A secular Jew raised by a single mother in Berkeley, Welch became an outsider in a strange land when in 2002 she moved for graduate school to the heart of the Bible Belt near Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. She saw everything around her ironically, treated the South “as a joke” and her time there “as a kind of elaborate performance art project.” Then something miraculous happened. The jaded Californian began to like Virginia. She’d arrived to a Virginia on the verge of a demographic shift as a new, progressive population burgeoned. But she also grew to like the Old South—its manners, easygoing nature, and friendliness. She got serious, cast aside her cynicism, and sought to know her evangelical neighbors “as people.” Why did they think as they did? Why were they so determined “to convert non-Christian America?” She went “undercover” to attend Falwell’s church. The resultant portrayal of evangelicals as she sees them and of how she transcended the popular media caricatures of them constitute an insightful, frequently funny book. --June Sawyers
“Excellent prose with a laudable purpose: to promote understanding of evangelical Christians...
An engaging, personal look at one variant of Christian fundamentalism.”
“Memorable... A genuinely inquisitive memoir about the complicated nature of religious belief.”
“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