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God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  257 ratings  ·  60 reviews
In the wake of the 2016 election, Lyz Lenz watched as her country and her marriage were torn apart by the competing forces of faith and politics. A mother of two, a Christian, and a lifelong resident of middle America, Lenz was bewildered by the pain and loss around her--the empty churches and the broken hearts. What was happening to faith in the heartland?

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Hardcover, 176 pages
Published July 19th 2019 by Indiana University Press
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4.03  · 
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 ·  257 ratings  ·  60 reviews


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Rick Lee Lee James
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
A moving story of an authentic quest for faith. Many who have found their faith at a breaking point due to the effects of Trumpian Evangelical Christianity will find a welcome companion on their journey in these pages.

The author on her journalistic and faith journey, rightly calls out many hypocrisies in white evangelical Maga Christianity while at the same time lifting up the sincerity and loving hearts of many within it. She is truthful about her thoughts and makes several brave confessions of
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Elisabeth
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I received an advanced reading copy, opinions are my own.

I can identify with this author’s journey through faith as I began a similar journey 20 years ago. The outcome for me wasn’t the same but the outsiderness and the loss of relationships were a very real issue for me as well.

I am interested in understanding why people want to stay with a faith that doesn’t really want them and they don’t really believe in. I guess it’s hard to give up the history of faith and family in the way that you were
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Kirsti
When I started following Lyz Lenz on Twitter, I thought she was a stand-up comedian. It turns out she is a journalist and memoirist who has created a searing and thoughtful (but also funny and compelling) book about what it means to be an evangelical Christian right now in the midwestern United States. I enjoyed the book tremendously and have recommended it to friends. So often Christian women are pressured to tamp down their exuberance, leadership ability, anger, and disappointment, and this bo ...more
Emily
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This one hit really close to home. Lenz combines reporting from churches throughout the Midwest with deeply personal stories about her faith, the evolution of her politics, dissolution of her marriage, and a failed church plant. Her stories show the good (community! potlucks! lovely traditions! mutual care in rural areas!), but don't shy away from the messy. It's a deep, nuanced, complicated--even diverse--look at the Midwest. She lives in Iowa and spends time getting to know communities and con ...more
Kari
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2019
“A white Christian pastor, ignoring the violence against Muslims while perpetuating a victim narrative for Tim Tebow, is part of the story of faith, most notably the stories we fail to tell. And these silences are inextricably linked to race, power, and class.”

“And if we want to know what is happening with faith in America, we have to look at the effects of faith, even the violent ones. Even if we believe we are not that kind of Christian, not that kind of white person, not that kind of man, not
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Alison
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I spent the better part of my day today reading this book. It was earth-shattering for me. I dug out my sticky page-markers so I could remember all the beautiful, brilliant, true passages. This country is falling apart (let's stop pretending otherwise), and Christianity--white, evangelical, conservative Christianity, to be precise--has had a hell of a lot to do with that. Lenz is a Christian saying she's been deeply, deeply on the inside and, yeah, it's really bad, but she wants to keep fighting ...more
Shelly
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such a good book that I read it with every free reading minute I had. I got my copy from the library but also plan to buy a copy to gift.
Holly
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm really enjoying the story of this writer/journalist's path through and away from the Evangelical church, and how it coincides with the rise of Trumpian conservatism. But I find myself distracted and frustrated by the many grammar and punctuation errors. Please, Indiana University Press, it's worth the money to pay for copyediting. (P.S. See my LinkedIn page if you're looking for a good freelancer to help out with this!)
Byvynyl
Jul 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is fucking fiction because white evangelicals don't feel remorse and are incapable of being introspective. Their religion is founded on racism.
Chris Hubbs
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reads
God Land is an insightful and challenging critique of Christianity in Middle America. Lyz Lenz clearly still loves her Midwestern home, but laments that the predominant Christian voices are conflating Republicanism, gun culture, and male-only leadership with the message of Jesus.

