Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat

Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat

by Joel Kilpatrick

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They're Going to Heaven . . . and They Know It

At last, a complete, unsparing guide to evangelical Christians. This hilarious and highly useful manual, written by an insider, illuminates this rapidly growing and unique segment of America and offers a thoroughly entertaining, no-holds-barred, laugh-out-loud survey of evangelical culture. See

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They're Going to Heaven . . . and They Know It

At last, a complete, unsparing guide to evangelical Christians. This hilarious and highly useful manual, written by an insider, illuminates this rapidly growing and unique segment of America and offers a thoroughly entertaining, no-holds-barred, laugh-out-loud survey of evangelical culture. See inside for the scoop on:

  • What Evangelicals Believe — Plus a Master List of Who Is Going to Hell
  • How to Party Like an Evangelical — Ambrosia, Li'l Smokies, and Potluck Fever
  • The Diversity of Evangelical Politics — From Right-Wing to Wacko
  • Evangelical Mating Habits — The Shocking Truth

Editorial Reviews

Grand Rapids Press
“Entertaining reading for those not afraid to laugh about religion or themselves.”
Relevant Magazine
“Joel Kilpatrick has been making Christians laugh and cry for years. His latest book will continue to do just that.”
Publishers Weekly
Kilpatrick, founder of the religion satire site, has written a mildly entertaining, if also slightly snarky, introduction to American evangelicalism. First, he claims evangelicals think most people-the New York Times staff, divorce lawyers and all Muslims and Buddhists-will go to hell. Evangelicals themselves, of course, will go to heaven, "the ultimate gated community." It can be hard to spot evangelicals out and about, though they are likely to patronize businesses with biblical names, like Last Days Auto Repair, and they often carry cell phones that ring hymn tunes. Evangelicals also favor certain d cor: Thomas Kinkade paintings, Precious Moments figurines and art with biblical quotations. If you wish to actually visit an evangelical church, look for an organization that sounds more like a rehab center than a house of worship: if the building down the block is called Grace Community or Hope Fellowship, odds are it's an evangelical church. There are, to be sure, some chuckles to be had here. "The Legend of the Sand Dollar," a takeoff on cheesy evangelical poems, is very clever, and the chapter on evangelical education offers an amusing look at both home-schooling and Christian colleges. But on the whole, the jokes are a tad too predictable. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.37(w) x 9.12(h) x 0.44(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat

By Joel Kilpatrick

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Joel Kilpatrick
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060836962

Chapter One

What Evangelicals Believe, Plus
a Master List of Who Is Going to Hell

Evangelicals believe in many things: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, church attendance, homeschooling, Fox News, abstinence, personal holiness, toupees, leisure suits, mission work, Dockers, golf, spanking, and dinner, early and often. But the natural starting point for identifying evangelicals by their beliefs is with their best-known doctrine: hell.

. . . In a Handbasket

Evangelicals believe certain people are going to hell -- you, for example, unless you already happen to be an evangelical. But behind the hellfire and brimstone talk are core beliefs that have deep meaning for evangelicals. Here are the three most important ones:

Core Belief #1 -- Every person has an obligation to accept Jesus as his or her personal savior.

The phrase "personal savior" is important, as it separates evangelicals from Catholic and Orthodox Christians who simply run their offspring through the gamut of religious rituals and call it square. To receive Christ "personally" means you have an epiphany about your personal sinfulness and Jesus's unique ability to rescue you from it. This is called "beingsaved." If you have not had this experience, you are considered "unsaved."

Core Belief #2 -- Jesus is coming back soon, probably tomorrow.

Core Belief #3 -- If you have neglected Core Belief #1, and Jesus does indeed come back tomorrow, you are going to hell.

You may read as much evangelical theology as you like, but the essence is contained in these three beliefs. Clearly, these convictions give the evangelical worldview an amazing urgency. Through their lenses, every non-evangelical around them is dancing blindly on a plank overhanging the lake of fire. Evangelicals respond to this urgency with several reasonable behaviors:

They buy television airtime so televangelists can parade the latest in evangelical fashions and hairstyles before receptive American audiences.

