Gerson and Wehner are two former White House staff members under the presidency of George W. Bush. These men were staff writers who helped to craft policy and the statements to the public about those policies. They are both conservative and they are both Evangelical Christians.
Their book is unapologetically Evangelical and Conservative. Their goal is to give Evangelical Christians a wake up call to their need to become involved in the political and moral life of the communities and the country that they live in.
In their conclusion of the book they state that they hope they have providing three broad propositions to the Evangelical Christian Community. Those are;
1. Politics is the realm of necessity
2. Politics is the realm of hope and possibility
3. Politics can be the realm of nobility
It is their premise that Christians should be decided vocal about politics and become more involved in helping form and shape the political landscape of our country.
Chapter 1 of the book takes us on an exploration of Religion and Politics and whether they are friends or enemies. I think they do a good job of addressing the Biblical aspects of why we need governments and that God is not opposed to the formation of governments. They explore also how governments ought not be formed with an absence of religious thought, but should give consideration to the moral values that religion brings to society.
Chapter 2 gives a history of the Religious Right and does a good job, I think, of showing the good and the bad inherent in what happened with the Religious Right. The movement wasn't bad, but it did birth some individuals who tended to take more pleasure in their power than what was prudent, Biblical or necessary. But the movement itself was not poor.
Chapter 3 gives their view of what "A New Approach" ought to be now that the Religious Right has had it's moment in the sun.
The final chapters are very good in regards to Human Rights, Morality and the Role and Purpose of the State. I specifically enjoyed Chapter 5. I felt it had the most nuggets of gold for what I was looking for. The following quote was my favorite from the book, "A wise government, constructed around a true view of human nature, thus creates the conditions necessary to allow the great mass of the people to live well and to flourish, the enjoy both order and liberty, to live under the protection of the state without being suffocated by it."
This book gave a good introduction to the need for us to be aware of our politic culture and able to articulate our beliefs and disagreements.
I think a good reference tool for Christians looking for a Biblical answer to the social questions and political questions we face today will be found in Wayne Grudem's book on "Politics".
But I think thoughtful Evangelicals will enjoy this book for the concepts that it promotes for us.
Younger generations of evangelicals are wrestling with the proper way to engage in the political arena. As a one-time political activist and now a pastor, I have personally felt the tension between radical engagement and radical withdrawal. At times I have felt Christians have been too passive and at times (lately), I have felt that Christians have been far too active.
Plus, American Christians have been afforded a rare historical stewardship. Few if any civilizations have had the opportunity to shape, change, and move their government in a way that we have. But just what is the biblical blueprint for involvement?
History has shown that when the church is too cozy with political power, it has abandoned its Christian witness and influence and has at times actually been the oppressor instead of the protector of the oppressed. GK. Chesterson said, "The coziness between the church and the state is good for the state and bad for the church."
We've also seen the moral vacuum left when the church withdraws into itself. Slightly more than half a century ago, the Christian witness in Germany was so weak that Hitler was largely able to co-opt the Church for his own diabolical purposes.
So what is the proper balance? How can Christians engage their world?
This week I was delighted to receive a review copy of City of Man by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner. Its part of a new series called, Cultural Renewal, by Moody Publishers. This series will be edited by Tim Keller and Collin Hansen.
If this first offering by Gerson and Wehner is any indication, this series promises to offer believers a robust, winsome, and scripturally sound basis for engagement.
City of Man is a short read, but it is well-written, thoughtful, and honest. The authors explore the depths and difficulties of civic engagement. They peruse history, flesh out the Scriptures, and ultimately provide a working outline for believers who seek to shape the world. What I most love is that it calls Christians to resolute action, but also discernment, integrity, and above all, a winsomeness that opposes policies, but not people.
In my experience with politically active Christians, I have found these traits to be largely lacking. We seem more content with filtering our worldviews through entertainment-based talk shows, ideologically-driven blogs, and snarky pundits. We're tuned in more to Rush than the book of Romans, we've got more Hannity in us than Heaven, and we're quick to generalize, stereotype, and alienate.
This book suggests Christians do not retreat, that they remain firmly active in shaping government and culture, but adjust their tone for greater effectiveness. I think this is an important book, a must-read for every believer. Here's hoping it gets wide distribution and is accepted into the mainstream of conservative Christian political activism.