God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America

God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America

In the wake of the 2016 election, Lyz Lenz watched as her country and her marriage were torn apart by the competing forces of faith and politics. A mother of two, a Christian, and a lifelong resident of middle America, Lenz was bewildered by the pain and loss around her--the empty churches and the broken hearts. What was happening to faith in the heartland?From drugstores...

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Title:God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America
Author:Lyz Lenz
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Edition Language:English

God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America Reviews

  • Shelly

    Such a good book that I read it with every free reading minute I had. I got my copy from the library but also plan to buy a copy to gift.

  • Kari

    “A white Christian pastor, ignoring the violence against Muslims while perpetuating a victim narrative for Tim Tebow, is part of the story of faith, most notably the stories we fail to tell. And these silences are inextricably linked to race, power, and class.”

    “And if we want to know what is happening with faith in America, we have to look at the effects of faith, even the violent ones. Even if we believe we are not that kind of Christian, not that kind of white person, not that kind of man, not

    “A white Christian pastor, ignoring the violence against Muslims while perpetuating a victim narrative for Tim Tebow, is part of the story of faith, most notably the stories we fail to tell. And these silences are inextricably linked to race, power, and class.”

    “And if we want to know what is happening with faith in America, we have to look at the effects of faith, even the violent ones. Even if we believe we are not that kind of Christian, not that kind of white person, not that kind of man, not that kind of woman. Even if we don’t believe we are racist and we say we love our fellow man, if we have sat in a church that was silent to suffering, we are complicit. If we have turned the other way when children were being tear gassed, that violence is now our religion. And we have to grapple with that, we have to hold it in our hands, so we never forget.”

    One thing I have struggled with in recent years is that I grew up in the rural south, in a trailer in fact, and yet the narrative is that people like me don’t understand the white working class. Now, I have certainly encountered people who didn’t know that some people still get their water from wells and who were surprised that I didn’t have cable until college (just a big old antenna click click click) but many people in cities do understand the rural part of our country. Many of us are from those places and know that culture. It is also true that many of the rural parts of our country operate, as Lenz describes, like “a clenched fist.” Many of those places are suspicious of people who are different or who seem like outsiders. It would be nice if our understanding was expected to go both ways. I think Lyz Lenz does a great job pushing for that understanding when it comes to faith and community and culture in this book. Recommended.

  • Chris Hubbs

    God Land is an insightful and challenging critique of Christianity in Middle America. Lyz Lenz clearly still loves her Midwestern home, but laments that the predominant Christian voices are conflating Republicanism, gun culture, and male-only leadership with the message of Jesus.

    God Land doesn't try to paint an overly cheery "we just shouldn't let politics divide us" picture. Lenz's own story illustrates how divisive these issues can be on a personal level. She doesn't pull punches as she recoun

    God Land is an insightful and challenging critique of Christianity in Middle America. Lyz Lenz clearly still loves her Midwestern home, but laments that the predominant Christian voices are conflating Republicanism, gun culture, and male-only leadership with the message of Jesus.

    God Land doesn't try to paint an overly cheery "we just shouldn't let politics divide us" picture. Lenz's own story illustrates how divisive these issues can be on a personal level. She doesn't pull punches as she recounts the end of her marriage, leaving one church, having a church plant die, and her struggles to find supportive community.

    God Land's clear affection for Middle America and portraits of small-town Americans combined with Lenz' beautiful prose and painfully honest diagnosis make it a must-read in 2019 America.

  • Emily

    This one hit really close to home. Lenz combines reporting from churches throughout the Midwest with deeply personal stories about her faith, the evolution of her politics, dissolution of her marriage, and a failed church plant. Her stories show the good (community! potlucks! lovely traditions! mutual care in rural areas!), but don't shy away from the messy. It's a deep, nuanced, complicated--even diverse--look at the Midwest. She lives in Iowa and spends time getting to know communities and con

    This one hit really close to home. Lenz combines reporting from churches throughout the Midwest with deeply personal stories about her faith, the evolution of her politics, dissolution of her marriage, and a failed church plant. Her stories show the good (community! potlucks! lovely traditions! mutual care in rural areas!), but don't shy away from the messy. It's a deep, nuanced, complicated--even diverse--look at the Midwest. She lives in Iowa and spends time getting to know communities and congregations; this isn't an NYTimes reporter dropping in to photograph some chipping paint on a barn and chat up a guy in a MAGA hat at a diner.

    Lenz captured a feeling that I've had a hard time putting my finger on from my time as a woman who spent a lot of time in white evangelical spaces: that feeling of needing to make yourself smaller to fit in, of being blamed for being the one to make things uncomfortable, the weight of those countless tiny decisions of when to speak up or not. After years of struggling with patriarchal views in churches and other faith-based organizations, she also doesn't absolve herself from being slow to see the white supremacy in these spaces.

    "The truth is more likely that we live in a place that does both. A place where we dine at the houses of our neighbors, but post cruelties about them on Facebook. Where we will give the shirt off our back for someone in need, but vote against them at the ballot box... the dissonance is as deep and real and painful as any part of American history. And it's tempting to look away from it to instead focus on the positive. Look at all the good that is done. But the violence is still part of the story of faith and religion."

  • Rick Lee Lee James

    A moving story of an authentic quest for faith. Many who have found their faith at a breaking point due to the effects of Trumpian Evangelical Christianity will find a welcome companion on their journey in these pages.

    The author on her journalistic and faith journey, rightly calls out many hypocrisies in white evangelical Maga Christianity while at the same time lifting up the sincerity and loving hearts of many within it. She is truthful about her thoughts and makes several brave confessions of

    A moving story of an authentic quest for faith. Many who have found their faith at a breaking point due to the effects of Trumpian Evangelical Christianity will find a welcome companion on their journey in these pages.

