Joel Kilpatrick is the creator of Lark News, one of the most poisonously funny religious parodies on the Internet. With such an author, A Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat should be a biting commentary on the lifestyle of the evangelical community and their increasing influence in American politics.
Instead, itís almost exactly what the title suggests. With tongue only a little in cheek, Kilpatrick examines the beliefs and practices of evangelical Christians. He discusses common cultural habits and offers instruction to non-evangelicals on visiting an evangelical church and initiating friendly conversation with the congregation. Thereís even an absolutely straightforward glossary of evangelical Christian terminology to help observers engage their study subjects in conversation.
Oh, A Field Guide To Evangelicals is funny, to be sure. It effectively satirizes the most common elements of the evangelical lifestyle with an accuracy that will have recovering evangelicals nodding in recognition. But itís a friendly satire, insider jokes from a member of the club who still has some fond memories. Kilpatrick presents the evangelical world and its habits is with same amused indulgence as the Lutheran community in Garrison Keillorís Lake Wobegon series.
Some evangelical Christians will doubtless still be offended by A Field Guide. Some fans of Lark News will regret or even resent Kilpatrickís softer approach to criticism. Both groups would be well advised to study Kilpatrickís introduction, inviting Americans to learn to accept and even enjoy their differences. A social critique written from a perspective of acceptance and forgiveness may not be as grimly satisfying as one with more bite, but it is ultimately more useful, and, for those who care about such things, far more Christian.