The Week’s Best Longreads for December 21, 2013

From Orange County’s empty evangelical cathedral to the even darker side of Reagan’s “welfare queen,” The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

12.21.13 10:45 AM ET

Where Are the People?
Jim Hinch, American Scholar

Evangelical Christianity in America is losing its power. What happened to Orange County’s Crystal Cathedral shows why.

The Welfare Queen
Josh Levin, Slate

In the 1970s, Ronald Reagan villainized a Chicago woman for bilking the government. Her other sins—including possible kidnappings and murders—were far worse.

How John McCain Turned His Clichés Into Meaning
Mark Leibovich, The New York Times Magazine

The “brave maverick” who became the “bitter old man” is now “learning to let go.”

The Other Side of the Story
Jenny Kutner, Texas Monthly

When she was fourteen, she had a relationship with her eighth grade history teacher. People called her a victim, and him a villain. Now, she says, it was more complicated than that.

Extracting the Woodchuck
Adam Kirsch, Harvard Magazine

Robert Frost’s “doubleness,” revealed in his letters—and poems.

Was Skylar Neese Murdered By Her Best Friends?
Caroline Linton, The Daily Beast

Skylar, Rachel, and Shelia were the best of friends—until one of them went missing and the other two were implicated in a grisly murder case that has upended their idyllic town.

For more great longreads, visit our friends at Longreads.com.