tv Lyz Lenz God Land CSPAN August 24, 2019 9:00am-10:01am EDT
fatigues. >> senator tom cotton's latest book is called "sacred duty." to watch the rest of this talk watch booktv.org and search for his name in the search box at the top of the page. >> so now on to the main event. we're very lucky to have a guest with us this morning, lyz lenz, the writer currently contributing to columbia journalism review. her writing has appeared all over the place, and her essay all the angry women appeared in -- [inaudible] not that bad. she also has a second book called "belabored" which is coming out in 2020. in god land, lyz lenz asks the question what is happening to faith in america. at a time when more than 70% of americans consider themselves christians, yet many religious leaders are decrying a loss of faith, the relationships and division our country's facing.
let me just say that it's a very timely book. and without further ato do, please help -- ado, please help me welcome lyz lenz. [applause] >> hi. can everybody hear me okay? i'm used to doing, like, midwestern events where there's always the one woman in the back with, she's like, please, talk louder. you're like, i'm talking as loud as i want to, ethel. [laughter] so when i heard c-span was going to be here, they were, like, do you have any questions? and i said -- [inaudible] c-span encourages shorts, but i felt after that reply that i had to. the i want to also just acknowledge the shirt i wore specifically for you, washington d.c. it says, iowa: for some reason you have to come here to be president.
[laughter] sucks. so is i wanted to just tell you the origin story of the book, because this is a book about religion, and you don't really want to, like, just hear me read from a book about religion. if you wanted to do that, you could go to christmas dinner with your grandma. she misses you. so i want to talk about the origin story of the book, then read from a small section, and then we'll take questions. chris was supposed to be here tonight, she couldn't make it, so if anybody wants to leave because they were here for chris, there's all right. i'm not offended. i'm out too. [laughter] if you want to do that, i'll just find you later on the internet. [laughter] okay. there's no way to transition out of that, so let's just go. in 2011 i tried to start a church, which sounds like a
really weird thing to do. and it is. i don't recommend it. but it's also, like, a very american thing to do, to try and create a space, a utopia, a perfect place. except, unlike bronson alcott's fruit lancz or the super sexy oneida community, mine was boring, and it was in an old railroad depot that had been converted, and we called it stone the bridge. spoiler, it was an epic failure. you get to that in, like, the first three pages, so hopefully you still want to read the book. there were so many things wrong with it, but what it all -- what brought it all down was that our head pastor, he tried to take over a methodist church in kind of a bloodless coup.
they were in this old office depot, and he was very tired of the space. and he was like, what if we just -- there's this aging methodist population a couple of miles away, what if we just started hosting events there and slowly took over the building in i'm usually very pro-coup, i love of the military push, i love it all, but i was like -- like, i just don't really feel like advocating for violence against aging methodists, even psychic violence. [laughter] so it was crazy. it was a crazy use of power, which i'm sure we've seen in america recently. and that crazy use of power brought all of our sleeping divisions to a head. over the course of four meetings, four very long, painful meetings, it brought up all of the difference cans that we had been ignoring, all of our divisions.
