A. J. Jacobs describes himself as an agnostic Jew, but after publishing his book about living by biblical laws for a year, he has been invited to several Christian churches and events. The author of The Year of Living Biblically spoke with Christianity Today about speaking to Christians, the evangelical subculture, and how rituals are not rational.
How does it feel to be invited to places like the National Pastors Convention to tell Christians about their faith?
You're going to make me commit the sin of pride? I'm not supposed to do that. I hadn't thought about it. Now I'm intimidated. Before it was okay. Now I feel terrible.
No, I'm very flattered. I have gotten lots of e-mails saying that it strengthens people's faith, and that's great. It's weird, because on the other side I've gotten some agnostics, secular people who say, "Your book showed me how some of the rules in the Old Testament are so crazy. Thanks for reconfirming that." It's interesting that people take away different things from the book. I love breaking down the walls between the secular and the religious.
What are you learning about evangelical culture since your experiment with the Bible?
Certainly one of the things that has really struck me is that I think the secular world sees evangelical Christianity as a monolith—as though everyone believes the exact same thing. I'm continually struck by how varied it is. I actually thought that the media was getting a little better about it, but I think that they went back to the idea that every evangelical Christian is like Sarah Palin.
So why do you think so many conservative Christians have warmed up to you?
I'm speculating, but I think part of it is they were appreciative that I went in with an open mind and an ...