Also, my experience with believers tells me that belief in God isn't a result of reasoning, that most people come to belief because they inherited it or because they had a profound emotional experience that made God seem real. In the evangelism class I took at Thomas Road, we learned that the precondition for talking to someone about the Gospel was the question, "Do you believe in God and the Bible?" The script assumed the answer would be yes. If the answer was no, you simply walked away. We were armed with arguments for Christianity, but not for God.

Trevin Wax: Did your time at Thomas Road help you better understand where conservative evangelicals are coming from on political issues like abortion, marriage, etc.?

Gina Welch: I would phrase it differently. To understand where someone's "coming from" means to me that you relate to the merits of their arguments. I'd say I better understand why conservative evangelical Christians hold certain political positions.

By "marriage," I'm guessing you mean conservative evangelical opposition to gay marriage. The evangelical objections to homosexuality I witnessed seemed enriched by ignorance and prejudice and visceral revulsion more than biblical evidence. I think if conservative evangelical Christians had more personal experience with gays and lesbians, and listened to gay and lesbian voices, their attitudes would change considerably.

Half of marriages end in divorce, and the average marriage lasts around seven years. Yes, the institution is in deep trouble. But I'd argue this has much to do with our casual attitude about marriage-the emphasis on being a beautiful bride with toned arms and having a perfect wedding with vows and flowers and food that everyone will remember, and the comparatively low interest in the content of sustained married life. I think it has nothing to do with committed gay and lesbian couples who just want to express their love and dedication to each other and to enjoy the rights that married heterosexual couples get to enjoy.

Abortion is an issue I feel a little hopeless about in terms of finding common ground. I believe that a woman has dominion over her own body and has the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. I also believe abortion should be rare, and I think comprehensive sex education is an important part of reducing its incidence. Conservative evangelical Christians believe abortion is murder. Where's the middle ground?

Part of the problem in discussing this issue is that both sides caricature each other's arguments. People advocating for choice need to acknowledge that it is difficult to determine when a cluster of cells becomes a sentient being. And do people who call themselves pro-life really believe that those of us who believe in a woman's right to choose oppose life, or support the idea of abortion as birth control?

Trevin Wax: You write that at Thomas Road there was a clear subordination of the mind to the heart. Do you find this to be helpful or harmful to evangelical witness?

Gina Welch: Well, I think it benefits the evangelizer to preempt unanswerable questions. But I think there's dangerous fallout from surrendering logic and intellectual analysis to the undertow of how something feels.

Trevin Wax: Have you communicated with anyone in leadership at Thomas Road since your book came out? If so, what's that been like? Have you talked any more with Rick Warren?

Gina Welch: I've communicated warmly with one of the pastors at Thomas Road, but not with anyone in the Falwell family. I'd like to! I've been getting lots of really interesting, thoughtful emails from evangelical pastors all over the country, and I'm cheered by the suggestion that dialogue is possible. Rick Warren and I follow each other on Twitter, so he knows when I eat a moldy blackberry and I know what he has to say about blessings, but there hasn't been any more direct conversation yet.