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In the Land of Believers: An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church

3.45  ·  Rating Details ·  436 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
An undercover exploration of the world of evangelicals, offering an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at the faithful

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
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ebook, 352 pages
Published March 2nd 2010 by Metropolitan Books (first published 2010)
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Petra Eggs
Feb 03, 2015 Petra Eggs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-read, reviewed
Quite mad tribal-Jew Gina Welch decides that despite her atheist views she will infiltrate Jerry Falwell's church and write a book about how these evangelicals really are. I'm about 50 pages in and so far Gina is showing she might have mega brains but is quite doolally and that Jerry's happy-in-the-Lord lot are too, but it in a different way. You just know that she's going to see things their way at some point (even including giving your car over to Jesus so that if it gets wrecked, it was meant ...more
Kimberly
Feb 27, 2010 Kimberly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the Land of Believers by Gina Welch is such a great story and is incredibly well written (more on that later). Gina, an atheist Yale grad from California, is intrigued by evangelicals and quite curious about their beliefs, way of life and commitment to the church. She decides to go undercover at Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Church in Virginia, where she joins a singles group called EPIC and goes on a missionary trip to Alaska. At first, she is confused and disoriented, unfamiliar with the bibl ...more
Stephanie
Oct 17, 2010 Stephanie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
I found this book disturbing. Welch is a solid writer and she tells an okay if not overly drawn-out story. That being said, what she did is wrong. I’m not opposed to the going undercover part, but what gets me is the utter lack of respect she has for the culture of Evangelicals. Her decision to get baptized and to participate regularly in Communion—sacred acts for Believers—is completely demeaning and dehumanizing. Would she approve this approach for any other culture—would she think it okay to ...more
Andrew Campbell
An altogether fascinating and through-and-through frustrating book.

I'm glad Ms. Welch took the time, thought, and made the personal sacrifice to get to know religious persons of another ilk and to be able to identify value in religious experience. Her book is peppered with shrewd and reasonable perspective on the harm of hit-and-run evangelism, the frequent hypocrisy of professed faith, and the casual meanness of the church-going. It is also, at times, laughably paranoid and judgmental- most of
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John
May 04, 2011 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, I want to say that, though I have little first hand knowledge of the evangelical scene, Falwell's church probably wasn't the best place to find out about it. The place seems like a cult to me from her description, with its rules and reliance upon conformity to such an extent. I had never heard of "The Sinner's Prayer" before, but they seem to see it as a Get-Out-of-Hell-Free-Card. She attends a "free dinner" for loyal members, that turns out a time-share-like shakedown for donations. Was ...more
Kate
Dec 14, 2010 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faith
As a progressive Christian who currently attends an evangelical church, I was intrigued by the idea of Gina Welch’s book, but it only took a few chapters to become offended by the execution. She approaches her experiment of trying to figure out evangelicals as if she’s off to study chimps in Africa, oozing all the condescension of a Victorian explorer. Even after she finds that some of her fellow church members are actually nice people who think and can converse in full sentences, the patronizin ...more
Mark
Jun 07, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found myself wondering why I'm attracted to these "outsiders trying to get a handle on Evangelical culture & practice" books... I speculated yesterday that it's because I (even though I grew up in Southern Baptist churches and have been in the ministry since the mid-80's) feel like an outsider sometimes myself.

A couple of quick thoughts before I wholeheartedly recommend reading the book:

- Thomas Road Baptist Church isn't a perfect snapshot of the Evangelical movement. Heck, it's not even a
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Sandi
Jan 31, 2012 Sandi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read over 100 pages of this book, but just couldn't bring myself to waste any more time on it. I tried very hard to like it but the condescension was too much. The concept of an outsider trying to understand those she disdains is admirable, but she can't quite get over how smart she is compared with the quaint folks she's judging.
Her method of lying to fit in might fly for the church overall, but the individuals who befriended her seemed genuinely hurt. And evidently, she had no idea that you
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Marilyn
Aug 12, 2010 Marilyn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I could only get half way through this book. Ms. Welch is so caught up in her own ego and being a Yale alum, that it's hard to take her "insights" as objective.
I also had a hard time with the book since it really isn't about "Believers" and "The Evangelical Church" as she proclaims, but merely, Jerry Falwell's church and whatever local outcroppings she has come across. I find this extremely short sighted and wonder if she's ever gone to an Evangelical church in New York like Redeemer Presbyteri
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Ellen Keim
Jun 28, 2014 Ellen Keim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's interesting that there was a similar book that came out the year before this one (The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. Were they both in the works at the same time? Did the authors know about each other's projects? Was it just a coincidence?

