Rapture Ready! by Daniel Radosh is an exploration of the strange and fascinating world of Christian pop culture. Radosh, a Jewish writer from Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, takes readers on a journey through this parallel universe, combining gonzo reporting with a keen eye for detail and a touch of wit.
The book examines the $7 billion industry of Christian pop culture, which includes everything from theme parks to Passion plays and comedy nights.
Radosh looks at the spiritual, social, and political aspirations of evangelical Christians, and questions what it means when a band is judged by how hard they pray rather than how hard they rock. He also explores the implications of Christian skate parks, raves, and romance novels.
Throughout his journey, Radosh meets a variety of characters, including Bibleman, the Caped Christian; Rob Adonis, the founder and star of Ultimate Christian Wrestling; Ken Ham, the nation’s leading prophet of creationism; and Jay Bakker, the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and pastor of his own liberal, punk rock church.
Rapture Ready! is an insightful and entertaining look at the often hidden world of Christian pop culture. It offers readers a unique perspective on one of America’s most important social movements, and provides useful takeaways such as:
- An understanding of the spiritual, social, and political aspirations of evangelical American Christians
- An appreciation of the vast and influential subculture of American Christian pop culture
- A recognition of the implications of Christian skate parks, raves, and romance novels
- Insight into the characters encountered throughout the journey, such as Bibleman, Rob Adonis, Ken Ham, and Jay Bakker who are all strange in their own way, but also each a microcosm of a larger movement
What I Liked
Hooooooooo boy, I loved this book. It is one of the few books that I still own on my bookshelf. It resonated so much with me since I grew up in and am still very much surrounded by American Christian culture. That said. Hooooo boy, I want to write this review, but I also don’t want to get misquoted or misunderstood.
And because of that – I want to be very clear on a few things that this book does well.
First, even though the book has a whimsical, gonzo tone, it does not mock, belittle, or trivialize faith or individuals committed to living a life of faith.
Second, I like how, in many ways, it is an investigation into why so many Christians participate in a subculture that appears to trivialize and belittle the very seriousness of the faith that they profess.
Third, I appreciate how the book focuses on how this unique evangelical Christian subculture is distinctly American, capitalist, reactionary, and contemporary. It does not really appear in cultures that have less consumerism and less individualism than America. It does not really appear in America’s past. It’s a product of this weird stew of the post-World War II consumer, individualist, American lifestyle…combined with a vague sense of Christian identity (rather than lived faith*).
*see the Book of James for the difference.
Fourth, I like how a friendly outsider wrote it. There are plenty of American Christians who have written similar books & articles about Christian subculture. They come across as serious, complicated, and hand-wringing. And when a far outsider explores the topic, it comes across as mean and a bit cheap. But Daniel Radosh is a friendly guy who is also a Jew* who can move in the subculture while still maintaining social distance.
*side note – as the author notes, Jews have this fascinating standing in American Christianity. All evangelical Christians are very committed Zionists who will support the (secular) government of Israel come hell or high water (literally). Like, many congregations even fly the Israeli flag in their church. And far from the whole medieval antisemitism stereotype, evangelical Christians (in my personal experience) treat individual Jews like really cool long-lost step-brothers who are automatically in the family. It’s complicated, but also something that the book explores.
Fifth, the book itself is hilarious, engaging, and fascinating. I give it bonus points for the fact that he described so many experiences that I have done.**
**And yes, the best example is the classic Judgment House. If you know, you know. And if you don’t know…yeah, it’s a thing (and likely much bigger than you’d think). Imagine an interactive Chick Tract in an actual house. A perfect example of something uniquely American – not uniquely Christian.
What I Did Not Like
Nothing – it’s amazing. I just wish there was a sequel for 2023.