Those of you who know Matt Sutton may think he deserves his own separate listing on the "America Repent" sign in the post below this one. That being said, the man writes fun and outstanding books, articles, and reviews. In the latter category is his piece today "Evangelical V. Liberal: A Report from the Pacific Northwest," reviewing a new book entitled Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest. Most reports on the regional variations in American religious expression emphasize the Pacific Northwest as an outlier in terms of relative religious indifference. Evidently, that is changing, at least in certain sectors of the region. And, unlike the evangelicals that I grew up with, these Christian Reformed Church folks don't have any problem with gustatory sybaritic pleasures, including French cuisine and cigar lounges (bringing to mind a conversation with Peggy Bendroth years ago, where she reminisced on growing up with cigar-smoking Dutch Calvinists puffing away all around her).
Evangelical vs. Liberal is a balanced and engaging exploration of religious difference in the most unchurched region of the country. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this study was Wellman's reflection on how his research had influenced him as a Presbyterian minister and professor of religion. "I began by sharing some of the biases of liberals toward evangelicals," he writes. "But through my research I have come not to agree with evangelicals but to respect the power of their convictions and the perseverance by which they serve one another, their communities, and their world. Evangelicals, in this study, put their feet and their resources where their mouth is." This is not to say that liberals don't. However, evangelicals have a far clearer sense of community and mission. And in Moscow, Idaho, they also serve good coffee and know how to make really tasty French food. For all of these reasons, evangelicals are winning the clash of Christian civilizations, not just across the nation, but even in the Pacific Northwest.