Monday, July 22, 2013

Booknote: The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right

Robert Lanham, The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. New York: New American Library, 2006. ISBN: 9780451219459.

Genre: Nonfiction (mostly)
Subgenre: humor, religious studies, politics

Lanham's book on the Evangelical Right would be funnier were it not for the fact that the book is not only accurate but also prophetic. The Evangelical Right has not just become the ridiculous extreme presented in the book. By now, they have gone above and beyond in their paranoid delusions and outright hostile bigotry, ignorance and drive to impose their beliefs on everyone else.

The book was published in 2006, right in the middle of G.W. Bush's presidency. In that sense, the book is dated. Also, some of the figures mentioned in the book have had some changes in fortune. For instance, Ted Haggard fell in disgrace, and Jerry Falwell died. Still, the book is interesting to read because you get a glimpse of how the Evangelical Right got into the course of madness and hostility it follows now. The book really is a guide with some humor in it.

The book is organized into 8 chapter that discuss major figures and movements within the Evangelical Right. Yes, there is some diversity among Right Wing evangelicals from hellfire and brimstone extremists like Falwell and Pat Robertson to prosperity gospel peddlers like Joel Osteen to ministries like Rick Warren's that hide their extreme views with gimmicks and being "cool." At various points, the book features comments and insights from evangelical individuals selected by the author, tour guides "to provide insight from an insider's perspective" (xxv).

The book is fairly easy to read. You can read it a bit at a time, be amused one moment, then cringe the next moment. And to make sure you paid attention as you read, there is even a quiz so you can test your knowledge. For sinners everywhere, this book is essential. I do wish the author would update it in light of Obama's presidency since we can say that Obama has supplanted to an extent Bill Clinton as the Antichrist in the eyes of evangelicals. Still, the book is definitely worth a look, and it is a warning from the past to today.

If you ask me, I gave it four out of five stars.

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