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In the World but Not of It: One Family's Militant Faith and the History of Fundamentalism in America

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A memorable new literary voice traces the story of American fundamentalism through the transcendent lens of his own family experience. Brett Grainger's grandparents, members of the Plymouth Brethren, believed devoutly that Jesus would return and rapture them to Heaven; when he didn't, their lives collapsed. Grainger's father, having fled from his parents' extremism, underw A memorable new literary voice traces the story of American fundamentalism through the transcendent lens of his own family experience. Brett Grainger's grandparents, members of the Plymouth Brethren, believed devoutly that Jesus would return and rapture them to Heaven; when he didn't, their lives collapsed. Grainger's father, having fled from his parents' extremism, underwent his own conversion in later life. Grainger himself journeyed away from faith, and yet, two decades later, found a different way back to the church, seeking a balance between extremes. Using those family pathways as a catalyst, he offers a beautifully written, clear-eyed chronicle of fundamentalism in American history, revealing it to be far richer and more complex than the images the word evokes today. Grainger explores seven major themes, including the devotion to biblical literalism, an idea nourished by the writings of nineteenth-century preacher John Nelson Darby; the experience of sudden, personal transformation known as "getting saved"; and the paradox of creation science. Above all, he illuminates the unrelenting pursuit of purity that divides believers into separatists, who shun the sullied compromises of politics, and activists, who fight to bring society under the yoke of divine law—all in the name of being "in the world but not of it." Writing with a passion and conviction born of personal experience, Brett Grainger brings new insight into American history, and invaluable understanding for anyone interested in our country's religious tradition.


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A memorable new literary voice traces the story of American fundamentalism through the transcendent lens of his own family experience. Brett Grainger's grandparents, members of the Plymouth Brethren, believed devoutly that Jesus would return and rapture them to Heaven; when he didn't, their lives collapsed. Grainger's father, having fled from his parents' extremism, underw A memorable new literary voice traces the story of American fundamentalism through the transcendent lens of his own family experience. Brett Grainger's grandparents, members of the Plymouth Brethren, believed devoutly that Jesus would return and rapture them to Heaven; when he didn't, their lives collapsed. Grainger's father, having fled from his parents' extremism, underwent his own conversion in later life. Grainger himself journeyed away from faith, and yet, two decades later, found a different way back to the church, seeking a balance between extremes. Using those family pathways as a catalyst, he offers a beautifully written, clear-eyed chronicle of fundamentalism in American history, revealing it to be far richer and more complex than the images the word evokes today. Grainger explores seven major themes, including the devotion to biblical literalism, an idea nourished by the writings of nineteenth-century preacher John Nelson Darby; the experience of sudden, personal transformation known as "getting saved"; and the paradox of creation science. Above all, he illuminates the unrelenting pursuit of purity that divides believers into separatists, who shun the sullied compromises of politics, and activists, who fight to bring society under the yoke of divine law—all in the name of being "in the world but not of it." Writing with a passion and conviction born of personal experience, Brett Grainger brings new insight into American history, and invaluable understanding for anyone interested in our country's religious tradition.

30 review for In the World but Not of It: One Family's Militant Faith and the History of Fundamentalism in America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Galina Krasskova