    The author on her journalistic and faith journey, rightly calls out many hypocrisies in white evangelical Maga Christianity while at the same time lifting up the sincerity and loving hearts of many within it. She is truthful about her thoughts and makes several brave confessions of not only her believes but her own shortcomings as well. She is humble, critical, angry, forgiving, spiritually homeless but longing for home. She’s the kind of person that you can really appreciate as one who refuses to walk an inauthentic Faith. This is to be applauded, even if you find that her conclusions come out differently from your own. After all, unity is not uniformity.

    I always want to be slow to criticize a person’s journey because every journey is sacred. If I had one helpful critique to offer however, as a fellow believer, I think it would be to seek to allow your CHRISTIAN faith to guide your liberalism rather than letting your liberalism guide your Christian faith. In my experience, Christians are always going to be more liberal on some issues than conservatives and more conservative in some issues than liberals. The Kingdom of God doesn’t fit well into either category and in fact calls all our allegiances to submission.

  • Melissa

    I picked this up because I was interested in her reporting/research on religion/faith in the Midwest (I am 100% a city kid from Cedar Rapids, IA, where Lyz now lives). And she does a great job in tying to get inside that mythos of “midwesterners are the salt of the earth and the “real” backbone of the US”, the cognitive dissonance of faith and politics, etc etc but she also ties much of it to her search for a faith community that did not make her feel small or unwelcome. I think she also did a f

    I picked this up because I was interested in her reporting/research on religion/faith in the Midwest (I am 100% a city kid from Cedar Rapids, IA, where Lyz now lives). And she does a great job in tying to get inside that mythos of “midwesterners are the salt of the earth and the “real” backbone of the US”, the cognitive dissonance of faith and politics, etc etc but she also ties much of it to her search for a faith community that did not make her feel small or unwelcome. I think she also did a fantastic job of presenting all her subjects fairly and with depth and avoided othering or making any of them the boogeyman which is hard when being “politically neutral” is impossible. (I had a chuckle in the chapter where she attends the ELCA pastor conference and I was like “those are my people! High five” 😂)

  • Elisabeth

    I received an advanced reading copy, opinions are my own.

    I can identify with this author’s journey through faith as I began a similar journey 20 years ago. The outcome for me wasn’t the same but the outsiderness and the loss of relationships were a very real issue for me as well.

    I am interested in understanding why people want to stay with a faith that doesn’t really want them and they don’t really believe in. I guess it’s hard to give up the history of faith and family in the way that you were

    I received an advanced reading copy, opinions are my own.

    I can identify with this author’s journey through faith as I began a similar journey 20 years ago. The outcome for me wasn’t the same but the outsiderness and the loss of relationships were a very real issue for me as well.

    I am interested in understanding why people want to stay with a faith that doesn’t really want them and they don’t really believe in. I guess it’s hard to give up the history of faith and family in the way that you were raised. For me I just remember the day when I finally had to choose and I while I grieved the cost of my choice, I have never regretted it.

    This book is probably going to cause a commotion and I am looking forward to reading other people’s opinions and discussions.

  • Byvynyl

    This is fucking fiction because white evangelicals don't feel remorse and are incapable of being introspective. Their religion is founded on racism.

  • Alex Joyner

    Lyz Lenz is so funny sometimes that you can forget that she has written a hard book. As, for instance, when she’s surveying the physical layout of cookie-cutter megachurches and says that “the decor looks like a Hobby Lobby vomited all over the place” (115). That’s the vibrant Lyz that you want giving you the tour. But there’s a whole lot more going on in God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America and the angry, grieving, defiant Lyz needs to tell the rest of this story. You

    Lyz Lenz is so funny sometimes that you can forget that she has written a hard book. As, for instance, when she’s surveying the physical layout of cookie-cutter megachurches and says that “the decor looks like a Hobby Lobby vomited all over the place” (115). That’s the vibrant Lyz that you want giving you the tour. But there’s a whole lot more going on in God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America and the angry, grieving, defiant Lyz needs to tell the rest of this story. You’ll want to hear it.

    Lenz has some East Coast bona fides, having been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Columbia Journalism Review, but her home is in the Midwest. In 2016 she was a married, church-going, mother of two living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Though she lamented the dearth of Starbucks outlets, pre-Trump Lyz might have bought in to the prevailing notion that she lived in a place that embodied the wholesomeness of the American ideal.

    “In our resistance to representation we are believed to be so basically normal. So overwhelmingly America. That’s what you are told when you ask a person in Middle America to describe it here—once you get past the clichés of good schools and “it’s a good place to live,” Middle America’s most notable quality is its presumed normality.” (3)

    Then came the election and nothing seemed normal anymore. Lenz looked around at her home with new eyes. She felt invisible in her own church. Her marriage fell apart. God? Land? What were these things now?

    In some ways, Lenz’s book fits into the emerging genre that might be titled Good God, What Happened to Rural America? God Land does go after the broad portrait of contemporary rural America, though with a decidedly faith-oriented bent.

    Read my full review here:

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    Indiana University Press provided me with an advance reading copy of this book.

  • Holly

    I'm really enjoying the story of this writer/journalist's path through and away from the Evangelical church, and how it coincides with the rise of Trumpian conservatism. But I find myself distracted and frustrated by the many grammar and punctuation errors. Please, Indiana University Press, it's worth the money to pay for copyediting. (P.S. See my LinkedIn page if you're looking for a good freelancer to help out with this!)

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