Bauer Reviews “In the Land of Believers”

Susan Wise Bauer has a critical review of Gina Welch’s In the Land of Believers, and Ms. Bauer is not a happy camper. As I noted in my review, Gina Welch loathes evangelical beliefs, but she comes to love evangelical believers (at least the ones she gets to know at Thomas Road Baptist Church). Bauer finds Welch’s stance to be a patronizing one. She writes:

‘That’s a staggeringly stupid thing for anyone who claims to understand evangelicalism to write, but Welch is unable to believe that people she likes could really hold well-thought-out, strongly held beliefs that she finds repellent. (“If somehow Evangelicals were forced to co-exist with gay people,” she suggests brightly, “Evangelicals would eventually learn that their ideas about gayness were wrong.”) Ultimately, Welch is able to love evangelicals because she finds their identity in their culture, which spares her from having to cope with stubborn things like belief.’

Ouch! Read the rest of the review here.


  • Nathan

    –If somehow evangelicals were forced to co-exist with gay people, evangelicals would eventually learn that their ideas about gayness were wrong.

    I think that is true — it was true for me.

  • Warren Kelly

    I think that Kevin Roose did the whole “living undercover among Evangelicals” thing better, and it sounds like many of his presuppositions changed, unlike Welch’s.

    And I HAVE had to live (and work) with homosexuals. Didn’t really change my mind about whether homosexuality was wrong, but it made me realize that it really IS possible to hate the sin and love the sinner.

  • Kelly

    Nathan, Chris….exact same thing here. It was this point I came back here to post about.

    As per hating the sin and loving the sinner…I now understand how insulting that is to gay people. Warren, your heterosexuality is an inate part of you. If I Hated heterosexuality….or Christianity (another part of your identity), I don’t think I could ever truly love you. Not truly. So, I understand why one cousin was told bluntly not to bother trying to maintain a relationship/coming to family gatherings where she was if he was unable to love all of her. It’s not like she is a person of bad character or poor morality. She is a wonderful person, with a lovely partner, sweet kids, and her faithfulness and love for Brenda (her partner) as she was seriously ill was an example to us all…hetero or gay. IT is not possible to love her, and hate her simultaneously. And she is wonderful..and my family.

  • Nathan

    My view of them was always tempered because I knew that I was one of them even though I denied it for decades.

    But in some ways I viewed them as bad people at most levels – selfish, shallow, vain, either grossly effeminate or over-the-top butch, aggressive to militant, foul-mouthed, hedonistic, drinkers, drug users to drug abusers, incapable of having loving relationships, disinterested in or reviles anything Christian, needy, unstable, immature, etc. I certainly saw that community as a place where I wouldn’t fit in or belong.

    None of that was true. Although I do find people that fit those descriptions, the community as a whole cannot be characterized that way. There is no such thing as a singular “gay lifestyle” or “gay agenda.” Now I know those terms to be merely propaganda.

  • James


    Right on! It’s refreshing to come across someone as accepting as you who truly seems to love people the way that God made them. As a polygamist, I would love to spend some time with you. I’m so tired of being judged by narrow minded people who don’t truly understand the desires with which I was born. Too many people place emphasis on homosexuality, but we polygamists are discriminated against as well. Thanks for being so understanding.

  • Nathan

    Nice try, James.

    I’m sure your world would just end because polygamists are in it.

    I have to wonder why people get so bent out of shape by the personal choices of others…

  • Kelly

    Same arguement does not work with polygamists James. Nathan is correct. I have known polygamists, and seen the pain and misery of it for the women involved, who end up being little better than objects, left to struggle for the love and attention of a man they must share. It is not at all to be compared to the happy and well adjusted lives of the gay couples I know, and in several cases, are related to. Polygamy hurts all involved. That cannot be said of committed, loving marriages of gay couples. I have seen the real world examples of both.

    Comparing a good apple to a bad orange does not make the apple bad James.

