by Daniel Radosh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Rapture Ready / 978-0-7432-9770-7
I expected "Rapture Ready!" to be a fun, snarky joyride through modern Christian evangelical pop culture - something that made cutesy fun of all the kitsch you see at the Mardel store, and a largely fluffy throw-away book. What I found, however, was a far deeper, more mature consideration of such - wrapped tightly in the best book I've read all year.
Daniel Radosh is a plainly a skilled writer, and as a good writer he can't help but feel deeply connected to the 'characters' he writes about - even when they're real people. I'm amazed to find the tenderness and kindness that Radosh employs as he visits 'Holy Land' amusement parks (er, sorry, that should be tax-free 'thematic experiences'), participates in passion plays (as That Nice Jewish Guy who thinks maybe Jesus doesn't need to be crucified after all), tours creationism museums (and watches Adam and Eve saddle and ride dinosaurs) and gently interviews everyone from Frank Peretti to the head of a geocentrist community.
As Radosh navigates the confusing and sometimes contradictory landscape of Christian pop culture, he does so gently and sympathetically - indeed, the reader will likely come away with a much deeper and more sympathetic viewpoint of the Christian community than they probably arrived with. Far from being a homogeneous group, the Christian community is composed of many and varied ideas - from the very conservative to the extremely liberal. Many (if not most) of the people he interviews are simply good people trying to live and enjoy a good life. Even many of the traditionally 'extreme' examples of Christian pop culture - for instance, Frank Peretti, whose books of evil, demon-possessed 'liberals' have been a divided point in the community for years - come away as nuanced individuals.
The quote on the cover jacket is from A.J. Jacobs, another writer interested in the intricacies of a 'Christian life', and states, simply, "Everyone should read this book," a not uncommon sentiment for a book-jacket endorsement. On reflection, though, I think that this quote is accurate. Christian culture is a very powerful subculture within America, and it is important to understand it in a nuanced, meaningful way - rather than in a one-dimensional "love it or leave it" manner. Regardless of your outlook on life, Christian or not, there are people in Radosh's book whom you will disagree with - and who it is important to see as people, not as caricatures. Radosh's book provides nuance, depth, and meaning to a culture that many of us have only marginally been exposed to.
Plus, the wit in "Rapture Ready!" is completely hilarious and will leave your sides splitting for days. It's rare for a book to be "good for you" and just plain good in the way that Radosh's book is.
~ Ana Mardoll
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