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In successive chapters, he takes on not only the "middle class identity politics" of the left, but American exceptionalism, the relationship between conservative Christians and the media, and whether Christians should believe that "the capitalist way is God's way." Sometimes witty,often acerbic, this volume is an exhortation to American Christians to take a more reflective, responsible, less partisan role in the political realm.
Given that it is rather light on theology and has little biblical content, it is more a call to Christian citizenship than a work of scholarship--which might, indeed, be what the author, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, intended in this trenchant meditation.
Number of Pages: 144
Vendor: P & R Publishing
Publication Date: 2010
|Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.38 (inches)|
Why Politics Needs Religion: The Place of Religious Arguments in the Public SquareBrendan SweetmanInter-varsity Press / 2006 / Trade Paperback$19.80 Retail:
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Good and Bad Ways to Think about Religion and PoliticsRobert BenneWm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. / 2010 / Trade Paperback$12.60 Retail:
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Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of ScriptureWayne GrudemZondervan / 2010 / Hardcover$31.99 Retail:4 Stars Out Of 5 9 Reviews
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Trueman directs most of his punches to one side or the other. He shames the Left for turning from providing rights and benefits to those who need thema Christian principleto advocating for abortion and gay rights, issues Christians cannot compromise on. He warns the Right not to think reporters toting their agendas on Fox and other stations have the unbiased viewpoints. One criticism he makes of both parties is their emphasis on telling good stories and presenting good-looking faces instead of making good arguments.
The book contains many assumptions and generalizations of its own. Though Trueman writes for an audience who hasnt previously considered his arguments against dogmatism, some of his points and vocabulary might be too obscure for the average voter. He also seems to assume religious conservatives are not or should not be political conservatives. On the issue of nationalized health care and government aid, he skims over the Churchs role of giving aid as described in Acts 4:32-35.
Trueman states the Christian citizens duty is "to read and watch more widely, be as critical of our own favored pundits and narratives as we are of those cherished by our opponents, and seek to be good stewards of the world and of the opportunities therein that God has given to us."
Most readers will disagree with at least one of Trueman's points. They are worth consideration, however, by Christians who are called to be good citizens of any government. Trueman challenges his readers, saying, "Politics in democracy is a whole lot more complicated than either political parties or your pastor tell you it is; treat it as suchlearn about the issues and think for yourself." Alexandra Mellen, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
"To every starry-eyed conservative Christian, in the thrall of Republicans, capitalists, Fox News, and a gospel of mere self-interest, Carl Trueman has, with this book, broken the ammonia capsule under their noses. Here is a gauntlet that will land heavily on the toes of any who dare to take it up and read. Republocrat slices open the pretensions of conservative American Christianity, but not to eviscerate. Carl's purpose, sanely and boldly argued, is to call Christians to a more carefully reasoned and Biblically sound pursuit of the Kingdom of God. This is a pastoral book from one who is serious about the Church and earnest on behalf of the business of our King."
As Carl Trueman points out in his witty, provocative, and deeply well-informed way, the alliance of conservative Christianity with conservative (neo-liberal) politics is a circumstance of our own context in U.S. politics, neither historically nor logically necessary. Tie the faith too closely to right-wing politics and its no wonder that younger Christians think they have to check out of orthodoxy when they move left-of-center politically. Regardless of ones own views, this book will delight, frustrate, and encourage healthy discussions that we have needed to have for a long time.
The disturbing alliance of conservative theology and right-wing politics is faced head-on in this timely and brave treatment by renowned historical-theologian and social commentator, Carl Trueman. Even where readers may disagree with Dr. Truemans conclusions, the sharpness of his critique should disturb the most entrenched political consciousness, particularly if the foundations of conviction are shown to have little or no biblical support. Writing in a predictably provocative and forthright manner, Trueman pulls few, if any, punches. Republocrat is timely and robust assessment of a vitally important issue and a cri de coeur for a reappraisal of the conservative churchs current political alliance.
