March 16, 2010

insularity breeds insularity

Great interview at HuffPo with Gina Welch, the Berkeley-raised[1] author of the new book In the Land of Believers, in which she documents her two years of being “undercover” at Jerry Falwell’s church in Lynchburg, Virginia.

What was the biggest surprise you found during your journey?

The biggest surprise for me was the individual reflectiveness of church members. I think I’d had this stereotype of evangelicals as blisteringly arrogant dogmatists. But I observed instead humility and a kind of obsessive self-reflection, enacted through prayer. They call it listening to God’s voice, but from it seemed to me like a constant internal pat-down of conscience, which really resulted in care with choices, and a movingly ample capacity for selflessness and generosity. I learned a lot by their example.

A secondary surprise was that I felt implicated in the ignorance I observed – relating to gay rights, to the environment, to feminism. I started to believe that their reactionary attitudes on these subjects were a result of profound insularity, which itself seemed the legacy of a culture that rejected them: mine. Why would they open themselves up to influence from a culture that made no space for their beliefs?

[1] As Berkeleyside points out, this is code for “liberal, atheist.”