they felt new, but they had been there from the beginning. and so we shut it down. and that was the summer of 2015. that summer i also went to visit a historical society in he -- lemars, iowa, which it's famous for blue bunny ice cream. you guys seem so excited about that. [laughter] so i went to this historical society in lemars, iowa, because i really love to have a fun time, but also what was advertised there was this, like, farmer had created, like, hundreds of anatomically correct wooden dolls,ing and it's just as horrifying as you think it is. and i was, like, i have to go see these creepy murder dolls. they were like, we don't prefer to call them murder dolls, and i was, like, rebrand. while i was there looking at the creepy dolls, i went up to a floor, and this was a whole
floor filled with pianos and organs from all the closed-up churches just in that county alone. and that was just a couple months after my own church closed. and being a writer can and a narcissist, i thought i should write about this, because timeline wise we're now nearing the end of 2015 to beginning of 2016. caucuses are starting to happen. and there's this sociological theory of three places. everybody has three places in your life, right? like your work, your family and then what's the third place? for so many people for so long that third place with was church. and what i noticed in my own life was i wasn't going to church anymore. i was actively refusing to go like a 16-year-old, angry 16-year-old. i was, like, i want to have brunch instead, which is my new religion. bloody marys. that's the thesis of the book. [laughter]
kidding. so what, went you have a whole community and the centerpiece was the church and that church is now closed or nobody goes to that church anymore because they're all driving 50 miles away to go to church in omaha or people just don't go there the anymore, what fills the void? and i was asking that about my own life, and i was asking that about the heartland, about middle america. if all these churches were closing, what was filling the void. and so i wrote an article for a place called pacific standard in the beginning of 2016 right before the caucuses arguing that the loss of faith in america was changing us and and changing us politically. and this is like a very journalist-y town, so you all might understand what i say next when i say so many journalists who were there in 2016 have so many embarrassing takes in our
past -- [laughter] we don't want to talk about it. i don't want to talk about my own bad takes, but this was actually my one good take. and so because i think i was on to something. and indiana press university reached out in the summer of 2016 and said you should make this a book k. and i'm like i'm not really smart like an academic. and they're like, we know. [laughter] we read your tweets, we're aware. so through those couple of months, we were working out an outline of what the book would look like. i had been doing a lot of research, and then we all know what happened in november of 2016. i ate a ham sandwich. no, that ham sandwich became president. and then i signed the book contract in 2016. and so by that time, america was
changed, my life was changed. i had turned from a mostly full-time, stay-at-home mom to a full-time journalist. i'd turned from a married lady to a single lady. i'd turned from a person who started churches to a person who was very angry and frustrated at them. so that's what the, that's what the book with explores. and so i want to read you this very small section on nostalgia. and don't worry, it's not super boring. it starts with a murder. i didn't do it. on october 22, 1989, just outside st. joseph, minnesota, 11-year-old jacob wetterling was kidnapped. the case remained unsolved for nearly 27 years until a local man, danny heinrich, confessed in 2016.
the jacob wetterling case was one of those moments that redefined how minnesotans saw their small town. before jacob disappeared, people in rural minnesota believed they were set apart, special somehow. isolated from all the crime and evil endemic in the cities. so when jacob went missing, no one felt safe, not ever again. i heard about the jacob wetterling case when i moved from south dakota to minnesota in january 2000. a girl in my high school english class told me the story as a parable after i told her how i often went for walks on the path behind my house. i heard other participants pass the name -- parents pass the name of jacob. if it could happen in st. joe, then no place was safe. i often hear my friends now who would be about the same age as jacob, had he been allowed to live, invoking the time before, that remembered time of innocence when, you know, kids were allowed to be kids, when
the dangers of kidnapping and murder didn't hide in the bushes of every well manicured lawn. of course that belief is a lie. thattistically, children have never been safer than they are now. in fact, it's the era when we believed children to be safe that they were actually the least safe. in the podcast in the dark, a journalist revealed that before jacob went missing, there was an epidemic of rape and assault of young boys in the area. according to "the washington post" -- hey, that's where we are -- that's not in the book. [laughter] in 1935, for instance, there were nearly 450 deaths for every 100,000 children aged 1-4. today there are fewer than 30 deaths for every 100,000 children, kids in that age group, more than a tenfold decrease. i think about this case often during the month i spent in collegeville, minnesota, on a sabbatical to write this book. st. joe's is just a few short
miles away from where i'm stay thing at the college of st. john. i drive through the town on my way to the gym and the grocery store. one night a friend and i go into talk about for a sandwich if coffee. it till feels like a small town despite the fact that st. cloud is swallowing it up. the small streets, charming stores, the rise of the spires of the college of st. benedict. stepping into the town is like stepping into a lost moment. after eating our dinner of sandwiches, my friend -- a japanese pastor -- offered to walk me back to my car. no, i'm fine, i said. he insisted. it was after nine on a friday night, and i had three blocks to walk. you think you are safe, then maybe you are and maybe you aren't. so i will go with you, he said. everyone wants that time back, but that time never existed to begin with. people and things are always disappearing; boys missing, stores closed, churches closed, schools consolidated, faith lost. 60% of the people here voted for
trump. they wanted to make america great again. again. they wanted to step back into a moment, to believe that there was a time before this. mark stands with his armeds folded against a paling -- arms followed against a paling blue sky. that's his land. next to him is a large combine with its metallic claws hovering above the earth. that's his livelihood. mark tells me he doesn't go to church as much as he want, he has to be in his field. the spring was wet so everything is starting a little too late. it's always something, dry summers, flooding springs, the freed of early -- freeze of early winters. every day he fights and worships nature in equal measure. nothing makes me believe inned god more than working in a field in the early morning, he tells me. he believes in global warming. he believes the world is changing, but he doesn't think we can do anything about it. it's god's will.
