Few things are more American than working when you’re supposed to rest. So, here I am writing this book review on the Fourth of July. But, I guess it’s ok because it’s for Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo’s One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics. At least I can be patriotic, especially since I’ve already unlocked the “get a sunburn by large body of water” achievement for the day. By the time you read this, I’ll be unlocking “eat too many calories in one sitting” via some all you can eat wings.
Now, as far as the book goes, it’s a great little resource, and I do mean litte. Just recently, I have learned that you should pay attention to book dimensions on Amazon. I tend to assume most books are 6×9, which I consider “normal.” This one is 5×7, which means it’s a smaller book, that thankfully has smaller font. And I say that not sarcastically because that means even though it is small and might seem like a Saturday afternoon read (it is, for me at least), it still has substantial content (side note: when are books going to start including word counts so we can gauge the length better?).
That content is divided roughly into two parts. The first 6 chapters lay a theoretical foundation for how to understand politics within a Christian worldview. Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture paradigm comes in handy in chapter 2. The following chapter tackles how the gospel functions as a “public truth.” The relationship between church and state is mapped out in the following chapter. The final two in this part move toward the practical, with chapter 5 dealing with our post-Christian country and chapter 6 with what wisdom looks like in public discourse in that space.
It is fitting them that after a brief interlude, Ashford and Pappalardo take up key topics in each of the next 7 chapters. You could probably guess what those topics are, or I can just tell you:
- Life and death
- Marriage and sexuality
- Economics and wealth
- The environment and ecological stewardship
- Racial diversity and race relations
- Immigrants and immigration reform
- War and peace
Hopefully no surprises in that list. It is hard to imagine a hot button topic (as opposed to a hot pocket) that doesn’t fit one of those categories. Because this is a brief introduction, the chapters can’t be exhaustive. What they can be is helpfully orienting, and then conclude with recommended further readings on the topics, which is what they are and do. The book is closed with a brief example of what we can learn from Augustine when it comes to this sort of thing (spoiler: more than you even know).
This is not the last or final word on how to politic as a Christian American, or even as an American Christian. It is not intended to be. What it is though, is a good first word that you can read for yourself and then give to your friend interested in politics (or tell him to buy it on Amazon). Then you all can have a meaningful discussion on the issues after a solid orientation to the theory and practice of politics. You can avoid the usual clucking of opinions that are merely conjectures masquerading as arguments (hopefully).
While that may sound harsh, I assure you it is intended that way. Politics and religion are two topics that many uninformed people gravitate toward in order to promote their ideas. Thankfully, that doesn’t characterize either author of this book from what I can tell. They are judicious and clear, building sound arguments and contributing to intelligent discourse. They would never do what I do a few sentences ago, which I did as illustration purposes I guess now that I think about it. Anyway, if you’re intrigued by political theater and want to think Christianly about it, go get this little primer and have at it.
Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo, One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics. Nashville: B&H Academic, December 2015. 176 pp. Hardcover, $14.99.
Buy it: Amazon
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to B&H Academic for the review copy!