Reading Evangelicals: How Christian Fiction Shaped a Culture and a Faith

Daniel Silliman. Eerdmans, $27.99 (286p) ISBN 978-0-8028-7935-6
Journalist Silliman selects five novels that ushered evangelical Christian fiction into mainstream book markets in this thoughtful examination of contemporary evangelicalism’s position within American culture. The five well-chosen and bestselling works—Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly, Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s Left Behind, Beverly Lewis’s The Shunning, and William Paul Young’s The Shack—allow Silliman to examine the growth and development of Christian fiction over nearly four decades. Silliman illuminates evangelical preoccupations with authenticity (“Evangelical belief... wasn’t about packaged conformity but about discovering your true self”); cultural engagement rather than withdrawal (“This Present Darkness made the connection between evangelical belief and political advocacy”); the comfort of belief in the midst of everyday suffering; and learning to live with ambiguity. Silliman is a close reader of both books and culture, but underestimates the mechanisms publishers use to get books into the hands of readers through promotion, advertising, and distribution. Moreover, his account, based on his dissertation, feels dated—the most recent work it focuses on, The Shack, was published in 2008. Still, Silliman’s thorough analysis calls attention to the understudied cultural phenomenon of evangelical Christianity’s influence on American popular culture. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/09/2021
Release date: 10/01/2021
Genre: Religion
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