mark is a big man, but it's cheer he feels small in the context of the capricious beauty of nature. why do you believe in god, i ask. because if i didn't want, i'd have to believe in the -- if i didn't, i'd have to believe in the bottle. he means booze, you guys. [laughter] too many people drink and use drugs. this is illinois where the opioid crisis is in full effect. according to the illinois department of health, more people have died from an opioid drug overdose in 2014 than from homicide or motor vehicle accidents. a farmer and his rural stress survival guiled explains -- guide explains the predicament of farmers this way: there's not a lot to do but worry. some eat too much, some drink too much, some gamble. no harvest, no income. short-term notes come due can, there isn't timed to do something else. anything else to make ends meet.
no camps for kids, no christmas, no dinners out. fewer trips to town. soon the towns and cities will feel the pain too. it's a cycle of struggle that breeds nostalgia, and while fewer than 7% of rural workers are directly 'em poi ploy -- employed in agriculture, the farming mentally directly influences how people in middle america think and act, shepherding the town and country church in the new era. ron clausen, barney wells and martin gurks ise note that even in areas defined as cities a rural mentality can still exist. this agrarian world view, as they call it, is pervasive, and it's defined by a belief in the self apart from the systems and government, and it's a world view that redefines success not as an advancement, but as survival. the narrative then is one of making due, where a good year is not one marked by achievement, but by simply staying alive,
making moral advances rather than financial ones. finding solace rather than drive. it's a discourse of loss and a fatalistic language of survival. who has the capacity to care about climate change when you yourself are barely holding on? a world of survival -- financial, emotional and spiritual -- is an anemic place of holding on. sometimes the biggest freedom is founding your greatest fear, letting go. it's a moral language i'm familiar with. it's one that weaves together the dispension sayingsallism of christianity, says the world is bad, so i tend to my own garden and just have faith in jesus. it's a political ideology that embraces the inevitable and looks out only for those things that are believed to be in the individual's control which sounds nice, but really it's just a call to love our neighbors as ourselves. so many of the farmers i meet
while researching the book experienced their best years under president obama. but they voted for donald trump in 2016. in fact, it wouldn't be hard to argue that under obama farming at least was great again, but no one feels that way. their nostalgia is for something more than monetary gain, it's for something more than better trade deals or a sociopolitical climate that favors corn and wheat prices. even if things were good, they never trusted it. plus, even if the money was good, mark explains, the morality was bad. when i asked what he means, he tells me abortion and birth control. plus i all that other good stuff wasn't a result of the policies of obama. it was a fluke. he doesn't trust good moments. they go away too easily. it's a poverty mentality born of the reliance on the whims of a capricious -- [inaudible] mark longs for the days when his father was a farmer. things were hard but life was good, easier somehow. he's conveniently forgetting the
farm crisis of the '80 in order to justify his world view. in reality there was never a time when people didn't engage in the relentless battle with the earth. there was never a time when it wasn't hard to be a farmer or a time when all families were good is and moral and christian and white. even the belief in the wholesome christian community, according to rural people in communities in 21st century -- i read so many interesting books for this book, you guys. [laughter] they were all textbooks. rural residents are more likely to experience chronic or life-threatening illnesses. they are more likely to have cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and mental illness. drug and alcohol use are overall slightly higher in urban areas, use is slightly higher in -- i often mentioned this in
conversation. even when i spoke to barney wells and ron clausen, the authors of the book that told me this -- [laughter] they were the architects of a class designed to assist ministers in understanding rural culture. they scoffed at my statistics. i had to show wells the passage in the book that he wrote where those that statistics were located for him to even consider the possibility. but he challenged the methodology of the researchers -- [laughter] basically, when it comes to this nostalgia, rural faith, the cognitive dissonance between what is true and what we want to be true is on full display. and i will realize one last section -- read one last section, just like a page. we go back to st. johns. i went to a lot of mass. i'm not catholic, but i found -- i love how spooky catholicism is. [laughter]
nothing's weirder than transsubstantiation. [laughter] i see so many nods, yes! it's weird! and, like, you're supposed to literally believe it. sign me up. [laughter] i love it. so walking across the st. johns campus one sunday after mass, i picked a red berry. snow had come early to northern minnesota, and in the three weeks i was there as a visitor on the campus, this had been two snowfalls that covered the earth in thick white beauty. snow is a shroud over the ugly death of winter. when it melts, the raw, gray flesh of the world is genre vealed. i saw the berries only because it was the first beautiful day in so long, and i was walking slowly. sitting in a benedictine mass had overwhelmed me with a sense of eternity. the monks in the mass seemed to be part of an eternal community, each one vital and yet a continuation of a tradition that