They hit the streets and hand out frightening cartoon pamphlets, hoping these will lead people into lifelong, loving relationships with Jesus.

They confront people at work, in school hallways, and in plain view at other public sites about their "relationship with Christ."

They perform spiritual dramas to music, often in public squares, at school talent shows, and in other places where ridicule is guaranteed.

Each of these behaviors is designed, in its own fashion, to rescue people from hell. Perhaps this "fixation" with hell bothers you (readers with high EHQs take note). But from a sociological point of view, believing in hell is thought to be less violence-inducing than believing in heaven. Members of some religions go on suicide runs, thinking they will earn a vaunted position in heaven, including dozens of "extra virgins." In contrast, evangelicals don't want anyone* to die until they have received Jesus. There is no reward in evangelical theology for killing other people, and there hasn't been since about 1270 a.d. (The reward for enslaving people also ran out, in about 1865, and in some southern states in 1972.) For readers with an EHQ above 10, this may be the first attractive thing they have ever learned about evangelicals.

Purgatory and the Pope

Purgatory is an entirely Catholic creation and is completely foreign to evangelicals, who prefer their beliefs in sharp black and white. Why, they wonder, would God create purgatory when heaven and hell do the job of separation so well? The concept of purgatory is what some evangelicals, in their darker moments, expect from the religion that gave the world Mary worship and the Kennedys.

As for the Pope, evangelicals don't recognize him, and there is no Pope-like leader within the evangelical world. The closest thing they have is Billy Graham, but he makes no doctrine. He is only an itinerant preacher who gained renown and became a close spiritual adviser to half a dozen lying, cheating U.S. presidents.

To most evangelicals, the Pope is nothing more than an object of curiosity -- and the punch line of some terrific jokes. Some see him as a decent man stuck in an apostate religion. Others -- those who chart out end-times events in their spare time and memorize the Book of Revelation -- see him as an abomination, even the anti-Christ. But because he shares many evangelical political positions (the death penalty excepted), there is a sense that he is within the family. Many evangelicals look at the Pope and think, "If he weren't the Pope, but instead a plumber from Cincinnati, I bet he would vote Republican straight down the ticket. And that's all right with me." For this reason, most evangelicals don't mind the Pope. After all, he makes Democratic presidential candidates squirm every four years by bringing up their abortion stance, and any religious leader who does that can't be all bad.

The Rapture

Here is another major evangelical belief. For evangelicals, the Rapture promises to be the world's biggest I Told You So, providing final vindication for the unusual way they lived on this planet. They expect to disappear one day in the blink of an eye, journeying through the air to their home in heaven, where they will peer over and watch Left Behind: The Reality Series play out on Earth. This promises to deliver hours of enjoyment for leisure-minded evangelicals in their heavenly mansions.

The only evangelicals who don't look forward to the Rapture are teenage boys, who desperately want to have sex before the Rapture occurs. Teen evangelical boys usually drift to sleep each night praying fervently that God will delay the Rapture until they can lose their virginity. The threat of Rapture also helps to explain the young age at which evangelicals get married and begin breeding.

But even evangelicals don't claim to have all the answers about the Rapture. For example, will people's clothes be left behind when they are caught away (which brings to mind the tricky theological matter of naked evangelicals suspended in midair)? And what will happen to airplanes and heavy machinery when "Raptured" operators disappear? Millions of unsaved people might be put . . .


Excerpted from A Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat by Joel Kilpatrick Copyright © 2006 by Joel Kilpatrick. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Joel Kilpatrick is an award-winning reporter and creator of, the world's leading Christian satire website, which received the 2005 Gospel Music Association's Grady Nutt Humor Award. His work has been featured in Time, the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News, and on CBS Radio. He lives with his wife and family in the Los Angeles area.

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