    Two points, if I may. 1) This IS happening all over America. That Engel guy (a nut job…and not a fiar represenative of most pastors) made an excellent point at a conference in VA recently. The younger generation, even most of the young evangelicals, but especially the mainline, catholic and secular generation under the age of 30 or 35, see this as a civil rights/human rights issue. And a settled one. Mr. Engel was bemoaning this fact. Barna and polling back it up, and I am sure your experience with young people, unless you live in an evangelical coccoon, does also. It is WAY past the tipping point, and this is due to people actually KNOWING gay people and seeing their lives and relationships, AND that many of them are our brothers, sisters, children, parents, teachers, coworkers and yes, pastors.

    2) And this one will, I suspect, be of some interest to Rev. Burke and several others here. Maybe not, but, I will mention it.
    I grew up in a very homophobic church. The stuff that was said about gay people…wow. They should have been easy to identify, what with those horns and all! Then, I got to know them. Some of whom I already loved. And it dawned on me…”is it possible that the others (those who were not literalists in my denomination) are right about this…? Sure seems so”. I did NOT like this idea.

    I was raised a 5 point Calvinist. Shorter catechism committed to memory, church Sunday and Wednesday, plus Sunday school and two weeks or revival each year, and old style expository preaching was one of the standards. I did NOT want to have to reconsider this issue. But, intellectual honesty, and just knowing people, good Christian and decent gay people, made me do so. And, after years of reading (and I do mean years) the scholarship of those on both sides of the issue in my denomination, I came to the conclusion “oh…wow. This old manner is the wrong way to approach the scripture on this. There are other ways of looking at this and being faithful to God and Gods word. These people make a good theological/historical/social case for reading it this way.”

    Then, the real shock set in; “What else needs to be approached this way????”

    The answer, everthing.

    When I explain to my secular, mainline and Catholic friends that NO, Baptists do not have horns, No, all conservatives are not innately evil, No, all the pain they are causing you is not out of a sense of spite and nastiness (some is…oh yes, some conservatives loath gay people so much that they enjoy ‘putting them in their place. Not all, maybe not most, but we all know people like this), and finally, Yes, they DO seem…frightened. Terrified of this issue. And then I explain why. Because more and more people, and whole denominations, are thinking like me. And as we do so, it shows how weak are the very foundations of the conservative approach to faith.

    And the conservatives know this. And see, already, in their demographics and membership among the young, that they will not carry the future, neither of the society, or even of most Christians. Already, pastors speak of the issue with greater concern and grace, for they know that the family in the third pew on the right have a gay son…and give generously to missions.

    Please forgive the length of this post. But, I was being utterly honest about my story, and my thoughts on where we are going on this issue. And its not a soundbite kind of issue.

  • Nate

    “The younger generation, even most of the young evangelicals, but especially the mainline, catholic and secular generation under the age of 30 or 35, see this as a civil rights/human rights issue. And a settled one.”

    Right Kelly: That is why every state that has put it on the ballot for voters to decide have voted against homosexual marriage. So, do you really believe that all the 18-35 year olds can’t out vote all us older narrow-minded people (as you call us).

    And if it is way past the tipping point, why do you need judges to do you work for you. The people should rise up and vote it in.

  • Chris

    Thanks Nate and Kelly for your thoughts! I appreciate you both being honest and open!

    The problem I see aside from the obvious “Is homosexuality a sin?” (I believe it is)is that whenever we put anything ahead of Christ in our life it is a huge problem.

    More and more Christians who have homosexual attractions and/or consider themselves to be homosexual are putting their sexuality above Christ. Some even go so far as to be proud of their sexuality! Anyone who has pride in any aspect of their humanity is worshiping something other than Christ!

    That all being said I believe its possible to be gay and be Christian (afterall we all sin in some way every day) but it is not possible to live with acceptance of our sin or going even further being prideful of our sin while getting Gods blessing in our life!

    We each have our cross to carry and for some its their sexuality!

  • Kelly

    Chris, after years of being told to be ashamed and live in the shadows (closet), I suppose there is an open point of pride on the part of a lot of the gay community. I think self acceptance of being who God made oneself to be is more of how my friends who have been “out” longest, or (and yes, this amazes me…being in my 40’s) the 20 somethings whose parents and families see their kids being gay as a non issue. Just showing my age I guess! (even those 20 years have made a HUGE difference for a kid coming out now, vs 1990, or 1980..etc). My main point is, I, my church (denomination) and many other Christians DON”T consider being gay a sin (being in a committed and loving same gender relationship). And, from looking at our gay family and friends, we have begun to look at a lot of things we were taught “in stone” differently. I REALLY do appreciate your tone, and while I disagree with you (I have seen to many gay Christians whose life show those blessings!), I do thank you.

