In the Land of Believers
by Gina Welch (Metropolitan; $25)
New Yorker, Apr 5 2010
When Welch, a Berkeley native who grew up “thinking I was born an atheist the way some people are born Italian,” moved to Virginia for graduate school, she was forced to confront her inherent fear of Evangelicals. The best way to conquer her anxiety, she decided, was to go undercover as a member of Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church, where, though remaining steadfast in her unbelief, she comes to feel moved by many of the rituals and sentiments, and to form intimacies within the church. Unlike human love, she realizes, God love is a “Mobius strip . . . calm and complete, unflinching in the face of anything you could reveal about yourself. Who wouldn’t want that?