- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (3 October 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1582345198
- ISBN-13: 978-1582345192
- Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.8 x 21.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ FREE Delivery
God and Country: How Evangelicals Have Become America's New Mainstream Hardcover – Import, 3 Oct 2006
According to former evangelical Christian El-Faizy, as much as 44 percent of Americans are evangelicals, and to the greater American society, they constitute a mystery. She convincingly argues that they are "the new establishment" and exert considerable influence on virtually every aspect of American life and culture. She examines many facets of that influence: megachurches, Christian rock, Christian publishing, Christian television, and Christian idealism in the movie industry and politics. Evangelicals can be hard to categorize, for many have no specific denominational affiliation. What makes them so important, El-Faizy says, is their remarkable ability to adopt the attitude of secular America; they "have learned to straddle two worlds--their own and the one that the rest of us live in." Discriminating evangelicals from fundamentalists (a matter more of attitude than of belief), sketching American evangelical history, and describing how evangelicals find and retain new adherents, El-Faizy offers an informed and perceptive portrait of the state of evangelicalism in America today. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
About the Author
Monique El-Faizy is a journalist whose work has appeared in the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, the St. Petersburg Times, Cosmopolitan (UK), GQ, Parents, Moscow Magazine, and the Moscow Guardian, among others. She currently works at the New York Daily News, and has worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Associated Press and the Bergen Record. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter mobile phone number.
|5 star (0%)|
|4 star (0%)|
|3 star (0%)|
|2 star (0%)|
|1 star (0%)|
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
From page one, El-Faizy demonstrates that she has a firm grasp on the realities of the evangelical world. An evangelical until her college years, El-Faizy has retained --- or perhaps more accurately, regained --- a healthy respect for the spiritual movement she left behind. "I have come to know evangelicals who are genuine, interesting, intellectually curious, and engaged with the world in which we all live," she writes, and for that sentence alone, evangelicals everywhere should express their heartfelt gratitude. They "cannot be painted with...a broad brush," she continues several pages later. "They are more diverse, and, in many areas, more moderate than those outside of the fold realize, which is why they have become so influential." Can I hear an "Amen"?
El-Faizy admits to a one-time bias against evangelicals, but it was just that perspective that enabled her to see the same prejudice among her media colleagues. In setting out to investigate this national religious phenomenon --- the rise of evangelicalism in every area of American life --- she left no spiritual stone unturned. Not only did she visit some of the movement's most prominent churches, she also did a thorough examination of such areas as the publishing industry, music and film, pop culture, academia and the home schooling movement.
Among the churches she visited over the year she spent working on the book were Without Walls in Tampa, FL, where Paula White, friend to the homeless as well as Donald Trump, preaches "as if she is channeling Aretha Franklin"; Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA, whose legacy of involvement in the civil rights movement in the 1960s continues today with programs for providing affordable housing and drug rehabilitation; and Bill Hybels's mall-like Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL, where "the down-to-earth attitude feels more authentic than forced," she writes.
El-Faizy also looks at the changing nature of evangelism itself, one of the hallmarks of the movement. Accustomed to the kind of evangelism that felt more like an "ambush" in her earlier years, the author discovers that evangelicals today are more likely to share their faith in subtle ways that place their genuine personal relationships above the expectation that their friends and neighbors will make an immediate decision for Christ. Finally, the author gives some ink to the emerging church movement, which just may hold the key to the future survival of evangelicalism in an increasingly secularized society. In that section, she discusses the impact of Erwin McManus, whose L.A. church, Mosaic, was the first "genuinely hip" place she found; Brian McLaren, undisputed "leader" --- though he eschews that title --- of what he calls the emerging conversation; and "laid-back surfer type" Spencer Burke, who manages a popular website.
El-Faizy gets high marks for her thorough and largely accurate look at evangelicalism. She makes one unfortunate misstep in writing that evangelicals believe in predestination. Well, they do and they don't, which is where an understanding of theological nuances is critical. Without getting all academic here, let's just say that when most people hear "predestination," they think of its narrowest meaning --- that God has predestined individuals to spend eternity either in heaven or in hell. Most evangelicals definitely do not believe in that kind of predestination.