God Land doesn't try to paint an overly cheery "we just shouldn't let politics divide us" picture. Lenz's own story illustrates how divisive these issues can be on a personal level. She doesn't pull punches as she recoun
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Alex Joyner
Lyz Lenz is so funny sometimes that you can forget that she has written a hard book. As, for instance, when she’s surveying the physical layout of cookie-cutter megachurches and says that “the decor looks like a Hobby Lobby vomited all over the place” (115). That’s the vibrant Lyz that you want giving you the tour. But there’s a whole lot more going on in God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America and the angry, grieving, defiant Lyz needs to tell the rest of this story. You ...more
Christy
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars for the content, 3 or fewer for the lack of editing! Some paragraphs did not contain even one complete sentence, and there were way too many easy-to-fix typos. Almost felt like I received an uncorrected proof, which was distracting. I also felt the author didn’t quite go far enough in condemning the white supremacy inherent to Trump’s ascent to power. Worth a read, but borrow, don’t buy like I did!
Dawn Rupert
Aug 23, 2019 rated it liked it
"God Land" is an attempt to explain the values of the Evangelicals who voted to elect our current president. I would give this book 4 stars for Lyz Lenz's investigating reporting and 2 stars for this turning into a memoir of her difficulty in finding a church she feels comfortable attending.

Lyz Lenz appears to have a troubled life, and I hope she can find 'community' in her new church if this is what she wants and needs. Good luck Ms. Lenz.

Also a criticism on the editing of this book. Several ti
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Shirley
Aug 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
Disappointing. The book lacks good organization, making it hard to follow and tiresome.
Kelly Brill
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lyz Lenz writes a memoir in which three events converge: the dissolving of her marriage, the decline of the mainline Protestant congregation (and the influence of the mainline Protestant movement), and the election of Donald Trump. She seamlessly addresses these three issues, all in the context of life in the upper midwest (Iowa, for her).

She writes with a simple elegance; here's an example: "Across the heartland, churches are dying. Some, like mine, are bright bursts that ignite then die - lea
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Lara
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Sharp and painful and honest. Ms. Lenz has seen a lot of the things I have in evangelical church. In the church I grew up in, everyone knew the woman who planned the music/praise sessions every week, scheduled musical and vocal rehearsals, and was always on stage--but she was an assistant, while a revolving list of men held the title of "Worship Leader". Women were Sunday school teachers, nursery workers, and my pastor spoke glowingly of his incredibly organized and resourceful receptionist, but ...more
Smveal
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
She makes some good points in this memoir, but leaves a great number of loose ends. It's really primarily her story, and her journey, though she does a good job of briefly illuminating the world of a very specific population: Midwestern Evangelicals. It's by no means a comprehensive study (leaving me to wonder what exactly she was doing during those 2 years of interviews and travel) and is so narrowly focused I wonder what outcome she hopes for other than this rather brutal conclusion given by h ...more
Melissa
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-review
I picked this up because I was interested in her reporting/research on religion/faith in the Midwest (I am 100% a city kid from Cedar Rapids, IA, where Lyz now lives). And she does a great job in tying to get inside that mythos of “midwesterners are the salt of the earth and the “real” backbone of the US”, the cognitive dissonance of faith and politics, etc etc but she also ties much of it to her search for a faith community that did not make her feel small or unwelcome. I think she also did a f ...more
Ashley
Sep 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is fine...but with a little more time and MUCH better editing, it could have been great. (I really cannot stress how abysmally poor the editing is. They done you wrong, Lyz!) This feels like a book that was written in a hurry—lots of repeated statistics, facts, and arguments make it pretty clear this thing was a rush job. And that’s a shame because Lenz dances around some pretty compelling arguments. But the book loses itself too often: right about the time Lenz zeroes in on a truly co ...more
Mark Wheaton
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A deeply felt look at who we are versus who we think we are, particularly for those who might feel at odds with public Christianity in America these days after growing up in the rural church. The kind of book where you wish you could build a time machine and pass it out to everybody in your high school back in the day who might’ve felt inculcated by going to church rather than uplifted.
Sarah Olson
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a book for anyone who has ever felt discomforted by the way the Christian church behaves around Donald Trump's presidency. This is a book for anyone who stood up against the Christian status quo and lost relationships with friends and family as a result. This is a book for those who are grieving the loss of Rachel Held Evans. This is a book for those who want to better understand, with equal measures of compassion and frustration, the conservative Christianity of Middle America. What Len ...more
Caroline
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Searching, trenchant, and tender. Could have been better copy-edited, but I'm interested in reading more on this topic & others from Lenz.
David
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book as its best when the author describes the pain and frustration she experienced in evangelical churches, where the "gentle grasp of patriarchy" came to feel like a stranglehold. In Lenz's telling, evangelical Christianity has a softer, shaggier feel than it did in her childhood. But while the pastor may be wearing flannel and a three-day scruff, the repressive structures remain largely in place, and the theology is often "nothing more than a justification for white privilege."
"I wanted t
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sharon
Touching, tender, and true, Lyz Lenz's account of grappling with white Evangelicalism in the Midwest in the wake of the 2016 election, both as journalistic study and as personal rupture, is a formidable reckoning that pulls no punches. She draws from sociology, history, and personal anecdote to explode the myth that America was once a "more Christian" nation with "better values," keeping a firmly intersectional lens trained on her subject at all times. Better for whom? More of what kind of Chris ...more
Gwen
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Gwen by: Read Harder Challenge 2015: a book published by an indie press
Solid collection of essays on the shifts in Midwestern Christianity as highlighted in the wake of the 2016 election. Not as much analysis as I would have liked, but Lenz's personal connection to the subject is quite compelling. I'm glad that C-SPAN taped her talk at Politics and Prose.

