God Land

God Land

A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America
Lyz Lenz
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/19/2019
Format: Hardback 40 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-04153-1
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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.

Author Bio

Lyz Lenz has been published in the New York Times, Buzzfeed, Washington Post, The Guardian, ESPN, Marie Claire, Mashable, Salon, and more. Her book Belabored: Tales of Myth, Medicine, and Motherhood is forthcoming. She also has an essay in the anthology Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay. Lenz holds an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University and is a contributing writer to the Columbia Journalism Review.


"God Land is a courageous narrative account of the religious and political divides that threaten to rip America down its middle."


"This work will resonate with any readers interested in understanding American landscapes where white, evangelical Christianity dominates both politics and culture."


"[Lenz's] sharp, insightful prose and deep compassion help illuminate many facets of a complicated region and its ties to Christianity. And like the people she meets, Lenz can't quite give up her stubborn longing for a big-hearted faith and an even bigger God. The result is an incisive, sober-eyed yet hopeful look at a vital aspect of American culture."


"God Land is a remarkable work of reporting, memoir, and cultural criticism—a blazingly intelligent book exploring the ways that faith can both create and scatter communities in America. Lenz's beautiful prose—by turns brutal, lyrical, Biblical, and richly comic—propels the reader along with her on this journey through the churches and faith communities of the Midwest. Amid a trend of books over the past several years that purport to explain the heartland in easy terms, Lenz offers us something far more valuable: a frank and perceptive analysis of what is broken, and will remain broken, among communities of faith in the Midwest and across the country. Easy answers come and go, but our brokenness is here to stay, and Lenz helps us see the hidden jointures while also helping us to see the grace in our brokenness, and to wonder whether it is not also our common bond."

 (Ted Scheinman, author of Camp Austen)


God Land, Lyz Lenz's much-anticipated debut book, is a marvel. Not only is it a window into the middle America so many like to stereotype but fail to fully understand in all of its complexity, but it mixes reportage, memoir, and gorgeous prose so seamlessly I wanted to know how she did it. After laying bare all manner of losses of faith, both personal and community, Lenz journeys to a sense of hope, rooted in generosity, that is fully earned. God Land will expand your horizons on what this country offers and who inhabits it, and why we're better off journeying together, rather than apart.


 (Sarah Weinman, author of The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World)

"Lyz Lenz writes the story of so many of us—those who have been betrayed by American Christianity and yet are being reborn in the ashes of a new kind of faith. For those seeking to understand the divides of religion—including urban/rural, racial, and liberal/progressive—God Land serves as an intimate chance to listen to an insider account of why people are leaving the faith (and why some remain). Lenz is a funny, irreverent, and keen-eyed writer, who succeeds in converting us to both love and mourn the place of our country known as Middle America."

 (D. L. Mayfield, activist and author of Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith)

"Lyz Lenz's God Land is deeply critical and probing, but also generous and uncynical. Lenz writes with fury and tenderness, pursuing uncomfortable questions of faith, community, and self with unyielding tenacity. She writes as beautifully about ugliness and frustration as she does about love and grace. And the conclusions she reaches about herself, her religion, and her country are bracing in their thoughtful honesty."

 (Josh Gondelman, coauthor (with Joe Berkowitz) of You Blew It)


God Land gives testimony to human resiliency amid personal and collective trauma. With keen journalistic insights and vulnerable storytelling, Lyz Lenz provides a clear-eyed account of loss and alienation within communities throughout middle America, but she also honors her and others' remarkable ability to pick up the pieces and to keep going when all seems lost.


 (Katelyn Beaty, author of A Woman's Place)


God Land is a stubbornly hopeful book about how the places of faith we belong to might someday belong to us.


 (Kate Bowler, podcast host and author of New York Times bestseller Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I've loved))


God Land is a gorgeous meditation and clear-eyed examination of Christianity in the heartland. Weaving original reporting and memoir, Lyz Lenz dispels stubborn mythologies and beautifully captures the heartbreak, hope, nuance and diversity of the Midwestern faithful. I love this book and highly recommend it.


 (Deborah Jian Lee, author of Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism)

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Table of Contents

  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