Inside the Evangelical Movement That Failed a Generation

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Pub Date 18 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 01 Jun 2023

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"Ward is consistently clear-sighted and perceptive as he charts a genuinely fascinating personal and spiritual evolution."--Publishers Weekly

Jon Ward's life is divided in half: two decades inside the evangelical Christian bubble and two decades outside of it.

In Testimony, Ward tells the engaging story of his upbringing in, and eventual break from, an influential evangelical church in the 1980s and 1990s. Ward sheds light on the evangelical movement's troubling political and cultural dimensions, tracing the ways in which the Jesus People movement was seduced by materialism and other factors to become politically captive rather than prophetic.

A respected journalist, Ward asks uncomfortable but necessary questions, calling those inside and outside conservative Christian circles to embrace truth, complexity, and nuance. He recounts his growing alarm and grief over the last several years as evangelical conservatives attacked truth, rejected personal character, and embraced authoritarianism and conspiracism. He shares his search for a faith that embodies the values he was taught as a child.

Ward's experience and reflections will resonate with many readers who grew up in the evangelical movement as well as all those who have an interest in the health of the church and its impact on American life.
"Ward is consistently clear-sighted and perceptive as he charts a genuinely fascinating personal and spiritual evolution."--Publishers Weekly

Jon Ward's life is divided in half: two decades inside the...

Advance Praise

"With raw honesty, deep insight, and a self-deprecating sense of humor, Jon Ward offers an insider's view into the White evangelical world in which he was raised. Rubbing elbows with prominent figures and seemingly destined to take up the mantle of leadership, he instead chose to walk away from it all. Through his eyes we see the inner logic of that world, what draws people in and what drives people away. Testimony will be illuminating for those who have walked this path and for those struggling to understand the world of conservative evangelicalism from the outside."—Kristin Kobes Du Mez, New York Times bestselling author of Jesus and John Wayne

"In Testimony, Jon Ward dissects the cultural world of evangelical Christianity from an insider's perspective while employing his skills as a journalist to question its ethos and impact. He narrates an experience that will feel deeply familiar to many evangelicals and then goes on to illuminate the contours and context of the movement as many within it embraced Trumpism. Testimony demonstrates the power of truth--no matter who it comes from or where it leads. This book will make you ponder, discuss, and testify about your own journey and beliefs."—Jemar Tisby, New York Times bestselling author of The Color of Compromise and How to Fight Racism; professor of history, Simmons College of Kentucky

"An illuminating work that shines light into the fissures of spiritual abuses in the church and that documents Jon Ward's journey as a Christian to move forward and find a better way. This honest exposé allows healing in us, and his journalistic insights bring a generative path toward the new."—Makoto Fujimura, artist and author of Art and Faith: A Theology of Making

"Jon's meticulous reporting has always brought nuance and life to his writing about politics; his thoughtfulness about faith is the secret weapon he's now sharing with the world. He appreciates the complexity of belief and the deep human desire to connect to something larger than ourselves. Even as he recounts his disillusionment with conservative Christianity, Jon remains a witness: someone who seeks and documents the truth, even when that means turning his sights on himself. This book is honest, vulnerable, scrupulous, and surprising; a must-read for anyone seeking to navigate the fault lines of our polarized moment."—Ana Marie Cox, New York Magazine columnist

"Testimony will be for this generation and moment what Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz was for that moment. This is a work that will connect."—Michael Wear, author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America

"Jon Ward's Testimony: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Failed a Generation is the book I have been waiting for. I suspect there are millions more like me who will resonate with Jon's powerful witness. And while the book holds important and meaningful content, it also functions in an atypical way; it is an antidote to loneliness and heartbreak. To read it is to participate in a circle of trust where you are not alone, you're not going crazy, and all is not well. This is a form of setting things right--a move toward healing. Any words on a page that can achieve this good goal are worthy of our attention and gratitude. I'm listening and grateful."—Charlie Peacock, Grammy Award-winning music producer; founder and director emeritus of Commercial Music Program, Lipscomb University School of Music

"Ward's personal story--of faith and family and things left behind--is also the story of how our culture came unglued. Testimony is a deeply moving book, and deeply important."—Matt Bai, author of All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid

"Jon Ward's honest, meditative, and beautifully written memoir shines a bright light on the often-obscured links between religion and politics in America."—Yuval Levin, author of A Time to Build

"With raw honesty, deep insight, and a self-deprecating sense of humor, Jon Ward offers an insider's view into the White evangelical world in which he was raised. Rubbing elbows with prominent...

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Featured Reviews

Jon Ward writes with wisdom, honesty, and warmth. This is a book for those of us who have been on a spiritual journey of discovery, and those of us who do not always feel we belong with the mainstream message that sometimes overshadow quieter whisperings of faith.

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This book was very insightful and pretty comprehensive. As someone raises differently but still with non-denominational
Churches and then discovered IHOP and BETHEL in my adults years, I think Ward was very honest and respectful. I loved the history lesson of how everyone is connected and how politics has been muddled in as well. Fast read and very informative.

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Jon Ward, award-winning author and journalist, has now turned the microscope on his own life and worldview in the book, "Testimony: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Failed a Generation." Ward tells about his upbringing in a strict, evangelical family which included faithful church attendance and service to the Lord. I could relate to so many of the things he was taught as a child, and could even relate to his adulthood spending time fighting against his far-right Trump-loving family members. I especially enjoyed these quotes he shared about faith: "The way I experience faith is not a block of concrete. Faith is change. Faith is here one moment and gone the next, a stream that evaporates" (Brooks); "Can I believe it all again today? At least five times out of ten the answer should be No because the NO is as important as the Yes, maybe more so. The No is what proves you're human in case you should ever doubt it. And then if some morning the answer happens to be really Yes, it should be a Yes that's choked with confession and tears and great laughter" (Buechner).

I enjoyed Ward's honesty and transparency, and could understand some of the struggles he's dealt with. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own.

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Thanks so much to Brazos Press for an ARC of Testimony! This title caught my eye because my husband grew up evangelical and had a fairly negative experience (understatement). I thought Testimony would be informative and educational, and I was correct. This book is part memoir, part self-discovery, part exposure.

Ward’s testimony (pun intended) is honest, even it’s difficult — this is a white man who admits he struggled to understand “Black Lives Matter.” Instead of wallowing in his ignorance, he sought out members of the Black community and educated himself. Admitting ignorance when it comes to racism is no small feat; I was proud of the author at this point.

No joke: imagine becoming an adult and on your quest to seek information and become your own person, you’re shocked to discover lynching really took place and that the KKK is a thing. You don’t know what’s what when you’re trapped in a bizarre spiritual orb that aims to create obedient, ignorant soldiers rather than well-rounded, spiritual adults.

This book is a reminder to have grace when we are dealing with seemingly difficult and closed-minded people. They may not be as closed-minded as we think; they may be the product of an environment that rallied strongly against thinking critically. This is something I will keep in mind when I interact with others.

The second third of the book deals with politics and the Trump presidency. This is not a topic that interests me, so the book drug a bit in that regard. Overall, though, this is an easy binge read in just a couple hours or so.

4/5 stars. Also, one more shoutout to Brazos Press for being so communicative with and kind to us influencers!

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I think I came into this more wanting an expression of the movement, and less of an actual testimony.

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