Whatever the circumstances, the premise for both is similar except that in this one the author goes undercover as a church-goer over a period of two years and in the other the author goes undercover as a student at
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Todd Stockslager
Kevin Roose's The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University has apparently started a sub-genre of "Ivy League impostors infiltrating Jerry Falwell." As you will know if you read my review of Roose's interesting book, I have a vested interest in Liberty University, so when this became available for review through Amazon Vine I jumped at the chance.

These journeys through Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church (both undertaken explicitly for publication in ea
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Bookworm1858
Jun 30, 2010 Bookworm1858 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
In the Land of Believers by Gina Welch
Metropolitan Books, 2010
328 pages
Non-fiction; Religion; Memoir

Source: The library

Summary: Gina Welch undertook a journey in to the church founded by controversial preacher Jerry Falwell in order to understand evangelicals in comparison to her own Jewish/atheist liberal background.

Thoughts: I saw several reviews of this in the blogosphere and I enjoyed reading Kevin Roose's The Unlikely Disciple (which I recommend and read pre-blog), which seemed similar. His
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Ross Blocher
Jan 26, 2015 Ross Blocher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed Gina Welch's year-plus foray into the world of Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church - it rings true to my own Evangelical upbringing on many levels. This surprised me, as I was raised in California and figured the Virginia counterpart should be far more extreme. Instead, it felt quite familiar. I also am in the rare position to sympathize with her methodology, as I have joined a number of religious groups as part of a podcast I co-host (and suffered some of the same dil ...more
Alli Treman
Jul 15, 2013 Alli Treman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Growing up Protestant, I've always thought of Evangelicals as the "wrong" or "misguided" kind of Christians, and a label to push as far away as possible. I think, despite my own background and beliefs, I would've gone into the experiment with similar prejudices as Gina.

It was interesting to me to read because she would write with confusion about things I understood, like singing along with hymns with the words projected in front and people raising their hands, but then it would take a turn into
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Lauren Hopkins
Jul 25, 2011 Lauren Hopkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Gina Welch's tales of going undercover at Thomas Road Baptist Church. As another Ivy League educated atheist with a curiosity about the Christian faith (and any religion, really) I was especially interested in seeing another's take on the evangelical world. I was very glad to see that Welch went in not to mock, but with an open mind (and heart) even though she had doubts. She does a great job describing people and events without judging; she manages to put aside any bias and ethnocentris ...more
Sarah Rosenberger
First of all, this journey isn't really as extraodinary or revolutionary as Welch thinks. Not only has it been done before, it's been done with the exact same subset of evangelicals (see: The Unlikely Disciple). Exposes or explorations of contemporary Evangelical Christianity have been around for years and publishers keep churning out more all the time. This book is just one more addition to that body of work.

So how does it compare to the others? I've read better. My biggest problem with this bo
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Tammy
Apr 26, 2010 Tammy marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
I only read 50 or so pages of this one before I decided to put it down. The author grated on my nerves too much. She decides to go "undercover" (a term that irritates me to start with, as Evangelicals are not some secret, mysterious society) but apparently does no research and learns nothing about them before jumping in. She appears to be believe that all Evangelicals are carbon-copies of each other in how they dress, talk, and think. And she comes across as incredibly smug, in the "these people ...more
Robyn Stuber
While the author wrote very well, I am disturbed by the fact that she blatantly lied to and deceived so many people. I also did not feel that the book ended well, as she started out trying to answer a question and yet could not answer it or even give it closer.
Rhonda
May 18, 2010 Rhonda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
Chose this book because I thought it was a look into the world of evangelicals...I didn't realize it was an undercover investigation into their lives by an atheist, a very skeptical atheist,young Gina. It turned out to be quite enlightening, a very open look from the outside in, complete with sarcasm, criticism, and honesty!
She travels to Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church once, sometimes twice a week, to participate in classes and services, even goes on a mission trip to Alaska for a we
...more
Georgetowner
I hardly know how to rate this...I had a love/hate relationship with this book the whole way through! First of all, I believe her. I spent two years at Thomas Road and all her details ring very true to me. Secondly, her condescending attitude through much of the book, especially the first half, was palpable and somewhat painful to me. Thirdly, I had left TRBC by the time she arrived so she gave me a window into events that happened after I left, but that I knew about and that was priceless. Four ...more
Vicwelborn
May 13, 2017 Vicwelborn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
first third I hated as the author was lying so, second third I disliked as it was like lets go to the zoo and watch the evangelicals, and the third third I really really liked. Helped for me that the last part was in Alaska a lot. I think I was actually feeling the emotions the author intended to evoke.

