... a deep, sprawling, incisive indictment of the Christian cancer that eats away at our souls ... t’s personal, visceral and harrowing. And it’s academic, pulling on disparate threads, from pop culture to political punditry, and weaving them together with Maddow-esque precision to reveal the gory workings of white Evangelicalism ... A memoir with the scope of Heretic could easily turn into a tornado of outrage and despair ... But there’s an intellectual precision and rigor to Jeanna’s fury. And found within its white-hot flames are engaging stories of sex and love and community care and deep friendships and tarot and astrology and Dungeons & Dragons. There is a hard-won hope that permeates even the darkest moments and a genuine belief in the power of queer humankind. It’s a story about taking back your life by no longer consenting to be shamed.
Kadlec has a PhD and it shows, with copious footnotes and citations, but she is also a friendly narrator, sharing revelations in the tone of a close friend, so that the points of her argument seem to emerge organically alongside the research. Anecdotes don’t make data, but both happily coexist here. Kadlec’s account is so relatable that one begins to see the ties that bind us to evangelical philosophy even if we are not members of that church ... Where Kadlec departs from Machado is that her cultural sidebars — including on She-Ra and Dungeons and Dragons — are less gripping for the reader. She is strongest as an academic, writing from not only personal but scholarly experience; she knows her way around Christian texts ... These scriptural deep cuts are fascinating. Though Kadlec writes that she has no interest in returning to the Christian faith, one wonders if perhaps there are other, more expansive readings still available to her ... Following in the footsteps of scholars such as Elaine Pagels, what Kadlec suggests is something more exciting — not a revision but a restoration of the Christian faith. Is Kadlec a heretic? Or is she the true believer?
The ideals of the evangelical 'American dream' defined Kadlec’s evangelical experience, and in this book Kadlec blends memoir and cultural criticism to call out the hypocrisy of it all. Brilliant and well-read, Kadlec braved the emotional tides of religious trauma, divorce, and coming out as queer all before her thirtieth birthday. Giving a voice to past and present evangelicals who know that there is so much more than a rural zip code that informs the size of religion’s role in day-to-day life, Kadlec also invites readers to hold a mirror to the evangelical-political hydra that threatens to overthrow true American freedom.