God Land
103 pages

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103 pages

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In the wake of the 2016 election, Lyz Lenz watched as her country and her marriage were torn apart by the competing forces of faith and politics. A mother of two, a Christian, and a lifelong resident of middle America, Lenz was bewildered by the pain and loss around her—the empty churches and the broken hearts. What was happening to faith in the heartland?

From drugstores in Sydney, Iowa, to skeet shooting in rural Illinois, to the mega churches of Minneapolis, Lenz set out to discover the changing forces of faith and tradition in God's country. Part journalism, part memoir, God Land is a journey into the heart of a deeply divided America. Lenz visits places of worship across the heartland and speaks to the everyday people who often struggle to keep their churches afloat and to cope in a land of instability. Through a thoughtful interrogation of the effects of faith and religion on our lives, our relationships, and our country, God Land investigates whether our divides can ever be bridged and if America can ever come together.

  1. Dangerous Speculation

  2. The Heart of the Heartland

  3. Yearning for Better Days

  4. The Pew and the Pulpit

  5. The Church of the Air

  6. Room at the Table

  7. A Muscular Jesus

  8. The Asian American Reformed Church of Bigelow, Minnesota

  9. Bridging the Divide

  10. A Den of Thieves

  11. Satanists Potluck

  12. Reclaiming Our Faith

  13. The Fire Outside



Publié par
Date de parution 19 juillet 2019
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253041548
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0032€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2019 by Lyz Lenz
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Cataloging information is available from the Library of Congress.
ISBN 978-0-253-04153-1 (hdbk.)
ISBN 978-0-253-04155-5 (web PDF)
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1 Dangerous Speculation

