Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gina Welch

Gina Welch is the author of In the Land of Believers: An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church.

From her Q & A with Aaron Leonard for Killing the Buddha:

How did you come to join Jerry Falwell’s church?

I had been living in Charlottesville, Virginia, after I’d gone to graduate school. I noticed that there were all these Christians around, and I was very uncomfortable with them.

Meanwhile, what was going on nationally was the perception that evangelical Christians were taking over the country, that they had their fingers in government. I wasn’t able to reconcile the media perception of evangelical Christians—that they were very militant, that they were brainwashed—with the perception I had of evangelicals personally. I wanted the challenge of understanding people whose views on most issues were very different from mine. I truly didn’t believe that I would get to a point where I could relate to them.

What did you like most and least about Falwell’s Church?

There is one main characteristic that I appreciate: selflessness. One of Jerry Falwell’s mantras was “Jesus First,” which has always been a difficult line for me to parse. For a lot of church members I knew, their desires are secondary. They’re primarily on earth to be servants. That has a lot of a great side-effects, like individual humility and a willingness to help.

The negative side effect of that humility, though, is a real resistance to being critical of institutions to which they subscribe. It’s a problem of buying the party line without critical analysis. It can be a kind of intellectual surrender. There was one night when we had an Easter dinner at Thomas Road and a pastor was urging Church members to give financial gifts in addition to the 10% tithe. He said, “Some of you may wonder what Jerry Falwell is doing with my money,” as if addressing the concerns of anyone who might think that they were being ripped off. But he continued, “It...[read on]
Visit Gina Welch's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue