Review: Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement, Lauren Sandler

I was enjoying Righteous well enough for the first half of the book, though I did recognize that I might be burning out on Christian culture.  I feel I am ready to move on and tackle some of the zillions of recommendations y’all gave me for fantasy books (y’all rock, by the way, thanks for those).  And then, oh dear, then I got to the chapter about black churches, and it ruined the rest of the book for me.  The chapter is hella condescending and stereotype-y:

But these days, it’s not pimps but preachers who slip into custom-made three-piece suits and coordinated alligator loafers.  These preachers know that hip-hop [yeah, she says “hip-hop” like fifty times in this chapter], especially when its rhymes promise riches, has the power to draw the masses to their megachurches like teen girls to an Usher concert.  The result isn’t simply converting new black Evangelicals – rebirthing a nation – but escorting them directly into an increasingly biblical institution: the Republican Party.  The holy trinity of faith, finance, and fame has begun to pad voter rolls with a new crop of Southern, urban blacks.

Ick, right?  Sandler devotes at least half of this chapter to the prosperity gospel, with the implication that it’s a black thing, this prosperity gospel, for black people (you know, Usher fans).  She doesn’t do much exploration of the demographics of prosperity churches, though I really think she should have; see here if you like for an interesting article about these churches and their demographics.

A sentence from Righteous apropos of prosperity churches and the collections they take up that made me feel awkward for its author:

Prick up your ears on any given Sunday, and you might just hear the sound of bills rustling in black hands all across America.

Oo, and if you’re wondering who is cooler, white people or black people, it will be explained unto you.  Here Sandler’s talking about a black Christian group performing to an all-white audience in rural Georgia:

This is hardly a stretch of land living out King’s dream today, but when Goodside takes to the stage, you’d never know.  The white bands that precede the group onstage have failed to capture the crowd’s attention with their honky-tonk droning.  Even in this hick demographic, hip-hop has the power to electrify an audience….before long, the bleachers have emptied of seated patrons…just like the [mainly black] kids at the [previously discussed] “Gathering” show.

In case you missed it just there, the point is that even racist hick white kids can enjoy black music because black people are cool and good at music.  There’s more that unites us than divides us.