Rapture Ready

Why would a self-described New York Jewish liberal immerse himself for a year in the "parallel universe" of evangelical Christian popular culture? Partly from a misplaced fear of the so-called religious right, but largely from a genuine curiosity about this burgeoning alternative to mainstream pop. What journalist Radosh finds is a world peopled with Christian versions of Eminem, Hulk Hogan, Jon Stewart, and Dr. Ruth, all of whom find biblical support for their unusual ministries. A Christian retailing show, for example, offers a glimpse of a multimillion-dollar industry in ?Jesus junk? -- mostly ordinary stuff with Scripture printed on it. Radosh teases out the meanings of numerous books, videos, and CDs, many of which espouse a radically apocalyptic faith. He avoids actual church services in favor of Christian raves and comedy clubs, where he meets both intolerant literalists and ?postmodern? believers who embody a more magnanimous ethos. Despite the author's occasional turn to sarcasm and a tendency to see anti-Semitism behind every cross, this well-written book gets at the true heterodoxy of current evangelical culture. When he lets his subjects speak for themselves, they often reveal genuine faith and a desire to share their joy with others. And they do so with more self-questioning then you might expect. No longer rejecting popular culture, Christians enter the mainstream with a greater burden -- they have to reconcile both art and commerce with their beliefs. Radosh documents their struggles with both the skepticism and sympathy of an outsider.

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.