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Righteous, by Lauren Sandler

By an everyday book reader
May 1, 2007

Illuminating, often troubling, and unapologetically frank, Righteous is dynamic young journalist Lauren Sandler's report from the nexus of religious fundamentalism and youth culture.

"A thought-provoking report, worth a look no matter what side you fall on." - Dallas Morning News

As a secular guide through the passion and politics of the teenage evangelical "Disciple Generation," Sandler offers the first front line exploration of the Christian youth counterculture and what its influence could mean for the future of America.

Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement
by Lauren SandlerBook Picture

Softcover: 272 pages
ISBN: 9780143112372, 0143112376
Viking Penguin
August 2007

Using the grassroots modus operandi of the 1960s, these religious kids - part of the "Disciple Generation" as Sandler calls it - turn an anti-authoritarian sneer toward liberalism, feminism, pacifism, and every other hallmark of that era's counterculture.

"While always forthright about being at odds with the worldview of the young Evangelicals she tracks, the author writes with keen insight and empathy about those involved in a range of youth ministries. Her first book not only presents vivid, spirited sketches of a burgeoning subculture, but also a plea to fellow secularists to wake up and proffer an alternative."

- The Christian Science Monitor

The people she writes about are engaging their peers with startling success, fusing pop culture, politics, and religion as they preach from the pulpit of the skate park, bar, and rock concert.

"Sandler has an old-fashioned reporter's knack for telling details. Her portraits of the leaders of this movement are sharp and often hilarious (she skewers the proselytizing pretensions of born-again actor Stephen Baldwin, who parlayed his status as a minor Hollywood actor into celebrity on the Christian youth revival circuit). And Sandler is honest about her own perspective. Her hostility to traditional conservative values makes her an unlikely tour guide through the world of evangelical Christianity. Sandler clearly has a talent for getting people to open up about their beliefs, and she has enough respect for her subjects that she rarely indulges in caricatures. Sandler's book is an intriguing journey into a burgeoning and often contradictory phenomenon. The glimpses it gives us of a new, God-fearing generation of young Americans -- intelligent, comfortable with popular culture, technologically savvy and intent on saving souls -- will surprise many readers, even if it does not convince them of the righteousness of this movement's cause." - Washington Post

Secular, liberal, and practically the embodiment of everything Evangelicalism deems unholy, Sandler travels with skateboard missionaries, hangs out with the tattooed members of a postpunk Seattle megachurch that has evolved into a self-sufficient community, camps out with a rock'n'roll antiabortion group, and gets to know the rap preachers who are merging hip-hop's love of money with old-fashioned bible-beating fundamentalism.

After several years of documenting America's Christian youth for NPR in the late 1990s, Sandler sensed there was more to tell about what she calls the "Disciple Generation." So, like any good journalist, she went back out on the road, traveling from coast to coast seeking the youth who "feel broken and lonely, who desire kinship and purpose, who look for structure and hope, and through their deft organizing efforts and boundless energy...are amassing their own civilian army." A Christian army, that is. Readers will encounter rebel skateboarders for Jesus, tattooed crusaders against abortion, and even a pastor in Atlanta named Creflo Dollar who waxes on about "why God wants you to be rich." In clear, compelling prose, Sandler tells of spending the night camping with members of Rock for Life and visiting one of the most militant Christian colleges in America. She narrates with vivid detail the genesis and current status of some of this country's fastest growing and most extremist evangelical youth groups. She also reveals the fascinating stories of the individuals who have found salvation within them-from the ordinary convert to the charismatic leader. With a flair for storytelling and description, Sandler provides a riveting read for anyone interested in generation next. - Publishers Weekly

This book intimately connects you with skateboarding missionaries, tattooed members of a self-sufficient postpunk mega-church, rock- 'n'-rolling antiabortion protesters, and rap preachers who merge hip-hop's love of money with old-fashioned Bible-beating fundamentalism-true believers who reveal themselves with openness and truly astonishing candor, but what they reveal about our nation is most astonishing of all.

Sandler's book is an intriguing journey into a burgeoning and often contradictory phenomenon. The glimpses it gives us of a new, God-fearing generation of young Americans -- intelligent, comfortable with popular culture, technologically savvy and intent on saving souls -- will surprise many readers, even if it does not convince them of the righteousness of this movement's cause. - Christine Rosen - The Washington Post

Lauren Sandler has written about cultural politics for numerous publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times, as well as for National Public Radio. Lauren Sandler grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her devoutly secular parents sent her off to summer camp with a t-shirt declaring, Question authority, but not your mother. After graduating from Barnard College, she spent the latter half of the nineties producing cultural features and news segments at National Public Radio. Righteous found its genesis there when Lauren produced a series for All Things Considered on youth and religion in America, during which she happened upon a nascent Christian youth movement stirring in group houses and church basements.

A young, Jewish, Ivy-League-educated editor at Salon, Lauren Sandler confesses that she feels the power of charismatic Christianity during her travels to explore the evangelical youth movement--a hormone-infused blend of right-wing fervor and alt-cult style--that, she writes, is thriving in the wake of 9/11. As a rock hymn wails at a sanctuary in Colorado, she writes, "I feel a brokenness inside. And I can't stop crying."

- People Magazine

Lauren left NPR to become a fellow at NYU's Cultural Reporting and Criticism program - in which she now teaches--and to launch a freelance career which brought her particular fascination with the intersection of culture and politics into the pages of many publications. Lauren's journalism has led her into corners of the culture as disparate as the pick-up-artist scene and the born-again rock circuit; she's reported from Baghdad to Brooklyn, which she calls home. Her writing about September 11 and from Iraq has been collected in various anthologies. Righteous is her first book.

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