Sweet Heaven When I Die

Today’s Washington Post includes my review of Jeff Sharlet’s Sweet Heaven When I Die: Faith, Faithlessness, and the Country In Between. Kind of. The review was edited with a pretty heavy hand, and though my enthusiasm for Sharlet’s book comes through, I don’t feel like the review reads like most of my other stuff.

Regardless, if you don’t know Sharlet’s work, I urge you to pick up this book, or any of his other work.

A bit from the review:

Sharlet also visits the opposite side of the spectrum in his reporting on BattleCry, the “furious youth crusade” of fundamentalism. In his account, BattleCry is the type of fundamentalist organization that embarrasses temperate Christians and enrages nonbelievers. Yet with its “warrior” mentality and its loathing of “queers and communists, feminists and Muslims,” the organization offers a vision of faith unencumbered by ambiguity. Sharlet quotes BatleCry’s leader, Ron Luce, as saying, “The world is a forty-five-year-old pervert posing as another tween online.’ ” BattleCry offers a sanctuary for like-minded believers.Speaking with a young entertainer at a BattleCry event, he realizes that her calm stems from the fact that she has “found faith that promised not answers but an end to questions.”

This is the prevailing division of the world that “Sweet Heaven” presents: between those who use faith as a tool for answering life’s difficult riddles and those whose faith is less an instrument than a blindfold. Sharlet contends that this latter faith exists without belief because it operates without understanding.

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