cover image Riders for God

Riders for God

Rich Remsberg, Remsberg. University of Illinois Press, $55 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-252-02521-1

This intriguing though unpolished book collects the personal histories of members of the Unchained Gang, a Christian motorcycle gang based in Indiana in a largely biker Pentecostal church. In interviews with Remsberg, a former photo lab supervisor at the Indiana University School of Journalism, members tell of their secular lives, often recounting addictions, violence and self-destruction, and then detail their spiritual conversions and the subsequent difference God has made in their worlds. Illustrated by black-and-white photographs, the book offers a look at the two countercultural worlds of ""outlaw bikers"" and ""Spirit-filled Christianity."" It is most powerful in giving full voice to its subjects, who thus become real--people like Pastor Larry, who, after years of drug trafficking and alcohol abuse, is now president of the Unchained Gang. The book is weak, however, in connecting these voices to each other or to other significant questions. It is a series of vignettes, not a sociological study of motorcycle gangs or of Pentecostal Christianity. Only the afterword by Colleen McDannell, professor of religious studies at the University of Utah, contextualizes the Unchained Gang within the American religious landscape as a whole. While the narratives include Remsberg's interview questions as well as the engaging responses, it is never clear why he is asking these questions, why particular interviews are grouped together, or what their import might be. (Sept.)