had begun long before they were born and would continue long after they were gone. i felt taking part in the liturgy that welcomed me but didn't need me. i felt like i had been immersed into an eternal landscape of faith. it was the same feeling that comes over me as i drive across the midwest. it will continue long after i'm gone, it resists the relentless push of humanity. here land meets sky, mortal touches immortal. so much is seen and so much is lost. the mass had been -- [inaudible] i would be leaving the campus soon where i had been cloistered writing this book. then i would have to return to my children, my friends and the wreck of my life. there would be the holidays to muscle through -- oh, by the way, i'm getting divorced in this section. helpful information. that's the war. [laughter] there would be the holidays to
muscle through and relatives to answer to for my broken marriage. i'd have to move out of my house. i'd have to start a new life. each task was so monumentally overwhelming, i couldn't even make a list. instead, i walked slowly and looked atteberrys on a bush -- atteberrys on a bush, and and i picked one with. my mother told me that nature's brightness was a warning of poison and bitterness. but yew berries are not poisonous themselves. it's the small black seeds on the inside. the pine needles of the yew give you off a highly allergic pollen. they're noxious to cattle and horses and are often planted as a barrier to keep roaming grazers out. extracts of the european yew were used in early chemotherapy drugs which killed cancer cells in order to save lives.
the yew is the symbol of life, but they're also evergreens, symbols of eternal life. yews are often found in churchyards. so many boring books i quote. in antiquities and curiosities of the church published in 1897, that was actually a very fun book, the con founding symbol of the yew. i'm not going to read the whole part because you guys would die, and there's a baby crying. [laughter] the baby's, hike, stop with the history of trees. [laughter] but he basically says it's an emblem of mortality. an emblem of immortality. death and life, all in one tree. but i wasn't thinking of all this when i picked the berry. i was thinking about the broken pieces of my life i'd have to pick up when i went home. i was longing for a way out, so i wish squished the seed of the berry onto the ground.
i immediately regretted it. i'm allergic to yew berries, apparently. my face ached. it's a protection but a poisonous one. it offers a shield and weaponry but often turns on those who touch it. it's both ever lasting and a harbinger of death. scottish poet robert blair memorialized the yew writing in his poem curious and unsocial plant that loves to dwell midst skulls and coffins where light-heeled ghosts in visionary shades beneath the wan, cold moon and bodies thick perform their mystic rounds. no other merriment stole tree and vine. what a burn with, right? i imagine blair shouting this and shaking his fist at the yew, his face probably also aching with allergies -- [laughter] man and nature in an eternal battle. yew one; blair and me, zero. when i see that, i feel the same
sense of mass i did on sunday. we both feel it. we are both lost in it trying to stake our claims in the struggle between us and nature. nature, we realize, will always win, but we rustle anyway. our bodies throbbing after reaching out to touch beauty. so that's just a little bit. [applause] a little lightheartedded. [applause] i, i would love to answer some questions if anybody has them. i mean, i know it's a little bit of a a lighthearted topic, but let's just go into it, like, go in balls to the wall. let's do it. oh, i don't know, can you say that on c-span? [laughter] >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> well, i -- what's your third
place? it's different, right? it's different for everybody, and it's different for communities and cultures. what i, what i think -- what i think is still there is i do believe that all people are interested in accessing mystery. even if you are not a religious person so much, if you've left the church, there's parts of your life that are definedded by that loss. and one of the things that didn't actually make it into the book but was really fun, is i spent a couple of sundays with some humanists in cedar rapids, a little humanist group. they're so lovely, but it cracked me up because i went, and it was just like, it was just bible study but, like, instead of the bible we were just, like, talking about what was in the news. and there were still, like, they didn't -- when i was there they didn't sing songs, but i was
told sometimes they sing songs. and, like, they just, you know, like, woody guthrie or something. and i was, like, it's so funny that you're, like, you're just like a church. but a church of yourself, which is fine and wonderful and beautiful, and they do such amazing things. but i do think that, i do think what i found was that spirituality is not absent even if it takes on a different form in our lives. and so there has been much said about the death of religion in america. but i think it is still an active can is and vibrant force as we see -- i don't think that's a hot take, but it's a force in a way different way than it used to be. it's no longer these little centers of our community. it's happening, you know, on the football fields. sports is a type of religion for americans.
