In the World but Not of It

One Family's Militant Faith and the History of Fundamentalism in America

By Brett Grainger
(Walker & Company, Hardcover, 9780802715593, 176pp.)

Publication Date: March 18, 2008

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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, 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.

About the Author

Brett Grainger has, over the past decade, explored the intersection of religion and politics for a variety of magazines, newspapers, and public radio. Formerly a producer for the National Public Radio show The Connection, he has also been an editor at Sojourners, a magazine of religion, politics, and culture. Grainger holds a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School, where he studied global fundamentalist movements with Harvey Cox. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and this is his first book.

Praise For In the World but Not of It

“[A] thought-provoking examination of an often maligned part of American Christianity, showing its strengths as well as its weaknesses.”---Library Journal


"Brief but insightful exploration of a people who may not see themselves as of this world, but who are certainly in it in increasing numbers." —Kirkus Reviews

“’Fundamentalism’ is often discussed and disparaged, but rarely is it well understood. Grainger puts a face, a genuine and likeable one, on this often fuzzy term. His portrait also demonstrates the tensions and the diversity within a religious movement no one can ignore today."—Harvey Cox, author of When Jesus Came to Harvard

“Brett Grainger offers an impressive family portrait of Christian fundamentalism in America in this timely, intimate, and wonderfully written work. Grainger’s retreat from fundamentalism—and his eventual journey back to faith—give him a unique perspective on an often misunderstood segment of American culture, both critical and sympathetic. In the World but Not of It is a must-read for anyone listening to the persistent heartbeat of religion in America.”—Jim Wallis, author of The Great Awakening and God’s Politics, and president of Sojourners

“In In the World but Not of It, Brett Grainger puts a human face on Christian fundamentalism—the face of his mother, his father, his grandfather, himself. This wise and beautiful book is art of a high and dignified calling, a must-read for believer and skeptic alike.”—Dennis Covington, author of Salvation on Sand Mountain

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