Rapture Ready

By DANIEL RADOSH

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.

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