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Lyz Lenz on Faith, Loss, and Sexism in Rural America

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Oak Grove Christian Church in Shellsburg, Iowa.

In 2016, Lyz Lenz wrote an article for Pacific Standard called “The Death of the Midwestern Church,” examining how rural church closures had affected Midwestern communities. That article led to her new book, God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America, which examines not just the impact of these church closures, but also the larger ways that Evangelical faith has shaped the culture and mentality of America’s heartland.

In God Land, we follow Lenz on two simultaneous journeys: We ride along as she travels around the Midwest to talk to pastors and churchgoers about their congregations and the roles they play in their communities—about faith as a touchstone of the American ideal; about the “good old days” that may or may not have ever existed. While she’s traveling to research this book, Lenz is also undergoing her own spiritual and personal reckoning, leaving behind a church where her voice had long gone unheard, and, in doing so, leaving behind her marriage.

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