My favorite quote [on why leaving the church isn't easy]:
...it isn't just about church, it is about community and family. It's hard to walk away from the place that raised you, the people who were there when you w
...more
Maggie Mason
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“For a young mother church was more than a religious education -– it was her community. ‘Some weeks, I only left the house to go to church,’ she tells me. The women in the congregation shared cold remedies for babies, which, according to Evelyn, involved ‘steam and some molasses.’ ...Betty tells me those years were the worst years of her life. And in those years, church with her escape and her sanity.”

“I believe Marilyn is talking in general terms. I think if I told her about my life and my purp
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Rebecca H.
God Land is a book about loss on a personal and cultural level. It’s about Lyz Lenz’s loss of a church, a marriage, and confidence in many of the people she had trusted. It’s also about Middle America’s ongoing loss of churches and the community, confidence, and identity that came with those institutions. It’s part social history, part memoir, and it grapples with what makes it possible for a region to be so devout and also so supportive of Trump. Lenz’s own story is moving as she describes the ...more
Elizabeth Stolar
Sep 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I can’t recall how this book got into my radar but I had put in a request at the library and it came through but I wasn’t sure what to expect. I took it with on a plane trip and it made for some interesting reading but I’d like more. I kept thinking the author should’ve just been done with the whole right wing church thing long ago and just joined a UU church. But I get that it was difficult for her. I found the book to be quite repetitive, which is a larger problem when the book is already shor ...more
Linda
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019
Because I follow Lenz on Twitter (and think she is hysterical), I grabbed this book from my library. I was expecting a sweet little memoir chronicling the destruction of her marriage after the 2016 election...at least, that is how I had heard it described. What I got was an investigation of organized religion and Faith in the post-2016 Midwest enhanced by personal stories (from her and others). I loved this book (I almost gave it 4 stars instead of 5. It was too short!!!).

A note: I am often fru
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Brian
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Key Takeaways from “ God Land “, explicit or implicit:

1. Society continues to evolve with change, as mentioned in this book, the rural landscape
2. Younger generations are not as aligned to mainline denominations; instead, they are looking for higher engagement
3. The church must respond to loud societal changes, irrespective of separation from church and state. However, there is a fine line, for the risk of alienating those with differences of opinion is real. (At this juncture, I’m reading Phill
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Lyz Lenz has been published in the New York Times, Buzzfeed, Washington Post, The Guardian, ESPN, Marie Claire, Mashable, Salon, and more. Her book Belabored: Tales of Myth, Medicine, and Motherhood is forthcoming. She also has an essay in the anthology Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay. Lenz holds an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University and is a contributin ...more
“So many of the dissertations and books I've read about revitalizing the American church fetishize the new life, without fully grappling with the death.” 0 likes
“Everything is political. Our wounds and our worship. We want our faith to transcend the political, but we can only do that when we exist in sameness. When barriers collapse, our wounds are revealed, and wounds are political because they involve pain.” 0 likes
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