you know, it's happening online. so many people are finding communities of faith or centers of organization or that spiritual human connection online in facebook groups and dms and apps, the apps, the kids use the apps. so those were a couple other things i realized. yes. hopefully that answers your question. yeah. yes, hi. >> kind of any conclusions or any thoughts with the overlap between religious life and caucus life in iowa? >> caucus life? like religious life and caucus life? well, you can't -- [laughter] >> [inaudible] >> the caucus mentality where we just roll our eyes while beto stands on all of our tables -- [laughter] who's cleaning that one up, you guys? yeah. so here's the thing, is i think
that we -- the one thing that i really wish was, hope people take away, a takeaway from the book, is that the way religion in america works is it's so inseparable from the way our communities are organized -- have you ever wondered why, like, maybe this doesn't have as much in d.c., but in most of america's schools don't hold events on wednesday nights because it's church night. like, that's just a thing that happens. there are so many of our default modes that are because so many of our communities in our social structure the, our political structure is deeply impacted by religion. so when you talk about that the, you realize what's the venn diagram? here's the venn diagram the, it's all one big, messy, hot circle. so what i'm saying is i don't have a great answer. it's a hot mess. but, yeah, politics can feel a little bit like religion in iowa, especially among some
people. but you know what's so interesting is most people just don't care at all. like, you know, like rates of, like, involvement in the caucuses is low, you know? if so most people just, like, live their life and don't even know until one day you're sitting in a café, if all of a sudden, like, it fills to the brim and, hey, bill clinton! like, good god, i just wanted a sandwich. [laughter] .. candidates like to stop, chiming in small towns with easy access to the interstate and both milk and the coffee shops. we were getting ready, my
friend is very politically involved, we were going to go in there and she gets ready to push the door open and she goes god damn it. i walk in there and beto is standing on one of those tables, so help me i just want one night, one night. it was such a perfect iowa code 02 an evening as the caucus season warms up. >> going to interject this if you have a question please use the microphone or recording. form a line right here. >> in your research in the midwest are you finding it is the main line churches that are struggling and failing well evangelical ones are doing better or do you not find that? >> yes, no but yes. next question? >> there is a really
interesting thing about religious research where there are these arguments that like when the groups are more like conservative and fanatical they tend to attract more adherents and i feel this is a distinctly american thing because we love a cold. i know you all think you wouldn't join a cold but i guarantee you i could come up with a called everyone would join for you personally. we just love cults. we love being told what to do because we love comfort ability so the problem with very smart academics, i am just rephrasing it in a dumb way, they have all been like when like religious groups get more fanatical, and then as they get, and i was
very impressed by this because i don't want christianity to be like crazy fanatical all the time, i want to be like chill. so i emailed the men who have these theories and i was like are you sure? can we discuss this and he said it looks like that in the research because like if a religion is going to get like more open it is harder to track because there is like more inviting and accepting and sure, yeah. it is little bit of like a misnomer so evangelicalism does feel stronger but i think like if you press down on the statistics, 80% of americans believe in god but very small percentage go to church so there's a huge group of people who say that are spiritual but don't quite go to church so they are not evangelical, where are they?