"In American politics today, the real divide is not between Democrats and Republicans. Rather, it is arguably between "corporatists" of both parties, on the one hand, and "anti-corporatists," on the other. Carl Trueman presents himself as a "liberal Conservative," who sets out to transcend the prevailing tired categories of mainstream political analysis. He makes a powerful case that Evangelical Christianity has no business allying itself with conservative Republican politics or indeed with any other political ideology, Right or Left. As a "conservative Liberal" with strong anti-war and anti-corporatist tendenciesand so as one who does not always share Trueman's viewsI am happy to endorse his thought-provoking book for all those in the Evangelical churches who are searching for new vistas in their political outlook."
"Carl Trueman is a truly unique individual. Only he could embark on such a courageous crusade to bring together the best of both the political left and the religious right in the name of Christian statesmanship. Trueman parries and thrusts against those to the left and the right of him. Like the fourth horseman of the apocalypse he knocks over the sacred crockery of the Tea Party and pours down scorn and plagues on tree-hugging, femonazi, sissy liberals. If youre a pro-gun, pro-homeschooling, anti-Obama Conservative who believes that it is Americas duty to nuke Iran, this book will disturb you. If youre a cross-dressing, earth-worshipping, gay, atheist professor at Yale, who thinks that killing unborn babies is moral, this book will infuriate you. Trueman's attempt to indigenize British communitarianism within libertarian America in the name of Christian political responsibility is sheer genius. This is political ecumenism at its very best. If Trueman was running for governor on the Republocrat ticket, I'd vote for him. I'm Michael Bird. And I endorse this message!"
"Our public lives are lived between Augustine's Two Cities, at the intersection of this age and the age to come. As a result, our political choices are very often between relative goods and lesser evils. Republocrat is the honest and heart-felt lament of a talented theologian's struggle with the limited choices before us. Well argued, and well worth arguing with, Trueman's book has the potential to spark lively conversations and much needed debate. Let's hope so."
Nothing like an outsider's eye to bring into focus the difficulty of relating conservative politics with conservative Christianity. Relating political parties and their agendas with biblical teaching has rarely been more difficult than today. In this highly readable analysis of evangelicals' tendency to relate Christian faith with conservative politics, Trueman, a brit playing a modern day De Tocqeville, warns against absolutizing any political/economic worldview. His best advice, be eclectic when listening to and reading political pundits and be thoughtfully and actively engaged in the democratic process.
Joshua PerezAlhambra, CAAge: 18-24Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5A Healthy ConvictionNovember 9, 2012Joshua PerezAlhambra, CAAge: 18-24Gender: maleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5I agree with Michael Horton's review in that it "will delight, frustrate, and encourage healthy discussions that we have needed to have for a long time"...well said. As Christians we must be thinking Biblically, not politically. Our view of God (our Theology) affects every aspect of our lives and this is one of those books that certainly puts a test as to whether we are truly thinking after God's thoughts. Whether you agree or not, this will certainly drive you to consider certain aspects that may have been overlooked. Carl Trueman does a great job in pointing out that only the Gospel can transform, not politics.
Bob HaytonSt. Paul, MNAge: 25-34Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5Gripping Read on a Controversial TopicMay 28, 2011Bob HaytonSt. Paul, MNAge: 25-34Gender: maleSacred cows die hard. And tipping them is not just anyone's game. When it comes to conservative American evangelicalism, there may be no cherished belief that needs to die more than its explicit allegiance to one political party.
An evangelical attachment to the history of America and to patriotism has colored its views on how the church should interact with the political sphere. And in the past few decades, with the meteoric rise of "the religious right", the result has been an American version of Christianity which mixes zeal for conservative politics and Christian virtues. Along the way, a popular misconception has arisen on the part of secular and non-evangelical alike: the evangelical gospel is confused with a moralistic concern for "family values".
