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March 22 , 2008

In the Land of Believers

An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church


An undercover exploration of the world of evangelicals, offering an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at the faithful

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You May Take the Witness

When Clinton Giddings Brown (1882–1964) retired from a long and successful career as a trial lawyer in San Antonio, Texas, fishing on the Gulf Coast was out—by doctor’s orders. So he sat on the front gallery of his house in San Antonio and fished with a lead pencil in the richly stocked memories of his professional life. “Some days I didn’t get a…

Ever since evangelical Christians rose to national prominence, mainstream America has tracked their every move with a nervous eye. But in spite of this vigilance, our understanding hasn't gone beyond the caricatures. Who are evangelicals, really? What are they like in private, and what do they want? Is it possible that beneath the differences in culture and language, church and party, we might share with them some common purpose?

To find out, Gina Welch, a young secular Jew from Berkeley, joined Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church. Over the course of nearly two years, Welch immersed herself in the life and language of the devout: she learned to interpret the world like an evangelical, weathered the death of Falwell, and embarked on a mission trip to Alaska intended to save one hundred souls. Alive to the meaning behind the music and the mind behind the slogans, Welch recognized the allure of evangelicalism, even for the godless, realizing that the congregation met needs and answered questions she didn't know she had.

What emerges is a riveting account of a skeptic's transformation from uninformed cynicism to compassionate understanding, and a rare view of how evangelicals see themselves. Revealing their generosity and hopefulness, as well as their prejudice and exceptionalism, In the Land of Believers is a call for comprehending, rather than dismissing, the impassioned believers who have become so central a force in American life.

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