right here. so yes and no is the easy answer to your question. >> first comment from my wife who can't be here who is currently on a cruise, lots of sunburn and pale people. i'm sure she will appreciate this when she watches it later. tell me to tell you that your book is the first that she has read about the midwest that she can sort of see her own experience in. >> there is a lot -- so many. and as like a person of like two coasts, it is great to see some of like the more stories about the midwestern comment on
america's consciousness so second question from somebody else who couldn't make it tonight, a process question. he is also a writer. her question is did your writing process change throughout the book? going through your interviews did interviewing people change sort of what your book became? >> yes. i just want to acknowledge two things for women, that is feminism, thank you. sorry, i just loved it. absolutely. i had this like a very general -- i do a lot of research and travel before even making the outline for the book so that informed it and then after it was like a very broad outline, i was like i will talk about the internet, not very specific and so it did change it so the
only chapter i did end up adding throughout the process was the chapter on football because every time i talked to a minister they were like football is our biggest competitor? you sure about that? i am not like a sports person and so i really didn't want to write about football. i'm going to get kicked out of iowa, i did not want to go to and i oaxaca i football game, i do not want to tailgate but so many would midwestern activities are in the cold. that is what tailgating is except it is at 2:00 in the morning or something because they get up like super early to get a good tailgating spot so you stand outside in the cold and drink miller highlight which is the champagne of beers and i love it, no disrespect to
the beer, didn't want to do it, i don't want to do that. that was the one thing that was added but what mostly changed through writing the book as it wasn't supposed to be so personal and then it just got real messy and that is the only way i know how to handle things, writing in my life so that was the biggest change. halfway through the writing process i was like i have to put my divorce in here because the personal, political, pretending otherwise is just a privilege. >> and the south seems really far behind. >> they are not, come on.
i remitted it because i got the smallest advance in the entire world. if i have gotten more money i would have been -- i love a road trip. i was so excited to just drive around and the gas station breakfast food and report this book but i didn't go to other places because -- i think there are a lot of similarities. and so many books written about the south. i didn't feel like that had been done from the midwest so, very happy to narrow it down on
that place and location but back up and say let's not call it backwards or behind, like each place is so far more complex than i think we give them credit for, especially in the south, so many like liberation theology ideas and these like really forward thinking kind of movements have arisen out of states and churches in the south. there are so many great books already. >> my confession is i haven't read your book. >> get out now! >> what are the main reasons people are leaving the church? >> they are mad.
they are mad about sexism, racism, the church is one of the few places in america where it is perfectly fine, to be quiet, you are a woman and we still do that but we try to be like low-key about it. so yes, people are done with that and there's this idea that like people are leaving the church as if there was an idea that everybody used to go to church all the time. that really only happened at a specific time during the cold war when it was like you go to church because that's what americans do because we are not communists but really, even in the 1930s barely 40% of people went to church so the whole idea of people leaving the church is more like we might just be correcting from the
cold war too so yes, thanks. >> i am actually not from this area. i am from west virginia. i'm from an extremely conservative place, being a liberal. so don't kill me outside. >> we love you. i come from a city is it 26 people in one day died from opioids and the main opioid epidemic stems from huntington, west virginia if you have ever seen heroin or any of those documentaries. my grandfather has been a preacher for 60 years. he has been fired from eight different churches for his beliefs anywhere from allowing someone to be part of the church who drank to allowing women to read scripture.
so my question, during your research, do you think in this type of christian community that churches who are trying to be more accepting can survive? >> this is for talking and sharing, interesting to hear about your dad and grandfather, doing some really hard work inside a place that is very resistant to change. what comes to our mind is a white heterosexual evangelical man who is mid 50s and middle-class, very specific idea. and his wife is superhot on instagram. you know what i am talking about. that is what dominates our idea
of what faith is in america, that is wrong, that is not what faith is in america, like we are the home of like, you know, like, african-american social justice movements that arose from politically progressive churches in the south, like the day, it is nuts and so when we only privilege one voiceover another voice we fail to realize there are so many people like your grandfather out there doing the work, trying to do the change and it might feel like you are alone but you are part of a grand tradition. what i have been telling people is sometimes it's impossible to change the stones from the inside, sometimes you've got to burn them down. i don't mean that literally. i'm not advocating arson, not actually, talk to me later but
here is the thing. if your church doesn't affirm, doesn't affirm gay marriage, doesn't ordain women, leave. it is 2019, it's too late. we are not going to have this conversation, just go because there are so many of the great spaces that are doing the work, so many good places here. one of my favorite people in faith lives here, her name is julie rogers, she is like they're doing it, go hang out with her, find your people and don't just believe the lie that just to be christian is to be this one person but thank you, your grandma sounds awesome, super rad. >> also a native from a very rural state, north dakota.