2 The Heart of the Heartland

3 Yearning for Better Days

4 The Pew and the Pulpit

5 The Church of the Air

6 Room at the Table

7 A Muscular Jesus

8 The Asian American Reformed Church of Bigelow, Minnesota

9 Bridging the Divide

10 A Den of Thieves

11 The Violence of Our Faith

12 Reclaiming Our Faith

13 The Fire Outside

W HENEVER A WOMAN DOES ANYTHING-WRITE A BOOK , create a life, have a career-the labor is often manifold and doesn t come with a break from laundry, homework, floor scrubbing, or cooking. During the course of writing this book, my whole life changed. I went from being married to being a single mom. But I still had kids. I still had dirty floors. Sometimes this was a blessing, often it was overwhelming as hell.
So many of my friends stepped in to help me with childcare, house cleaning, meal preparation, moving, furniture assembly, and so much more. They were the women of my community cheering me on. Offering me support, advice, book recommendations, sending me articles, giving me feedback, mailing me sassy socks, sending me kind texts and direct messages. Always with their loving and generous spirits, even when I was too overwhelmed to say thank you.
They are my true church of the air-the community of women throughout the internet and in my town, without whom this book would not be. Without whom I would not be. Some of their names are Melanie Ostmo, Kristin Engle, Jeanne Towell, Yara Conway, Jessie Lowe, Megan Sova-Tower, Claire Zulkey, and all the witches.
I also want to thank my agent, Saba Sulaiman, who believed in my writing when no one else did. Ashley Runyon, who saw a book inside an internet article. And Ted Scheinman, an amazing and thoughtful editor, whose feedback, friendship, wisdom, and prompt responses to my pitches not only gave me a platform for my first thoughts on this subject, but also gave my words a home.
I also want to thank all the people who talked to me for this project, especially Mark Jackel-Juleen, who put me on the right course, and Evelyn Birkby, whose insight, generosity, and gift of time was foundational to my work.
Thanks to Pastor Ritva, who has never once asked me to work in a nursery.
My brother Zach is my best friend, and even though I still maintain he is the worst, he is also the best. His encouragement and terrible jokes have helped my words and my story find life. And all of my siblings, who taught me that we can all touch the same truth and walk away with different answers. And my parents, who raised me with love, God, and books and have always had my back even when I ve sold them out on the page.
My friends Elon Green, Sarah Weinman, Nicole Cliffe, and Sarah Galo. You know what you did. Also, Marisa Seigel, Pam Colloff, Amy Sullivan, Kate Bowler, Deborah Jian Lee, Kathy Khang, Katelyn Beaty, Laura Turner, and Julie Rodgers. And of course, Katie Bukowski, Anna Marsh, and Kate Johansen.
And of course to my children, Jude and Ellis, who are the most incredible human beings I ve ever met.
I N F EBRUARY OF 2005, MY FIANC AND I sped down Interstate 35 in his gold Mazda on our way to Iowa. Just across the border from Minnesota, a large sign read, Iowa: Fields of Opportunity! Half a mile later, another sign, this one handwritten on a piece of cardboard, read, Acreage for sale! I laughed. And then, a few minutes later, I was crying.
I didn t want to move. I wanted to stay in Minneapolis, a city where I felt I had real opportunities. Instead, I was getting married and moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a city that at the time didn t have a freestanding Starbucks. Not that I like Starbucks, but in my mind it was a marker of civilization. Instead, what I had were bookstores and Targets that proudly brewed Starbucks coffee.
Even Wisconsin has a Starbucks, I said as I looked out the window at the endless gray skies and the frozen dead fields full of nothing except snow and the remnants of a growing season that seemed so far away.
As we drove into Cedar Rapids, the place we would soon call home, Dave pointed out restaurants and stores. Look, an Applebee s! You like hamburgers!
Look, a Famous Footwear! You like shoes!
I nodded gamely. I wanted to be a team player. I wanted this to work. But I felt so lost in a city where I was never more than five minutes from an open field.
And he assured me we d move back one day-for my career, once his was established. It s the kind of compromise that couples forge to make their mutual dreams and ambitions coexist-your turn, then my turn. The give and take of any functioning relationship. The foundation of a functional society-your turn, then my turn.
Dave and I were often trying to compromise. We couldn t have been more opposite. Him, quiet. Me, loud. Him, conservative. Me, two steps away from joining Greenpeace. But we d make it work. Whatever divide, we would overcome it.
Eleven years later, Donald Trump was elected president. And just a year after that, I moved out and filed for divorce. We hadn t been able to make it work. The space between us was too big. Neither of us knew exactly when it happened. But it had come up on us slowly, like boiling a frog in water. Except the frog is wearing a MAGA hat. Or maybe that s not entirely honest. Maybe we had been so busy trying to make it work that we ignored the larger rifts-the fights we had over politics and religion. So determined to unite that we gaslit ourselves about reality.
From 2005 to 2017, the space between us grew and grew, stretching the limits of any compromise we were willing to make. It was a personal break that mirrored the national one. I had supported Hillary Clinton. He had voted for Donald Trump. And once we realized that, our marriage was so broken there was no fixing it.
Middle America is a dissonant space, pulled between the extremes of the coasts. We have the reputation of being a moderating, milquetoast place, full of bland casseroles we call hot dish and passive-aggressive assurances that we are fine. FINE. Or in the more elegant words of the Dar Williams song, We don t like to make our passions other people s concerns. But to believe so fully in the bland passivity and unity of Middle America is to miss a more complex reality-contradictions, opposites, dissonance-that pulls, screams, and threatens to break this uniting middle space of our country. We ignore it at our peril.
Iowa was the third state to legalize gay marriage but also continues to reelect a bigoted congressman, Steve King. Places like Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Chicago are deeply diverse, while the senators and governors who oversee them are often deeply reactionary to immigration.
Because of this, Middle America resists representation. In our minds, no one can get us right. I ve heard locals quibble over Marilynne Robinson s depictions of Iowa and Garrison Keillor s descriptions of Minnesota. Only Laura Ingalls is allowed to get it right, but that s because she lived through the Long Winter and earned it. We mock those journalists who fly in during presidential campaigns and write trend pieces on us.
Even if you are from here and you write about this place, there is often pushback and anger. You don t know us and you can never know us, one angry commenter wrote in response to a story I had written about a small town in Iowa. I knew people from the town. I had spent years visiting the town, which was only a one-hour drive from my house. For the story, I d spent months interviewing, visiting, and researching. I d been fact-checked and I d followed up with my sources.
This wasn t the first time I d been told I had no right to talk about the Midwest and its specificities. And while I am not a perfect writer, and definitely not above reproach in my descriptions, it was clear that the complexities of place are resistant to a portrait rendered on the page. Midwestern historian Andrew R. L. Cayton writes, Localism, this pride in family, town, and state, leaves little room for interest in a coherent regional identity. In general, Midwesterners want to be left alone in worlds of their own making. 1
And this resistance to description lends itself to an almost universality. Phil Christman, a writer and teacher at Michigan State University, explains in his essay On Being Midwestern: The Burden of Normality that Midwesterners think of ourselves as basic Americans, with no further qualification. The West, South, and East all have clear stories, as Katy Rossing puts it. But in the Midwest, we don t. We re free. And that is our story. 2
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