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In the Land of Believers: An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church Paperback – March 1, 2011
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“Excellent prose with a laudable purpose: to promote understanding of evangelical Christians...
An engaging, personal look at one variant of Christian fundamentalism.” ―Library Journal
“An engaging, personal look at one variant of Christian fundamentalism.” ―Library Journal
“An amazing narrative journey into the heart of the evangelical movement.” ―Washington Life magazine
“Memorable... A genuinely inquisitive memoir about the complicated nature of religious belief.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Welch is a combination of thoughtful, funny, self-deprecating, and a skilled stylist....I am pleased I accompanied her on her journey.” ―The Charlotte Observer
“With compassion, wit, and verve, Gina Welch has gone where few secular liberals have dared to go--the late Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church--and emerged with a compelling story that transcends stereotypes and builds common ground. Both sides of the Great American Culture War should read this refreshing call for a cease-fire.” ―Kevin Roose, author of The Unlikely Disciple
“Gina Welch's story of her immersion in Jerry Falwell's Evangelical church is riveting. Welch is a fair, compassionate, very smart writer--and one of the most arresting narrators I've encountered in a half-century of reading.” ―John Casey, author of Spartina
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Top Customer Reviews
The premise of this non-fiction book is simple: Gina Welch, a born and reared non-believer, goes undercover to join Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC) in Lynchburg, Virginia, in a purported attempt to understand what she terms "Evangelicals". Welch contrasts herself with the Evangelicals: "I am a secular Jew raised by a single mother in Berkeley.... I cuss, I drink, and I am not a virgin." Falwell's church, ground zero for the now-eclipsed Moral Majority, was close enough geographically to serve Welch's purpose.
Welch starts with a trip to Scaremare, a church sponsored haunted house (termed a "hell house") designed to both metaphorically and literally scare the Hell out of participants. From this spooky beginning, Welch moves on to joining a TRBC sponsored singles group, EPIC (Experiencing Personal Intimacy with Christ), eventually being baptized (full immersion) and travelling to Alaska on a mission to capture one hundred souls for Christ (final tally 101 souls).
While the premise is simple, execution of the plan becomes complicated by Welch's penchant for developing relationships with the people she has gone undercover to observe. What might have been a documentary fact-finding expedition becomes instead a memoir about Welch herself as she gradually discovers that the church members are not caricatures, but humans, and how this discovery affects her.Read more ›
Have you ever given thought to how evangelicals are viewed by those outside the church?
How many of your friends disagree with you politically? Theologically?
In the Land of Believers: An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church (Metropolitan, 2010) tells the story of Gina Welch. The book gives readers a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of Thomas Road Baptist Church (the church Jerry Falwell pastored) through the eyes of an atheistic, secularist, liberal young woman.
Welch faked a conversion experience, got baptized, and spent two years at Thomas Road. (She even participated in evangelism on a mission trip.) During this time, she kept a detailed journal of her experience, which she has now turned into a book that chronicles her journey into evangelical America.
If you're like me, your first reaction upon hearing about a book like this is to roll your eyes and think, Oh great! An exposé of evangelicals from someone who deliberately engaged in deceptive practices in order to show up evangelical hypocrisy. That was my initial reaction. But after reading a number of reviews, I was intrigued enough to pick up the book. I was pleasantly surprised by Welch's portrayal of evangelicals, and I was riveted by her account. While I abhor the deceit that grounds this book, I recommend that evangelicals read it for a number of reasons.
1. Unmasking Intolerant Tolerance
First, Welch clearly understands that "intolerance" is not a label that sticks only to the Religious Right. Coming from a liberal, secular background, Welch saw people within her circles speaking intolerantly of evangelicals.Read more ›
Instead of discovering a people who mindlessly followed charismatic leaders, Gina found sincere believers who were part of a loving community. She soon found herself drawn into the fellowship of people who honestly cared about her. Somewhere along the way, she came to love the music and found genuine friends.
While reading this book, I was surprised and challenged at several points. Because I am a Christian, sometimes it was a stretch to understand Gina's viewpoint and why she found certain aspects of the Christian culture peculiar. What she pointed out was often I the way I think and talk. I found it revealing and important to see the Christian culture from an outsider's viewpoint.
As I looked closely at my motivation for choosing this book, I realized my expectations were also unsupported. While the followers of Falwell's ministries are professing Christians, I express my Christian beliefs differently in some ways. As I read, I realized I had hoped that Gina would confirm my approach to the faith as a better approach.
To the contrary, I found myself humbled. As Gina described her experience, I found I have more in common with the people she encountered than differences, especially in terms of love for others and the essentials of faith.
Gina, the people you met at church are the people who accepted you, forgave your deception and still desire a relationship with you. They pointed to a God who still desires a relationship with you. Keep searching.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
well written. Her story pulled me through to the end. An added bonus - being from the region on which the story is based and somewhat familiar in a circumspect way with Liberty,... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
Writer Gina Welch began attending Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia in 2005 to get the "inside scoop" on Evangelicals for the purpose of writing a... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Tom
What was it like attending Jerry Fawell’s church? Gina Welch wanted to find out. A secular Jew who has never believed in God, she nevertheless wanted to understand what... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Paul Froehlich
This book gives a great perspective on how an atheist reacts to her experience in a Christian fundamentalist church. Read morePublished 19 months ago by John C. Birckholtz
This book was written by a woman who is an atheist and knew very little about Christianity before she decided to go undercover into an Evangelical Church in order to figure out... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Garnet
The author of this book comes from a unique philosophical background. She's not unique because she's an atheist, but rather because she was raised atheist. Read morePublished on January 25, 2014 by David Dickey
I actually purchased this book for $1 on a whim based on the title. Being a devout Roman Catholic from Pennsylvania I come from a third perspective than the California secular... Read morePublished on November 15, 2013 by Jeremy Mohler
I think it is a good book. Told truthfully with no ill will. I was interested as I have cousins in the Southern Bible Belt who are evangelicals and I have attended church with... Read morePublished on November 13, 2013 by Misterbump
Author's story. She has a Master's Degree from Yale which has garnered her a position as a clerk at Capital 1 and a waitress. Read morePublished on October 26, 2013 by ellison