UPDATE: After book club meeting i dropped my rating.. we discussed the betrayal aspects, and also the many many times the author described the beliefs of Falwell and his congregation as the belief
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Tim Larison
Mar 29, 2013 Tim Larison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently I came across Gina Welch’s insightful look into the evangelical church in her first book “In The Land Of Believers”

If a movie were to be made of earlier years it might be titled “I Was A Teenage Fundamentalist”! Yes in my younger days I was a conservative Bible believer. Over the years my spiritual outlook transformed to a much more open, loving, and inclusive world view. Gina’s book brought back memories of my fundamentalist past. She provides an interesting look into the Evangelical m
...more
Heather
Jan 23, 2014 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before I talk about my thoughts on this book, let me explain my own personal beliefs and where I was coming from when I decided to read it. You all know I’m Christian, right? But I’m not Baptist, nor am I a huge fan (or any kind of fan actually) of Jerry Falwell and his hateful ways. I think Christianity – and religion in general – should be a way to bring people together and show love, not tear people apart and preach hate at anyone who doesn’t agree or share the same “lifestyle”. I’ve been int ...more
Michelle Lancaster
An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey Into the Heart of the Evangelical Church
By Gina Welch
Picador 333 pgs
978-0-8050-8337-8
Rating: 3.5

Gina Welch writes "...And you're never more like Christ than when you're forgiving the unforgivable."

She also writes "...You can see anything you want if you've already decided what you're looking at."

These are my favorite lines from Gina Welch's cultural experiment. Ms. Welch was raised a secular Jew by a single mother in Berkeley, California. She is a Yale graduat
...more
Florinda
Mar 01, 2012 Florinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trying to get a grasp of the forces driving much public opinion and political action during the last decade, Gina Welch decides to go to one of their sources: Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell. Welch understands that she won't learn much approaching as a reporter or an outsider, so she decides to go within, presenting her secular-Jewish self as a prospective church member. It's a little dicey at first, but as Gina becomes part of the church's young- ...more
Michael Miller
Apr 18, 2013 Michael Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gina Welch is a good writer. Throughout the narrative of her two years at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, she employs many well-crafted turns of phrase, at times humorous, poignant, and insightful. That she teaches writing comes as no surprise. She does overreach occasionally, but she managed to keep my interest throughout.

Before commenting on the substance of her book, I feel obligated to state that I am one of the evangelicals about who she writes. She tends, as happens so
...more
Amanda
Aug 14, 2011 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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Lissa
Gina Welch, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of evangelical Christians, pretends to be interested in learning about Christianity (later, when that gets her virtually nowhere, she pretends to be a convert and is even baptized). Although she never espouses the beliefs of Thomas Road Baptist Church (made famous because of its founder, Jerry Falwell, who dies during Ms. Welch's study), she does make some genuine friends and realizes that evangelicals aren't nearly as alien as she thought ...more
Tess
May 29, 2010 Tess rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faith
I have mixed feelings about this one, but I'm really glad it was written. I have to question the sensationalism of the topic, of living in relatively modest Central Virginia and needing to go find the most extreme church possible...it feels like a bit of a grab for a more titillating, less serious / scholarly pursuit. But, of course, books gotta get sold. And to be fair, I think she notes that she sought out a church that she knew it would be hard to relate to, rather than one of the (vastly mor ...more
you know that you want my books ;)
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