    This is a very interesting book that uses the author's own upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian household as the jumping off point by which he examines the history of fundamentalism in the United States and the ways in which this movement has changed in the latter half of the 20th century. It's an easy read as well, unlike many academic texts, as it is apparently written for the popular press. Still, he presents a good evaluation of the impact of secularization on fundamentalist sects and I This is a very interesting book that uses the author's own upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian household as the jumping off point by which he examines the history of fundamentalism in the United States and the ways in which this movement has changed in the latter half of the 20th century. It's an easy read as well, unlike many academic texts, as it is apparently written for the popular press. Still, he presents a good evaluation of the impact of secularization on fundamentalist sects and I think the inclusion of his own family story makes the book approachable and especially interesting. it's a good book. I would have liked an in depth bibliography. That is it's only primary fault.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Covers a lot of ground for such a small book. The switching between scenes and vignettes in each chapter was a bit much, but I did appreciate the broad overview of what fundamentalism means and can look like, and the historical roots of various beliefs.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Grainger doesn't try to cover everything, and this is where the strength and appeal of this slim volume lies: he tells the story of his grandfather, his father, and his own childhood in the conservative Plymouth Brethren, and interweaves it with observations about the development and characteristics of fundamentalism in the United States. Sometimes I felt like he lost the thread of his personal story, the most fascinating part of the book, in broader secondary accounts from other people and plac Grainger doesn't try to cover everything, and this is where the strength and appeal of this slim volume lies: he tells the story of his grandfather, his father, and his own childhood in the conservative Plymouth Brethren, and interweaves it with observations about the development and characteristics of fundamentalism in the United States. Sometimes I felt like he lost the thread of his personal story, the most fascinating part of the book, in broader secondary accounts from other people and places; and he never really gives a rationale for the big topics he chooses to focus on and the order he focuses on them (the Rapture, the Bible, salvation, sexual ethics, fundamentalism as alternate modernity, Jewish-Christian relations, and creationism--in that order). This nudged my rating down to a 3. (It would be a 3.5 if I had that option.) The chapters where Grainger's personal experience and the history of the Plymouth Brethren dominate are the best (the early chapters on Rapture, the Bible, salvation, and sexual ethics); the later chapters cover topics I've seen done elsewhere, and perhaps done better. Yet I think this a great light yet thoughtful introduction to American fundamentalism, and have put it on my list of Books People Should Read About Religion in America.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    December 29 2009 Just finish this today. Review to follow, I hope. This was personal for me. Grainger combines the personal story with a journalists and academic's analysis of the role of fundamentalist religion in modern culture. He was raised in a Plymouth Brethren Assembly in Canada in the 70s and 80s and fell away after high-school. I was raised in a similar group in the 60s and 70s that had broken away from the Plymouth Brethren in the 1920s. I broke away in the early 90s and have been tryin December 29 2009 Just finish this today. Review to follow, I hope. This was personal for me. Grainger combines the personal story with a journalists and academic's analysis of the role of fundamentalist religion in modern culture. He was raised in a Plymouth Brethren Assembly in Canada in the 70s and 80s and fell away after high-school. I was raised in a similar group in the 60s and 70s that had broken away from the Plymouth Brethren in the 1920s. I broke away in the early 90s and have been trying to understand what happened to me ever since. Grainger has helped me tremendously but it is too soon to explain. I'm still processing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I read this aloud to my cousin on a road trip from Toronto to Vancouver. We loved it. The parts about PB were best, though I feel for poor Mr. Grainger and his wife. I used to listen to Mr. Grainger speak at Oilsprings Conference, but I wasn't old enough to appreciate or evaluate what he had to say. I think I kept myself entertained by drawing pictures of him and passing notes/stifling laughter with the other girls in the row. I read this aloud to my cousin on a road trip from Toronto to Vancouver. We loved it. The parts about PB were best, though I feel for poor Mr. Grainger and his wife. I used to listen to Mr. Grainger speak at Oilsprings Conference, but I wasn't old enough to appreciate or evaluate what he had to say. I think I kept myself entertained by drawing pictures of him and passing notes/stifling laughter with the other girls in the row.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Good book although I think that the word militant might be a little harsh- I saw a people (Plymouth Brethren) that were highly religious and opinionated but were trying to make there way in the world. I did not agree with some of the beliefs and practices mentioned in the book but could understand what they were trying to accomplish by trying to "be in the world but not of the world." Good book although I think that the word militant might be a little harsh- I saw a people (Plymouth Brethren) that were highly religious and opinionated but were trying to make there way in the world. I did not agree with some of the beliefs and practices mentioned in the book but could understand what they were trying to accomplish by trying to "be in the world but not of the world."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Will

    Given that the church I pastor is sometimes called a "haven for recovering fundamentalists," I so appreciated Grainger's journey out of the strictures of an oppressive faith. Where I find hope is that he did not choose to abandon God even though he had to weather such a distorted gospel. Given that the church I pastor is sometimes called a "haven for recovering fundamentalists," I so appreciated Grainger's journey out of the strictures of an oppressive faith. Where I find hope is that he did not choose to abandon God even though he had to weather such a distorted gospel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anthony W

    A banal, unfocused supposed look at Grainger's personal experience with fundamentalism and the history of fundamentalism in American. Unfortunately, the book does little of either. A banal, unfocused supposed look at Grainger's personal experience with fundamentalism and the history of fundamentalism in American. Unfortunately, the book does little of either.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrew “The Weirdling” Glos

  10. 5 out of 5

    John-Paul

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kim Quealy

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brian Stillman

  14. 4 out of 5

    Teri Holt

  15. 4 out of 5

    Keith Eldridge

  16. 5 out of 5

    Francesca Marie

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Howard

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cord

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Lamb

  20. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Van

  21. 5 out of 5

    CharlieP

  22. 5 out of 5

    KZ

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aaron E Gallegos

  24. 5 out of 5

    Saunaguy

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

  26. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Avery

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    I give it 3&1/2 stars. It was interesting to see the differences between a Plymouth Brethren congregation in rural Ontario vs. urban Southern U.S.. For example, I did not know that voting was frowned upon in some congregations. I would have liked to have heard more about his family and a little less history overall.

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