Gina Welch is Jewish and an atheist. In her new book, In the Land of Believers, she chronicles her two-year sojourn among the members of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.
“I wanted to know what my evangelical neighbors were like as people, unfiltered and off the record, not as the subjects of interviews conducted by the ‘liberal media.’ I wanted to try to take them on their own terms. Who, exactly, did they think they were? Why were they so determined to convert non-Christian America? And how were they going about it?”
So begins her great subterfuge. She argues that the only way to get an authentic look at evangelicals was to make them believe that she was one of them. So she fakes a religious conversion and joins them. She writes, “They needed to know the microphone was off. I’d do whatever it took to get the story.”
I find her deception and manipulation of the people of Thomas Road to be unconscionable, and reviewers have already taken her to task on that point. Nevertheless, there’s still some compelling stuff in this book. She goes into this project believing that evangelicals are retrograde, unthinking throw-backs to a bygone age of religious superstitionâ€”people who barely deserve to be recognized as serious in an enlightened, secular society. In short, she views evangelicals like any coastal elitist would. But by the end of it, she actually comes to believe that evangelicals are people too.
I daresay that if you start this book, you won’t be able to put it down. If you do decide to read it, pray for the author. The Lord’s arm is not too short to save (Isaiah 59:1).
The author appeared on “Morning Joe” this morning, and you can watch the interview below.