    Nate, don’t “shoot the messenger”. I assume you are familiar with Barna Reserach? Go look for yourself. Go read “How the Homosexual movement has won” on Dr. Mohlers blogsite. Read the posts of (as opposed to normal sane conservatives) right wing nuts like Lou Engel, and go read the most recent polling by Gallup.

    When Civil unions were put to a poll (when, I wonder, do conservatives have their rights put to a vote? Scray though) in Washington state, they PASSED. When New Mexico first tried to ban both gay marriage and civil unions, it failed due to the last part. When Civil unions were taken off the new ballot question, it passed. Talk to the organizers of the anti gay marriage rights balot in CA. It passed with 52 %. A decade earlier, it passed with 63 %. Gallup shows that 53% of Americans now see same gender relationships as morally equal to straight ones.

    As I said, don’t shoot the messenger. And if you think the majority of the under 30/35 crowd thinks like the majority of the 65 and older crowd (And the elderly vote), you are indeed in for a quite a shock.
    I like old people. I want to be an old people someday. 🙂 But, some of their attitudes, well…not so much. And, to be blunt, the older, and more conservative, anti gay vote, will be getting smaller each year. For obvious reasons.
    Do you REALLY mean to tell me you have been so observant you have not noticed this shift among the young? All those years of Will and Grace on TV, gay classmates (and teachers) gay bishops, and their Presidents Clinton and Obama openly going after (and respecting) the gay vote…and President Bush naming gay ambassadors and showing respect to the Log cabin republicans? and a decade of seeing friends and family go to Civil Union or same gender marriage celebrations has not affected a generation that, by in large, has seen nothing else? You dont think that has affected the attitudes of the next two generations? When even the most conservative of journals and magazines has commented on it and marveled at it?
    No offense, but…really?

  • Kelly

    James…not really. That was kind of my point.

    We approach this topic, and theology in general, differently. I would recommend you go to the Witherspoon society or That All May Freely Serve. Or, go get a degree as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament (a masters) from the majority of the 11 Presbyterian seminaries, or read the writings of Bishop Robinson and Archbishop Rowan. I am intimately familiar with the conservative arguments…former 5 pointer, as I pointed out. Have you really studied those of the other side with an open mind?

    We DONT look at this the same way. And this topic, where people like myself can SEE the people involved, leads myself, Nathan (I suspect…always scared to speak for someone else) and most of the younger Christians I know (not to mention seculars). In any case, thank you for the link. I am, as it happens, already familiar with the site, and disagree with it, but thank you nonetheless

  • RD

    I applaud Kelly and Nate. As has been discussed again and again – both on this blog and on countless others – science, biology and genetics are shedding more and more light on the basis for ALL sexual orientation. Cultural views from millenia ago should not be considered law in the 21st century. More and more evangelical Christians are recognizing that the Bible is one way that God speaks to us, but that God also speaks through the creation, through scientific discovery, medical advancements and through the moving “voice” of the Holy Spirit.

    As for the comments regarding Kelly’s and Nate’s pride in their sexuality, I have to respectfully disagree with Chris’ sentiments. When so many people across all cultures openly attack something that is integral to your own identity, it seems only natural that you would develop pride in being simply who you are. Besides, all of us have pride that isn’t necessarily in opposition to Jesus. We take pride in our kid’s accomplishments. We have pride in our nation, our alma maters, other family members and our spouses, etc. There are times when, honestly, we might feel more pride in our child’s sports accomplishment than we do in Jesus. I think Jesus gets that and certainly doesn’t hold it against us.

  • Nate

    RD, Just for the record I don’t stand on pride in my sexuality. I stand on the bible being the inerrant, infallible word of God. I recognize that many want to recast and re-interpret it in light of the “new” culture, but I do not presume that to be an option. So, this is not about sexuality; it is about the authority of God and His word.

