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Christine Wicker
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Christine Wicker's new book, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation: The Surprising Crisis Inside the Church, began with a return to her evangelical roots that didn't turn out anything like she expected it would. She set out to write a book lauding the modern evangelical megachurch. And, in fact, had written that book, when she realized that she had missed the most exciting story in the evangelical world.

It's downfall.

While megachurches do appear to be flourishing, American evangelicals are not. How did she find that out? Evangelicals told her. Again. Again. Again. Finally, she began to hear them.

Once Christine began researching membership, belief and practice in earnest, she found one study after another showing that America has been completely duped.

For more than 30 years, Americans have believed in that the Religious Right was supported by a huge, single-minded, committed group of evangelical voters that was increasing at a great rate. And making great gains for their causes.

That idea has shaped Americans' perceptions of themselves and the world's perceptions of America.

But it isn't true. And never was. Evangelical statistics and studies themselves are the main evidence.

In the second half of the book, Christine shows why That Old-Time Religion won't be coming back. It is being attacked inside and outside the church by forces that traditional evangelical faith is unable and unwilling to deal with.

Evangelical faith is a subject that cuts close to the bone for her. Christine's mother's grandfather was an itinerant Baptist preacher. Her dad's father was a Kentucky coal miner and a foot-washing Baptist. Southern Baptists and Pentecostals have dominated her family for at least six generations.

She is the first journalist among them. Upon hearing of her profession, her Oklahoma grandmother comforted her by saying, "That's all right. Just tell people you're a waitress."

During her 17 years at The Dallas Morning News, she was a feature writer, columnist and religion reporter. Her work took her from demonstrations in Nairobi to peace communes in Belfast. She slept in Mexican chicken shacks, trailed homeless people through Dallas alleys and tracked down East Germans who had worked for the Communist secret police. She covered Lady Diana's funeral in England and Pope John II's historic visit to Cuba.

The Fall of the Evangelical Nation is her second book about Christian faith. Her first was a spiritual autobiography, God Knows My Heart. In it, she tells of trying to leave fundamentalism, a way of faith that one practitioner tells her can never be completely rooted out. In this book, she is sometimes an apostate. Sometimes a believer. Sometimes a wannabe. Often a don't-wannabe.

As a reporter of religion, testing and questioning, she searches the experiences of others trying to know what is true and useful, not only to them but to her. Her story in God Knows My Heart echoes the lives of many people whose only hope for faith in these post-modern times seems to rest in their own efforts. Pretty much alone, they struggle, trying to piece together some kind of faith that might allow them to believe.

Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead came out of a newspaper story Christine had written about Lily Dale, a 125-year-old community of Spiritualists in Western New York. People there believe they can prove existence of the afterlife by bringing messages from the dead, or as the residents of Lily Dale would prefer, "messages from those who have merely passed to another plane of existence." In the book, Christine takes mediumship lessons and learns to give messages herself.

Her next book, Not in Kansas Anymore: The Curious Tale of How Magic is Transforming America, Christine shows how and why so many Americans are using ancient magical ideas in their everyday lives, most without ever realizing that they do.

Evangelicals figure in that book too. In the last 25 years, they have done more to revive those ancient magical ideas than perhaps any other group in the country.

Christine's current project, founding "The L.A. "What is God?" literary festival," grew out of her wide-ranging spiritual research. Working with the University of Southern California and the Levin Institute for Ethics and Humanities, she hopes to begin a national conversation on current American ideas about divinity, spirituality, morality, ethics and right-living.

The aim of the festival will be to involve a diverse audience of readers with fiction authors who deal with these topics. Eventually the "What is God?" project will travel to various cities helping form local book clubs that discuss literature and art in light of spiritual practice, especially private practices that aren't represented by institutions. One of the goals of the project will be to create new language that can help Americans express how they decide what's right and wrong.

Her website is www.christinewicker.com.

Blog Entries by Christine Wicker

Ever Seen a Real Miracle?

(15) Comments | Posted April 1, 2013 | 2:37 PM

They wanted to know if the miracles were real. They asked about the preacher's affairs. About the money he made. They asked if Donna Johnson, the woman who considered the preacher her stepdad, had forgiven him. But what they really wanted to know, they asked only after that polite number...

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Learning to Talk About God and Sex

(194) Comments | Posted September 27, 2010 | 8:34 PM

For all the shouting back and forth we hear in the media over gay marriage and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the issue at the heart of all the rancor -- what the Bible says about homosexuality -- is still remarkably difficult for everyday people to talk about.

No wonder,...

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Churchrater.com Lets The Everyman Pass Judgment On The Church

(33) Comments | Posted March 25, 2010 | 10:37 AM

Now you can church shop without leaving home.

From the mundane to the profane, Internet critics are rating everything. They're even rating churches now on new site called Churchrater.com. Evangelical mag Christianity Today headlined its story on the site Church Raters or Church Haters? probably because...

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Evangelicals: In the Tank or on the Rise?

(1) Comments | Posted March 12, 2009 | 9:46 PM

Michael Spencer, who blogs as Internet Monk, is making a splash this week with his prediction
that evangelical faith is in the midst of a major collapse. He says evangelicals will be half as numerous in two generations.

A new national study says...

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The Victorious Jesus

(70) Comments | Posted November 6, 2008 | 2:32 AM

Tuesday night one American Jesus won. The other lost.

Whether American Christianity will be strengthened or weakened remains to be seen.