and i was curious have you been to many rural communities, talking about religion which is the center of a lot of rural communities, what made you the most optimistic for the future of world communities and what made you the most pessimistic and the most sad or whatever? >> the idea that like the thing that is most optimistic, there is -- one of my favorite people in the book who is one of my favorite people in real life when i wrote the book, she was 97 and now she's 100, just had her birthday the other day, happy birthday, evelyn burke. she is what i found that makes me optimistic because here she is, 100-year-old white lady who is superreligious and in so many ways very conservative but she is also like, she is also
like some things we are doing in america are superwrong and we need to stop doing this and the president is bad and may be some more jell-o casserole and what makes me hopeful is again, our idea of because we have this idea of the midwest, it is all farmers sitting in cafés talking about how much they love trump's trade policies and that has never happened, i have never seen that guy, he does not exist but what does exist is evelyn and people like her who are complex, who are interested, who are active and who want america to be a better place and searching and struggling with the same questions we all are. that makes me hopeful. the other part about what do i hate, i would like to see a
better gas station. the young upstart one, old money gas stations -- what do i hate? i don't hate anything. i love the place where i live and i think there are things i am deeply troubled by, but all things are complex and nuanced. i realize i hate silences. i hate churches that are quiet. i hate when people sit around and say i don't want to be political. you know what you are doing, you are being privileged. i get angry by that and want to yell at them. please, i am just a male person, stop yelling at me. i never yelled at the mail person yet. that is what i hate, the complicity of silences. high.
>> i first got to know your work in the excerpt or the passage in not that bad, the anthology which i will try to summarize briefly, how our culture and how often individuals who have been victimized by sexual violence tend to minimize or work around things which is super relevant to the topic of the decline of the american church and i find myself wondering. my perspective from the standpoint of psychology is when you have a crisis you fight, flight or freeze and my perception is that churches are not fighting this epidemic, they are either freezing, dissociating, saying nothing to see here or fleeing through denial and i wonder if that came up in your research or your writing. >> there were a lot, there were a lot, it is more than -- there
are places that are completely silent, completely don't want to talk about it, just want to talk about jesus and there are those that are like let's do this, let's give in to it. what i started to see was more of the people who had been silent before or places that were silent before were no longer quiet. i also think there is fight, flight, freeze, or get free and i see more people getting free like i'm done with these things, i'm going to get out there and do my own thing and i love that, start your own called. you know what i realized, there is a lack of gender representation in cults, they really want to encourage young women out there to just feel empowered, to start your own
called, crack that glass ceiling but yes, yes, i have a great chapter in there about these ministers who were quiet before the election grappling with the question of talking, there is a huge pupil that divide where a lot of ministers are more liberal than their congregations which is not the stereotype you would think is happening but it is there. a lot of mixtures of reaction. we will see what wins out. i'm not interested in doing another bad take but thank you, such a smart question. >> it feels like it is not addressing my question. >> pushback, what do you think
i am not -- >> your answer is about generally how do we talk about challenges versus the actual topic of sexual violence in the church. >> you want to talk about sexual violence in the church. i'm sorry, i understood it is a question of how are churches responding to politics. sexual violence in the church, they are not talking about it and that is a huge huge huge problem. even superliberal congregations just don't talk about it and i have written about this, how sexual violence persists because people go to their ministers who are not mandatory reporters and just be like okay, just deal with it from here instead of getting people help and that perpetuate cycles of violence.