  • Chris

    Let me say that being gay does not exclude you from Christ or Gods blessings! If sin did that then all would be lost! However living outside Gods will prevent God from blessing our lives in that area. We may experience good things but they are not because we are living in Gods will! Afterall sun and rain fall on the just and unjust alike!

    Also I know this has been discussed and discussed in many places and I am under no illusion that either side will convince the other.

    That being said I’d like to respond to a couple points made:

    RD wrote “More and more evangelical Christians are recognizing that the Bible is one way that God speaks to us, but that God also speaks through the creation, through scientific discovery, medical advancements and through the moving “voice” of the Holy Spirit.”

    I agree however Gods word is the standard. If anything contradicts Gods word its not God speaking! I thought Presbyterians for Renewal said it best here:

    “Blurring or obscuring the clear teaching of God’s Word in order to keep in step with secular laws and changing personal morals only confuses our witness and causes innumerable problems for the future.”

    RD also wrote “When so many people across all cultures openly attack something that is integral to your own identity, it seems only natural that you would develop pride in being simply who you are. Besides, all of us have pride that isn’t necessarily in opposition to Jesus. We take pride in our kid’s accomplishments. We have pride in our nation, our alma maters, other family members and our spouses, etc. There are times when, honestly, we might feel more pride in our child’s sports accomplishment than we do in Jesus. I think Jesus gets that and certainly doesn’t hold it against us.”

    I think not only is that incorrect but dangerous! No such thing as a little pride or “good” pride. We cannot serve too masters! We either serve Christ or ourselves we cannot do both!

    Yes its natural to develop pride just like its natural to sin! That’s why God had do something supernatural to overcome it.

    The most problematic phrase in your statement RD is suggesting that your sexuality identifies yourself. Once again either Christ identifies you or not!

    According to Lewis hell is getting exactly what you want! For me I want what God wants because I know it is much more and far, far better than anything I could dream up! Yes its harder and more painful, yes I cannot freely engage in fulfilling my own desires, yes it’s a sacrifice but its worth it! Carrying my cross now so I wont have to in eternity!

    So to try to define myself by my own needs and desires is settling and ultimately self-defeating in the light of eternity!

  • Brian Krieger

    Interesting quote:

    …we have to remind ourselves of the ever-present tendency in all of us to judge morality by emotion. The most frequent reason I hear people supporting same-sex marriage is that they know some gay couples or individuals. Empathy is a noble human quality but right or wrong does not depend on who is doing the action or on how I feel about those people, just as judging an action wrong should not depend on disliking someone. This might seem obvious to a right thinking person but I have encountered many well-educated people who do not (or cannot?) make the distinction.

    From Dr. Kenneth Howell who is involved in an interesting imbroglio. I do disagree with his final statements about how we make moral conclusions, though.

    Matt Kaufman wrote on this story:

    And finally, there’s something affirming even about the tactics of Howell’s assailants. Their eagerness not to refute him, but to silence him, is a reminder of how much the darkness hates the light. Is that how people secure in their convictions act?

  • Nathan

    I don’t want people to misunderstand me — I am not proud of my sexuality. Also, I am not on the liberal side nor am I on the conservative side – there are more than two sides to this issue. There are a lot of issues surrounding homosexuality – physical action, physical attraction, gender roles, gender norms, biblical definition of marriage, cultural/legal/political definition of marriage, singleness, community, personality traits.

    The conservative church gets the message right concerning physical action & the Biblical definition of marriage, but for everything else they are messed up, especially when it comes to gender norms, singleness, community and personality traits.

  • Nathan


    I think people are just as emotional when they they reject people that appear to be gay or have traits that they consider are gay.

  • Kelly

    Brian…your point is well made. But, it is not empathy per se that makes those of us who approach this scriptural question do so in a manner different from you. It merely makes us look at scripture itself and ask if we have been reading it the right way for centuries…or if, like a lot of other issues, it was time to reconsider what once seemed very obvious. This is hardly the only issue where we have (all of us) done this.

  • James


    I’m interested in the many issues that you think we (I’m assuming you mean church history here) have been reading the wrong way for centuries.