As I listened to Barack Obama eschew any note of triumph, praise John McCain as he has so many times, and call for the country to be united, I...

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Evangelicals Stay Loyal And Lose

(15) Comments | Posted November 5, 2008 | 3:06 AM

So where were those white evangelicals last night?

From early reports it looks as if they were in about the same place they were four years ago. A little shift, maybe 4 percentage points toward Obama and away from McCain.

But by and large, McCain took about three fourths...

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The Evangelicals' Last Push

(1) Comments | Posted November 3, 2008 | 3:04 PM

The Religious Right is down. But not out. Leaders are making one last desperate push to deliver the election for John McCain. If he loses, the myth of their unstoppable force will take a body blow from which it may not recover.

Reporters will dutifully report whatever spin the evangelical...

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Evangelical Leaders Using God Like a Hired Gun

(309) Comments | Posted October 28, 2008 | 7:42 AM

They tried branding Obama the anti-Christ. They tried linking him with Islamic terrorists. They've implied that unknown powers bought his allegiance by financing his education at Ivy League universities. They've used their pulpits to endorse McCain, hoping to spur a fight with the I.R.S. that would rouse their troops.

...
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If You Love Jesus, Vote For Obama

(65) Comments | Posted October 16, 2008 | 7:53 AM

If you love Jesus, post an Obama sign in your front yard before it's too late. It'll do wonders for your witness.

I learned that and other tips from a meeting in Seattle last weekend focusing on how to save evangelical faith in America. Despite what the media and the...

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A Great Debate, Darn It

(1) Comments | Posted October 3, 2008 | 7:26 AM

The greatest part of the vice presidential debate was before it started. It seemed as if everyone all over the country was hurrying through the day to make sure they were tuned in. We were all together before the Great Hearth of America. Sharing the moment. Excited like kids before...

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Suckering The Fundamentalists, Again

(5) Comments | Posted September 17, 2008 | 3:39 PM

Last week I was awash in admiration for the Republicans. As I have so many other times, I wished I could be a Republican. They are magnificent. If my formative years hadn't included such a strong dose of Jesus and his stubborn, demanding ideas about the poor, I might be...

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McCain's Christian-Right Sop

(39) Comments | Posted September 5, 2008 | 3:40 PM

It was nice to see Bristol and Levi sitting together looking happy at the Republican convention.

Only Nixon could go to China. Maybe only the Republican/Religious Right can dispel the Christian-based shame of unwed teenage pregnancy. I've been telling evangelicals that if they're serious about stopping abortions, they ought to...

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Sarah Palin: Family-Values Feminist?

(91) Comments | Posted September 2, 2008 | 8:46 PM

I don't know any women like Sarah Palin.

Most of the women I know became far less ambitious when they had just one child. That one child caused them to see their role in life quite differently. I know many women -- doctors, lawyers, journalists, business executives -- who've given...

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Dems Should Thank God For McCain-Palin

(14) Comments | Posted August 29, 2008 | 6:01 PM

No vice presidential nominee since Lyndon Johnson has had a significant impact on a presidential election. Biden and Palin aren't likely to either.

Nevertheless, Democrats can rejoice at McCain's choice. Let's just hope that he keeps telling the country his 44-year-old beauty queen is ready to be president.

God...

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Obama Wins Big With Born-Again Christians

(33) Comments | Posted August 22, 2008 | 9:00 PM

Ever wonder why Barack Obama agreed to go before an evangelical audience that was certain to be more hostile to him than to his opponent?

Maybe because he is a Christian who thought he could actually talk to other Christians.

Nah. That couldn't...

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Surprise: Evangelical Women May Have Gone For Obama At Saddleback

(130) Comments | Posted August 18, 2008 | 6:59 PM

The applause might make you think John McCain scored the most points at the Saddleback Civil Forum Saturday. His crisp life begins "at conception" answer to the abortion question left the Rev. Rick Warren looking particularly pleased. As cameras panned the crowd, all the people seemed jubilant.

Compare that to...

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A Civil Forum? Maybe We'll Learn Something

(5) Comments | Posted August 15, 2008 | 3:48 PM

Pastor Rick Warren's Civil Forum with John McCain and Barack Obama tomorrow could be the most exciting event of the political season. Why? Because the pastor of Saddleback Church isn't a member of the press, and he might not act like one.

That means he might not ask questions...

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Drop Bibles, not bombs

(0) Comments | Posted August 7, 2008 | 5:43 PM

Here at last. I give you a one-fits-all strategy. Whichever candidate adopts it will be first to the finish line.
Drop Bibles, not bombs.
It's easy to understand. Easy to remember. Has alliteration. Gives everybody something to love.
It's cheap. Cuts big government....

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Vote For A Bad Guy

(2) Comments | Posted July 28, 2008 | 10:34 PM

Obama's togetherness message is beginning to cloy, the newspapers say. They're loving him in Europe, of course. He's embodying all that the world wants America to be.

But at home, the pundits are calling for some muscle behind the message. He's mushing out, as the editors say...

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James Dobson's Toilet Politics

(10) Comments | Posted July 22, 2008 | 2:59 PM

How does a transvestite go to the toilet?

No joke. Can anybody tell me?

I don't mean anatomically. I mean location-ly, publicly. When a transvestite is out and about, and feels the call of nature, where does he/she go?

I never thought about it until James Dobson's Focus on...

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