Thursday, March 4, 2010

In the Land of Believers

By Gina Welch

When Gina Welch, a secular Jew from California, decided to infiltrate the world of Thomas Road Baptist Church (Jerry Falwell, founding pastor) in Virginia, it seems she had preconceived ideas of what she would find. She was surprised.

Instead of discovering a people who mindlessly followed charismatic leaders, Gina found sincere believers who were part of a loving community. She soon found herself drawn into the fellowship of people who honestly cared about her. Somewhere along the way, she came to love the music and found genuine friends.

While reading this book, I was surprised and challenged at several points. Because I am a Christian, sometimes it was a stretch to understand Gina's viewpoint and why she found certain aspects of the Christian culture peculiar. What she pointed out was often I the way I think and talk. I found it revealing and important to see the Christian culture from an outsider's viewpoint.

As I looked closely at my motivation for choosing this book, I realized my expectations were also unsupported. While the followers of Falwell's ministries are professing Christians, I express my Christian beliefs differently in some ways. As I read, I realized I had hoped that Gina would confirm my approach to the faith as a better approach.

To the contrary, I found myself humbled. As Gina described her experience, I found I have more in common with the people she encountered than differences, especially in terms of love for others and the essentials of faith.

Finally, I was surprised by Gina's conclusions and I have a challenge for her. Gina, you state there is nothing after this earthly life. If you are correct, there is nothing. However, if there is a possibility of a life in heaven after this earthly life, why not take a chance? If Christians are wrong, what have you lost? Obviously you found the found the quality of life positive while interacting with those in the church. These are the people who accepted and forgave your deception and still desire a relationship with you. They point you to God who still desires a relationship with you.

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