  • Brian Krieger


    Oh, I wholeheartedly agree. But the crux was not that there is emotion involved, but too many times it is used to establish one’s position (that’s the main point). While this does go on both sides, the first place to start in a morality discussion is God’s word. On this issue, it does speak clearly. Just because those homosexuals I know are really nice people doesn’t change what He says on it. More importantly, just because more people accept it as OK doesn’t make it OK, either (I think, you know that).

    Coupled with that, though, we do have to realize that our model is still Christ. Which means we really do call sin sin, yet we don’t avoid contact, simply pointing fingers and yelling (that is one thing that Kelly and others rightly identify).

  • Kelly

    Slavery (church supported it before thankfull, it lead the charge to end it), usury (the history of this speaks for itself also), role of women (which to all the mainline, the pentecostals, and most of even conservative protestantism in general, the Baptists are most certainly in the minority opinion on this issue), imperialism (self explanatory). Evolutionary biology (from the mainline world wide, to the Orthodox “big O” to the Roman Catholics, which for all their faults are still Christians, and HALF of Christianity just themselves, dwarfing the Baptists worldwide, there is acceptance that to be Christian AND believe God made us by evolution is fully accepted. Its offical doctrine of these denominations, and they represent WAY, WAY more Christians than you…disagree if you will, but, it is undenyable that the majority of Christian denominations have certainly changed on this issue.) Racism, which was once fully supported by the Christian religious hierarchy (before, blessedly, after CENTURIES, Christians then called “radicals” and “progressives” lead the charge against it. Credit to many Baptists, who, often upsetting the local apple cart, lead the charge to accept this change and admit they they had “had it wrong”)

    Shall I go on?
    This list was provided me by a secular Jewish friend by the way with “no dog in this hunt”, and a distinct dislike revisionist history, but a love of stone cold facts.
    As s Buddhist pal of mine points out, one of the great “points of genius” of Christianity, is its ability to change core understanding of doctrine (not doctrine itself so much…but the application and understanding thereof) as necessity and new evidence has called for it…a thing most other faiths have had a MUCH harder time doing.

    The message of salvation stays the same….but science can grow, women can emerge from the shadows, gay people can experience freedom and social safety, banking can flourish, and society can grow in Chrisitan lands in a way that one does NOT see in Islamic lands….where the “the Koran says it, I believe it, that settles it” no new approach to understaning leads to stoning of women in Iran, gays killed…and a host of otehr problems.

    enough said

  • Chris

    Kelly not sure what you mean by “enough said”!

    Christians may have had things wrong throughout history but the bible stands!

    There is is no comparison between women’s roles, slavery, racism with sexuality! The former were cultural and the latter began in the beginning with creation! Cultures change but God’s word and Gods plans do not!

    BTW listening to people outside your faith for guidance within your faith should concern you!

  • Kelly

    Chris, NOT listening to the wisdom of a wise and Educated Jew would be an action tht should cause concern. I find Jews have a REMARKABLE fascination with the Old Testament, and study it with intensity, and are thus a good source to go to for understanding it.

    And, “enough said”. The comparisons stand. It was asked “how has the church changed” and I provided examples. Several of them in fact, of how the church looks VERY differently at some things now than it used to. No comparison indeed!

    And, like it or not, the whole point, that as people spend mroe time with gay friends and relatives, the more they go “huh….they are not the freaks I heard about in church, and are good Christian people (or not…depends on the person, of course). And society already IS past a tipping point in how it looks at this issue.

    You have your interpretation of Gods plans and how to read Gods word. Which is your right. So do we.

  • Chris

    Kelly I am sure you are a lovely person with a heart for God but no matter how hard you try there are some facts that you cannot change just because they do not fit in with how YOU want to live your life. When we give our lives to Christ, our lives are no longer ours to live as WE wish!

    Do you always follow the way of society? Do you believe Christianity is about being “good”? Are you letting the world transform you instead of Christ?

    What many fail to realize is our cultures opening view of sexuality is a regression not a progression. One only has to start reading the bible to see how this open view is a reversion back to ancient societies that lived in rejection of God.

    For the record I see no one as a freak except maybe myself! 🙂

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