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The Fall of the Evangelical Nation: The Surprising Crisis Inside the Church Hardcover – April 29, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061117161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061117169
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,186,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Religion reporter Wicker (formerly of the Dallas Morning News and author of Lily Dale) proffers a tendentious, confused book about the alleged demise of conservative evangelicalism.She makes a few lucid points, as when she deftly takes apart the many competing statistics about how many Americans are evangelical.But overall the book has a shrill feel, thanks to the regular use of terms like threat and death knell.Some of the chapters, which seem like filler, are journalistic accounts of aspects of evangelical life—e.g., a portrait of a grieving widow who says she wouldn't give up Jesus to have her husband back—and are not closely related to the overarching argument.Wicker argues that some of the threats to evangelicalism come from evangelical institutions themselves.For example, she asserts that megachurches carry a lot of debt—a fascinating claim that should be bolstered by more rigorous research and source citation. However, merely establishing that megachurches are vulnerable because they cater to the tastes of boomers and depend on the personality of their leaders doesn't tell us that evangelicalism is dying; it just suggests that evangelicalism, ever protean, will once again change.(May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Wicker is the kind of journalist who scrutinizes received wisdom. She casts an analytic eye on churchgoers and their attendance habits to demonstrate that, far from every fourth American being a right-wing Evangelical Christian, as the 25 percent of 2004 ballot-casters dubbed “values voters” were supposed to be, only 7 percent, at most, fit that mold. She further discloses that Evangelical church membership, finances, and effectiveness are plummeting as charismatic megachurch builders retire and die, suburbs age and decay, and less authoritarian, more tolerant family values attract more new-family builders. Old rivals to effective ministry, such as 12-step programs, continue drawing adherents away from Evangelical Christianity, and science continues to erode the biblical literalism ingrained in many Evangelical churches. In short, the Evangelical Christianity of media stereotypes is rapidly withering, and the power of the religious Right is increasingly negligible. Once a true believer herself, Wicker reports all this declining-and-falling with great sympathy for particular right-wing Evangelicals whom she sees leading exemplary and rewarding lives of strict faith. Most enlightening, and welcome indeed during an election year. --Ray Olson

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an important book by a veteran observer of American religious life -- explaining in plain, convincing terms why a lot of our assumptions about the power of "evangelicals" and "megachurches" are myths. If you're inside this movement yourself, Wicker's book almost certainly will open your eyes to the fragile nature of your movement and your style of doing church.

Wicker is a veteran religion writer, who reported on staff at the Dallas Morning News for a number of years. She's also the well-received author of a couple of earlier books on America's spiritual culture. Her 2003 book, "Lily Dale: The Town That Talks to the Dead (Plus)," examined Americans' fascination with "Spiritualists" that stretches back at least 130 years. That turned into a best seller and received a lot of media attention.

Later, she wrote a book, "Not In Kansas Anymore: Dark Arts, Sex Spells, Money Magic, and Other Things Your Neighbors Aren't Telling You (Plus)," about Americans' long-running interest in, at least occasionally, dabbling in eccentric traditions.

Now, she's back with this book-length examination of America's large evangelical movement -- scraping away at the often fearsome political veneer that, she argues persuasively, some very sharp political operatives have draped over the surface of a major segment of American churches.

There's an angry edge to the opening section of this book in which she takes these political operatives to task. In fact, some of Wicker's opening lines are written with, we might say, journalistic hyperbole. Here's an example.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By G. N. Climer on May 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Christine's work at the Dallas Morning News. She was part of one of the best religion pages in the country.

Two Postives about the book:

1.) She looks at the religious landscape of America from a long view bringing together many parts to form a complete picture. She does not connect the dots but does it more in an impressionistic fashion. She talks about the decline of the American church and that church leaders look outside the US for examples of leadership. That is Philip Jenkins thesis in the Next Christendom. She brings Phyllis Tickle and the emerging folks into the mix who talks about the next cultural quake that will shift Christian thinking like the Reformation, the monastic movement, etc. She quotes George Barna, the evangelical pollster. I nodded several times and she wrote a synthesis of what my reading and thinking has been as I read and listen to Christian thinkers.
2.) Her antecdotes are humanizing of evangelicals and former evangelicals.
They provide the human dimension.
3.) Her journalistic writing style provides a quick read. I read the book in about three and half hours.

1.) Wicker has a point of view. That point of view is not entirely neutral and she claims that. Is it fair? At times, but at other times I wonder about her interpretation of folks. I will say that point of view is worth hearing, but she is part of the evangelical church that has fallen away. She is an actor in this movement. So, there are points when I question her point of view. However, for some folks that may mean that she provides a voice that needs to be heard.

2.) I think she left out one interesting aspect of the problem of the church. Education.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Trevin Wax on January 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"We are not as strong... as we think we are..."

That powerful line from an old Rich Mullins song comes to mind as I think about evangelicalism in America today, especially after having read a new book by Christine Wicker: The Fall of the Evangelical Nation: The Surprising Crisis Inside the Church (2008, Harper One).

Is evangelicalism dying? Christine Wicker thinks so, and she says she has the statistics to prove it. Wicker starts off her book with a grim prognosis:

"Evangelical Christianity in America is dying. The great evangelical movements of today are not a vanguard. They are a remnant, unraveling at every edge. Look at it any way you like: Conversions. Baptisms. Membership. Retention. Participation. Giving. Attendance. Religious literacy. Effect on the culture. All are down and dropping. It's no secret." (ix)

What is so devastating about Wicker's book is the way she picks apart our inflated numbers so she can demonstrate the small size of the remnant truly committed to evangelical beliefs. She whittles down the official number of Southern Baptists (16 million) by focusing on church attendance . She then whittles down our number of baptisms by pointing to the frequent practice of "rebaptizing" those who have already been baptized in our own churches (ouch!). She whittles the number down even further by taking into account inflated church numbers caused by church hoppers.

Wicker demonstrates with statistics that "image is everything" when it comes to evangelicalism. The number of evangelicals in our country is astoundingly low. We're not 25% of the population. We're nowhere close. At best, we make up 3.7%.
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