Five Books to Help You Skip the Culture Wars This ElectionBlog, Books, Democracy — By Larry Shallenberger on January 25, 2012 at 6:20 am
We’re sixteen Republican debates into the election season. By November, we’ll have all whipped ourselves into a vitriolic froth and will have convinced ourselves that the very survival of the planet hinged on the result of the election. Somehow we Christians, whether we are on the right or the left, have given ourselves a pass to be more partisan than Christ-follower in the arena of politics. Christianity Today wisely cautioned us all regarding the endorsement of Santorum last Saturday by 150 Evangelical leaders.
Confession: I found myself mentally disengaged from politics after being sickened by the culture wars and the power plays in which Evangelical Christians get entangled. But this is no good either. If the Gospel is to work itself into every arena of our life that would include politics. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an alternate model to culture wars in my imagination. Here’s four books that helped me on my way:
1. Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf: Richard Dahlstrom turned me on to this book. Dr. Volf experienced the devastation of the ethnic and religious conflict in the Balkans and responded with this rich theology of reconciliation. Volf is no Utopian. He’s seen too much. He accurately describes the sociological moves needed for a group of people to feel justified in taking aggression against another tribe. Then he describes what it would look like for the Gospel to confront misogyny and Patriarchalism, racism, and nationalism. Volf writes from the vantage point of witnessing a literal war, but the truths apply just as sturdily to our culture wars.
2. A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf: Volf’s 2011 release paints a positive vision of what it looks like to be a Christian in the pubic arena without resorting to combativeness. Another 2011 release, Love Wins opened up a theological battlefield in the afterlife. “A Public Faith” is a field guide for deescalating the ones we’ve built in this one.
3. God’s Politics by Jim Wallis: This is the book to read understand the case for Christian politics from the left. Wallis methodically works through scripture and forces the reader to see God’s unmistakable concern for the poor and marginalized. Brother Jim concludes that a government submitted to God will reflect God’s desires in this area. I appreciated his willingness to save some critiques for the Democrats as well.
4. Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture by Wayne Grudem:There’s foreshadowing in the title, kids. For those who don’t know, Grudem is an esteemed, New Testament scholar and systematic theologian. You’d probably file his work under “Reformed/Calvinist.” This volume is a thick reference manual, laid out in the style of a systematic theology. That said, I haven’t read this one cover-to-cover. However, if you want to understand the mind of a Christian who is politically conservative and skip the vitriol, this would be the book to tackle.
5. The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd: This will never cease to amaze me: Pastor Boyd preaches open theology and his congregation barely blinks. However, when he preaches sermons debunking “American Exclusivism” and the mythology that America is somehow a Christian nation, thousands of his congregants walk. I don’t agree with every word in this book, but he makes important points.
How about you, what books have help you work through the thorny issue of God and politics?