One of the benefits of being a blogger who has been around for a while and has some sort of audience is that I am on the list to receive free books from publishers looking for a snappy review. I confess that it’s a perk that I like, but honestly I rarely ever get around to reading many of the books. They usually sit on my desk, looking longingly at me, asking me to caress them and take them home. But many of them are self indulgent tomes to the failures of the church, and the downside of the human condition.
When I picked up the latest batch this week, one of jumped quickly to the eye. For one thing, it was perhaps the first hardback book I’ve received. For another, the publisher was Scribner, not your average “Christian” publisher. Finally, the subtitle grabbed me: “Rapture Ready: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture.” As a person who has both the fortune and misfortune of living for many years in the Mecca of Christian Pop Culture, and as one who has skirted the outskirts of that culture, I was interested in hearing what the author had to say.
I quickly learned that Daniel Radosh was not your average religious book author. For one thing, he is Jewish, something that always makes Christian publishers squirm a bit. For another, he is an accomplished journalist, one who I have heard interviewed on NPR in the past. He came into the project by accident, drawn by a family member to a Christian music festival, and what he experienced there do intrigued him that he spent the next year checking out the nooks and crannies of Christian culture to examine the motivations and experiences present there.
It would be easy for this book to fall into snarky satire, an outsider poking fun at those crazy Christians and their Jesus junk. Actually, if I had written the book I have little doubt that I would have fallen into that trap. But Radosh avoids value judgements for the most part (he does get a bit irate at the Prolifers against In-Vitro, but you will have to read that for yourself). He honestly tries to get his head around the paradoxes and contradictions of Christian consumer culture, treating it with a sense of respect while still acknowledging the madness.
This is not a “Christian” book by any means, but it is a book that should be read by Christians, for the perspective of the innocent outsider is one we need to hear. While I doubt that many of the readers of this blog are hard core consumers of Christian kitsch, this book both provides a great deal of insight into the separatist wing of evangelical / fundamentalist culture, while calling all of us to account for our unwillingness to cast a critical eye toward our this family we call Christendom.
The book is a great read . . . I hardly put it down the past day or so . . . and I would commend it to all.