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No Theocracy Here

Respected religion journalist retains a clear affection for evangelicals.
2006This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg borrowed from a Republican tv ad against Howard Dean to give his latest book the long-winded title of Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times–Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show.

Likewise, several hysterical books of recent vintage have turned evangelical Protestantism into a fear-raising, toxic-Flavor Aid-drinking, nacho-eating, SUV-driving, World-reading, gay-loathing, theocracy-loving, and, above all, fundamentalist freak show.

Jeffery Sheler, a veteran religion journalist at U.S. News & World Report, does not need a Louis Harris poll, a horrified visit to a shout-laden church service, or a feverish imagination to figure out what evangelicals believe. As Sheler explains, he became an evangelical as a teenager and has considered himself one for most of his life. Sheler eventually found his way into a fairly conservative mainline Presbyterian congregation, and he retains a clear affection for the culture that nourished his early faith.

This isn't to say Sheler's travelogue is free of criticism, or that it should be. Sheler frequently questions evangelicals' involvement in fractious culture-war issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and sexual morality. He also grasps that many evangelicals believe they must, as citizens of both the United States and the kingdom of God, challenge a political culture that is hostile to their worldview.

Most of Sheler's book consists of travels to evangelical landmarks, including Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, Focus on the Family, and Wheaton College. A chapter that begins with a visit to Boston's Park Street Church, where Harold Ockenga was once ...

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