In The Land Of Believers: An Outsiders Extraordinary Journey Into the Heart of the Evangelical Church

by Lisa Kirchner

Gina Welch goes undercover into the land of believers in this honest and fair-minded chronicle of the two years she spent attending an evangelical megachurch in Virginia among Christian conservatives.

Welch, a secular Jew raised in Berkeley, CA, and the daughter of a Communist, is basically as blue-state as you can get. She even has to chip the Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker off her car before her first Sunday visit. Nevertheless, she quickly gets the hang of churchgoing, and after spending some time with the godly folk of Thomas Road Baptist Church (run by none other than now-deceased Teletubby-hater Jerry Falwell), shes soon belting out hymns–arms raised in praise–with the rest of the flock while secretly nurturing her own atheism. She even wins the prize for best evangelizer in her “100 Percent Effective Evangelism” course.

Although she chafes at the church’s homophobia and pro-life politics, Welch discovers she appreciates the sense of community she finds in her singles group and bonds with one woman whose principles, if not beliefs, align with her own. But when she accompanies a group on a mission to Alaska (their goal: save 100 souls), shes overcome with guilt for deceiving people shes begun to call friends and quits the experiment. Welch may not have accepted Jesus into her heart, but she definitely opened herself up to evangelicals, and her empathic retelling of the experience smartly complicates stereotypes of the religious Right.

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