In the Land of Believers
by Gina Welch
Reader Appeal: Adults & College Students
PopFam Rating: B
If you like reading books that get under your skin and fester, this is a book you'll want to read. In The Land of Believers is an exploration of Evangelical Christianity from the perspective of a liberal atheist who is attempting to understand Christians. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? And, oh, it is.
Gina Welch grew up in Berkeley, California as an atheist secular Jew, and believed herself to be open-minded and unprejudiced...until she moved to Virginia, that is. And then she realized how she had pigeon-holed a large section of Americans into what she believed them to be: bar-b-que loving, carnival going, gingham wearing people who talked funny. A revelation which ultimately led her to explore another people group she didn't understand. Evangelical Christians. People who are 100 percent opposite in belief and culture from herself.
Now, I'm not quite sure why she didn't just begin asking questions of Christian co-workers, or go to the local church on the corner to explore the beliefs of Christianity (well, I do know, but you'll have to read the book to find out), but instead Gina begins attending Thomas Road Baptist Church (the church many of us know as "Jerry Falwell's church") undercover. To the folks at Thomas Road, Gina was a Christian. She accepted Christ on a Sunday morning and was shortly thereafter baptized. She attended the singles group and went on a missions trip to Alaska. While she was truthful about as much of herself as possible, she lied about the most important thing to those with whom she became friends. Having a relationship with Jesus.
This is not even the part that truly got under my skin. What annoyed me the most about the author was her cynicism toward Christians. I know she was trying to understand Christians and their political, moral, and theological beliefs, but the problem is that she has a basic problem with the tenants of our faith, which taints her view of Christians. As a reader, specifically a Christian reader, this was a sticking point and kept me from taking her writing seriously.
In truth, I think Gina should have chosen a less polarizing church and pastor. Jerry Falwell was an extreme right-wing believer who made less than a few inflammatory remarks during his lifetime. While I respect Thomas Road and all they do for God's kingdom, they are only one representation of Christianity and Evangelicals. I think for the author to truly understand and accept Christians for their beliefs and positions on certain issues (homosexuality, abortion, etc), she should have checked her cynicism at the door, and completed a more exhaustive exploration into this fascinating group of people which make up large percentage of American Christians.
Let’s Talk About It
If your family members are interested in this book, then encourage discussion about it afterward. You can use these questions to get started:
• How did this book challenge you in your faith?
• What kind of experience would the author have had if she had attended your church?
• Do you think the author would have gotten the same story if she had been honest about herself, or was going undercover her best option?
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