it is such a huge huge huge problem and it makes me very upset and i don't know what the answer is because anytime there is some sort of forward movement, the new york times writes a story about this mega church had a big sex scandal and maybe this will change something, then you hear never anything about it ever again and it gets so quietly swept up and i think this is the problem of power, the problem of privilege and the problem of the fact that in america we are dominated by non-denominational churches that have literally no oversight from anyone, not even their own structures and less than 1% of head pastors are going to get mad now, less than 1% of pastors, head pastors are women, it is all men sitting around deciding what is best and it is actively engaging in violence against women's bodies in the church and it sucks,
thank you. pushing back against that. i thought you were talking about something else, you wanted me to yell at churches. yes. you want me to yell at a man, sure. we are almost running out of time. we will limit it to three questions that are already in mind. >> high. one of my favorite things about your writing style is the blend of personal and research. you do it definitely and it is really hard and as a writer that is something i struggle with as well, then the essay will turn into something completely different than i wanted it to be and i'm left with three essays and don't want to finish any of them and keep falling down rabbit holes so my question is what is your favorite thing you found in researching this book that ultimately did not fit in with the book?
>> i found this none, she was very old. i don't think she answers her phone or does email. nuns don't have to. their email comes from god. she goes around and closes catholic churches and i heard about her, she goes around and performs kind of a funeral ritual to close up churches and it just sounded so beautiful and so interesting and i wanted to just like i wanted to see one but i wanted to follow along with it and i tried even up until right the book was being published. if i can figure it out maybe i can write it as an article but i just couldn't make that
happen but i would really love to somehow see that ceremony, kind of cool and weird and spooky and who knows where to go? there are so many but i will just tell that one story but there was also a time i thought i was going to get murdered but we are running out of time. i will tell you later. >> you didn't say anything about why your church failed after four years. >> tried to take over methodist. yes. >> what did you learn from that after four years of trying? >> they are still a church. what i learned was you need to have unity of vision and unity of purpose and i also think what i learned is what often happens, entrepreneurship or silicon valley or anytime people try to like start a new thing usually there is a very charismatic personality involved, be wary of the
charismatic personality because that is just a way of calling a white sociopath a nice guy. that is a lot of what i learned. i also learned some things can't be compromised, some divide cannot be bridged, nor should they be bridged. that is a couple things i learned. there are so many but good churches close, bad churches stay around. it is hard to say what will live and what will survive. i was happy and sad when hours went under. thank you. >> hello. i hope we can end on some advice as we get into election season. i am from northwest iowa and unlike everybody i know who left northwest iowa i did not encourage my group that still lives there.
i'm seeing a lot of really crazy stuff. >> what do you know? >> home sweet home. what resonated most was when you talked about lack of belief in facts, that everything was more peaceful and safer and better 10, 20 years ago or in the last two years and people are reconciling that with religion. you seem to engage people really well, how do you do that in a world that is largely on social media? >> don't fight with your uncle on social media. you can't win. i unfriended mine. i only have one uncle and i think he might be in jail right now. but like i don't -- i don't think fight can be won and lost on social media which sounds
kind of defeatist but that is how our president is winning and losing fight but when you are engaging with the people you know and do you love it has to happen in a real and messy way and i don't think you can go into any situation proselytizing. please vote for not trump which sounds like a great proselytization situation but i don't think you can approach a relationship that way. here's the thing. you say i seem like i am good at like dealing with people, i am not. that's the only way i know how to be. perhaps that is the only way you can be, just the all of your self and say this really sucks and it hurts my feelings and it really sucks when you justify holding babies in cages
on the border, i hated and don't want to be here, just trying it -- but also i say that and it is an unsafe place and it is fine to unfriend people. you know what is best for yourself. i don't know how to do this better than anybody else does, i just talk all the time. then if people get mad at me i make them sell cookie bars and it goes away, the midwestern way. sorry i didn't answer your question. i guess we are done, thank you for coming. [applause] i think i am signing some books. >> every year booktv covers
book fairs and festivals around the country. here's a look at some events coming up. next weekend it is the a jc decatur book festival takes place outside atlanta and live saturday from the national book festival hosted by the library of congress in washington dc. later in the fall of course at the brooklyn book festival in new york city and the southern festival of books in nashville. for more information about upcoming book fairs and festivals and to watch our previous festival coverage click our book fairs tab on our website, booktv.org. >> and now, the real reason we are here, tonight's featured author, john mcmanus, is widely considered to be the leading expert on the history of modern american soldiers in combat.
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