Why would a self-described New York Jewish liberal immerse himself for a year in the “parallel universe” of evangelical Christian popular culture? Partly from a misplaced fear of the so-called religious right, but largely from a genuine curiosity about this burgeoning alternative to mainstream pop. What journalist Radosh finds is a world peopled with Christian versions of Eminem, Hulk Hogan, Jon Stewart, and Dr. Ruth, all of whom find biblical support for their unusual ministries. A Christian retailing show, for example, offers a glimpse of a multimillion-dollar industry in ?Jesus junk? — mostly ordinary stuff with Scripture printed on it. Radosh teases out the meanings of numerous books, videos, and CDs, many of which espouse a radically apocalyptic faith. He avoids actual church services in favor of Christian raves and comedy clubs, where he meets both intolerant literalists and ?postmodern? believers who embody a more magnanimous ethos. Despite the author’s occasional turn to sarcasm and a tendency to see anti-Semitism behind every cross, this well-written book gets at the true heterodoxy of current evangelical culture. When he lets his subjects speak for themselves, they often reveal genuine faith and a desire to share their joy with others. And they do so with more self-questioning then you might expect. No longer rejecting popular culture, Christians enter the mainstream with a greater burden — they have to reconcile both art and commerce with their beliefs. Radosh documents their struggles with both the skepticism and sympathy of an outsider.
About the Writer
Thomas DePietro, a former contributing editor of Kirkus Reviews, has also published in Commonweal, The Nation, and The New York Times Book Review. He recently edited Conversations with Don DeLillo, and his book on Kingsley Amis is forthcoming.