucky church that is refusing to sign marriage licenses, in protest, until same-sex marriage is legal.
Now, I've rambled and gone off on this tangent, so back to Ms. Welch's book. Here are her own words, pulled from her website:
My hope for this book is that it will provide readers with a vivid portrait of evangelical hearts and minds to eclipse the old, broad caricatures; that people like me—people who bristle at public prayer or roll their eyes when someone asks if they’ve heard the good news—might find in my book ways of accepting and connecting to evangelicals. I hope that the book creates the possibility of common ground between the religious and the secular, a notion that once seemed very far out of reach.
In the Land of the Believers is interesting and informative. The idea of promoting tolerance by finding common ground and by understanding, even respecting differences, is something that I value and would like to promote. That's why I am recommending this book.
I look forward to Gina Welch's second book.