Bashing the Baptists

"Who are these people?" someone asks about evangelicals in the early pages of Redemptorama, a book billed as an exploration of Christ and contemporary culture. Despite years of research and her own Southern Baptist upbringing, the author, Carol Flake, offers only caricatures in response to the question.

The book is supposed to help sophisticates bewildered and appalled that evangelicals still exist, having supposed that Spencer Tracy (alias Clarence Darrow in Inherit the Wind) had taken care of them. However, Flake herself left behind Southern Baptism when she went to college because it "didn't seem to me then to be a very portable kind of religion—it seemed out of place, certainly, with the new clothes and the new books I had bought for college." Flake's safe aerie in the "bastion of secular humanists" was disturbed by the noisy entrance of the Religious Right on the national stage. Now she worries (with what sincerity we are entitled to question) that the increasing prosperity of evangelicals is threatening the "real community" of "clapboard churches" and "plain white steeples" she somehow remembers warmly (but never would have set foot in again if it hadn't been for the writing of this book). But the evangelical world didn't stop turning when Flake left; its endurance puts her newfound sophistication and tolerance to the test. She...

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