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Reviewed by Joe Wisinski for Readers' Favorite
Youth Group by Lance Aksamit is the author’s personal story about living in evangelical Christianity intertwined with the current wave of Christian nationalism, a powerful political force in the United States. Aksamit is the son of Christian parents who worked as missionaries. He was taught not only about the Bible and evangelicalism but about the unique culture that’s found in strict Christianity. So he participated in such activities as several-times-a-week church attendance and evangelizing others. He was also taught to participate in many activities that are not part of the lives of most children and teenagers, such as purity culture and the burning of CDs that are not thought to be appropriate for Christians. Aksamit eventually left Christianity and wrote from the standpoint of a former Christian. The book provides insight into the history of Christianity in the United States, including how it interacts with government, especially in the current time. Each chapter of the book begins with an anecdote from another person who has also left evangelical Christianity.
Youth Group by Lance Aksamit is fascinating from beginning to end. The author writes honestly, not hiding his feelings about evangelical Christianity, both when he was a part of it and after he left. I liked that Aksamit wrote to evangelical Christians, former Christians, and those unfamiliar with evangelicalism. It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, for non-evangelicals to understand the hold that the movement has on its adherents, so Aksamit’s book serves a valuable purpose in explaining the dominance of Christianity on the lives of those who are true believers. The explanation of Christian nationalism and its effect on politics and culture is another important aspect. The intertwining of the history of evangelicalism with Christian nationalism serves as a warning for the country. Youth Group should be required reading for evangelical Christians so they can see their religion from the standpoint of a former practitioner. The book is also valuable for those who, like Aksamit, have left the church because they’ll find their feelings validated. I highly recommend this excellent book.