Lionel is black and even less rings true about his character than with Judd. This whole passage reads like a middle-aged white man's attempt to channel what it's like to have friends in the projects, yo.
And it is here I must make another confession: I am white. Therefore, I'm afraid I don't know much about black culture either, but I recognize bad writing and hopefully that'll be enough.
I'm going to refer quite a bit to James Baldwin here. James Baldwin was a great writer, far greater than Jerry Jenkins could ever hope to aspire, but I have a feeling Baldwin's works aren't required reading in RTC households. Here's a small example of this man's works. If you haven't read any of him, you should.
If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.
"Letter from a Region of My Mind" in The New Yorker (17 November 1962); republished as "Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind" in The Fire Next Time (1963)
Lionel didn't like the changes in his mind and body as he became a teenager. It was too strange. He found himself thinking more. He thought about everything.
And that's Lionel's cardinal sin according to Ellanjay: he thinks instead of mindlessly swallowing whatever the church tells him. Never mind that even Mary pondered the Lord's words in her heart.
He spends a lot of time thinking about his Uncle Andre, the bad seed of the family.
Uncle Andre was a great storyteller. He loved to regale the family with exaggerated tales that made them all laugh. He told the stories in a high-pitched whine, making up new things as he went along, and each story grew funnier each time he told it. He would throw his head back and grab his belly and laugh until he could barely catch his breath. Tear would stream along his face until everyone else laughed right along.
Once again, Jerry Jenkins doesn't provide us with an example of one of these tales which is probably a good thing. I'd hate to see what he considers funny then try to imagine it being told in a high pitch whine.
So anyway even though they live in Mount Prospect like every other character, at least they don't attend New Hope Village Church. This gives a little broadening of the narrow-minded views of the PMD. They're willing to allow a stereotypical black church into the fold, but they don't really give us a clear picture of this church because they have only the vaguest of notions about it.
But anyway Lionel and Andre have a conversation where they both confess they're not christians. Andre's been pretending for years, playing the classic gambit where he gets in trouble than comes up during the altar call, but with Lionel, it's harder to see what his sins are. So far, all he's done is be quiet and introspective about his faith, but once again we run into that wall where imagination is a sin and so is contemplation. Also, if their sister/mother Lucinda is supposed to be so smart, why hasn't she figured out that they're faking it? What does being a good Christian mean when it seems anyone can fake it and fool fellow Christians?
I will end with another James Baldwin quote which seems frighteningly appropriate.
Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death--ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.