Aside from that, El-Faizy shows remarkable insight and understanding. Readers outside the evangelical world can learn a great deal from GOD AND COUNTRY; readers inside that world need to thank God, shout hallelujah and give El-Faizy an "attagirl" for her excellent research and depth of understanding.
--- Reviewed by Marcia Ford
Of these, two are written by former "fundamentalists" themselves, Jeffery Sheler and Monique El-Faizy, and the way in which they became fundamentalist often colors the tone of their perception of evangelicalism. Sheler was a lonely teenager who decided for himself to attend a fundamentalist church in Michigan. El-Faizy, however, was brought into a fundamentalist church in California as an eight-year-old when her parents joined the church. For ten years she claims to have embraced these beliefs. For Sheler it was much shorter, though eventually he found his way to a decidedly less-conservative Presbyterian church in Washington D.C.
Along the way, the paths of Sheler and El-Faizy likewise intersect (though not at the same time), visiting Colorado Springs though different people, Rick Warren's Saddleback Church (CA), Wheaton College (IL), and the Creation (Christian Rock) Festival in south-central Pennsylvania. Similarly, they both deliver mostly spot-on chapters dedicated to the history of evangelicalism in America, thanks in no small part to church historian Mark Noll of Notre Dame. Their paths also diverge, Sheler spending more time addressing the influence of evangelicals in politics while El-Faizy delivers a stunning and sobering assessment of the Christian media (publishing, music, and Hollywood).
Earlier in her book when she, like Sheler, visits her original home church then visits a section of other congregations, a repetitive theme seems to develop around the conscious attempts of Christians to sell Jesus. At first I wondered what in the world was the source of her perception. When I finally hit chapter five, "Spreading the Word," it became clear. El-Faizy believes evangelicals are selling out in order to become kosher to the mainstream; employing the same marketing techniques as their secular counterparts to sell a softer, friendlier Jesus who, as a matter of fact, might not even get mentioned!
Thus, the problem is not that the public sees Christians as morphs of Falwell, Dobson, and Robertson, or that they once saw Christians as hapless hypocrites after the fashion of Bakker and Swaggart. The problem is that neither are true but what is true is a problem.
Of course, from El-Faizy's perspective, it is up to the discerning reader to recognize this, as she is prone to giving mixed messages. In her chapters on Christian publishing and music, she faults evangelicals for adopting secular tactics in marketing their products. But in the chapter on Hollywood and Christian colleges, she faults evangelicals for failing to be broad enough in their perspectives. So, the moral of the story would be that evangelicals need to engage the world with caution but faithfully, recognizing that many will always criticize (Luke 7:31-35).
One poignant remark that particularly resonated with me was the observation that attending Wheaton College (IL) was a rather traumatic hurdle for many who had come with a simplistic knowledge of Scripture. I myself had undergone a similar crisis of faith when I first attended seminary, discovering that critical issues related to biblical study were a vastly more complex endeavor than "Jesus loves me, this I know ..." For me, accepting the unmitigated veracity of gospel truth was indeed a crucible of trust that ultimately strengthened my personal faith. For yet others, such crises of certitude will perhaps lead to an irretrievable "falling off the wagon," an experience the author claims for herself (though in different words, of course).
Further, El-Faizy, to her credit, gives props where props are deserved. She rightly identifies Robert Shuller as the forefather of the seeker-sensitive church movement and Chuck Smith's Maranatha Music as responsible for the sea-change in American worship style and the emergence of Christian contemporary music as a force.
Like Sheler also, she occasionally stumbles in her characterizations, labeling James Dobson as a fundamentalist (rather than evangelical). She also compares the theology behind the Left Behind series as a nineteenth-century phenomena equivalent to the emergence of the horror novel (Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.). Perhaps the greatest divergence from Sheler is that she does not look wistfully back upon her own experience with Christianity.
For this reason, she is to be especially commended for remaining the objective reporter she is, and in the process, giving Christians something to chew on. This is a book to be reckoned with, and not so much for the benefit of the secularists who need to discover that Christians are really not all that different from themselves. No, this a must-read for Christians, a shot across the bow if you will.
The author does a amazing job in making you feel like you are going with her during her fascinating research. After reading the book which I found to be very enlightening I felt challenged emotionally and spiritually. I applaude the writer for her in depth research and would enocurage her to keep seeking "truth".