Carl Trueman, a witty and winsome Brit, tackles this problem in a new book recently released by P & R Publishing. In "Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative", Trueman speaks from an outsider's perspective on the political landscape facing American Christians today. He understands that some of his views will be frowned on from both sides of the American aisle, but he pushes forth in an effort to challenge the tendency toward a one-sided approach and overly simplistic view of politics which he sees as so prevalent in the conservative circles in which he ministers today (as dean of Westminster Theological Seminary).
Written in a witty and personal fashion, with a Brit's sense and control of the English language, the book draws one into the discussion even as it disarms the would-be critic. I found it a quick and engrossing read, even if the argument seemed to overreach on some points. He offers pertinent and sometimes disturbing examples from recent political history to drive home his points, and in the end is quite convincing.
He starts out with a criticism of today's "left". He shows how originally the liberal concern for the marginalized and the poor spurred British Christians to political involvement and an embrace of classic liberalism. Since then, liberalism has grown to treat any perceived marginalization and threat to be equivalent with the real economic and physical problems, for example, that were caused by industrialization in the late 1800s. So the mother of an unwanted child is facing undue pressure to keep her child, and she along with a gay person who wants full acceptance by society both deserve the protection of modern liberals. Meanwhile, the true problems of poverty and economic marginalization which continue to plague our world get left behind in the posturing and the fuss over the more visible, concerns of today's liberals.
He then moves on into the conservative kitchen, and tackles American exceptionalism, and the patriotic flavor of American Christianity responsible for such absurdities as "The Patriot's Bible". Where he really scored points with me was in his treatment of the Fox News channel. He drives home his point that no news media outlet can be completely unbiased. He also shows how the founders of Fox were moved by the almighty dollar, like anyone else in the secular world. His cautions on this point deserve notice:
"When it comes to listening to the news, Christians should be eclectic in their approach and not depend merely on those pundits who simply confirm their view of the world while self-evidently using terminology, logic, and standard rules of evidence and argumentation in sloppy, tendentious, and sometimes frankly dishonest ways...." (pg. 56)
That the free market, capitalist system was a Christian concept derived from studying Scripture was one of the high points of my own Christian education. And Trueman takes aim at that whole idea. The system runs on good old fashioned, greed (which is actually sinful, mind you). And not just greed -- discontent and dissatisfaction are built into the structure of our American economic system. The solution to economic hard times is for us consumers to show more confidence and fork out more money. And exactly how is this is a Christian concept, again? Let me allow Trueman himself to speak to this point more directly:
"...we have no basis for absolutizing the social organization and the attendant institutions, practices, and values of our passing present than anybody in ages past. Feudalism seemed like the wave of the future when it was at its zenith, yet it has passed away, at least in the West. European imperialism seemed set to dominate the world forever and a day at the end of the nineteenth century, but along came two world wars that put an end to that notion...." (pg. 67)
Viewing our system as the best there ever was, is also a bit evolutionary in nature, Trueman contends. Somehow man has figured everything out now and our system is the best hope for the world. We need to liberate the world from their a-capitalism, and bring salvation by means of the free market.
He rounds out the book by discussing how democratic politics in our modern age are positioned such that every difference between the parties has to be emphasized and enlarged so that they can gain power. Careful, nuanced political debate is not served by today's sound bites and smiling photo ops, either. Trueman's postscript argues that the abortion issue doesn't have to be the be-all, end-all political issue for Christians in a fallen society like ours. He says, "It seems clear that the democratic legislative path to reducing or even outlawing abortions is proving remarkably unfruitful.... following from this... is there any point in allowing the matter to be the make-or-break issue on which individuals make their voting decisions at election time?" (pg. 106). He argues that incremental change can be pursued within either party, and before abortion will be outlawed a majority of Americans need to view it with distaste.
You won't appreciate, or agree with, all Trueman's concerns, but you will be challenged to think about what role the church should have in the political sphere. Should a church side with the conservative agenda so explicitly that non-conservatives are unwelcome, even if they also believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I think not. And if you pick up Trueman's short book (only 110 pages), I suspect you'll at least admit this much by the time you've read it. The Church of Jesus Christ should be wide enough to accept Christians of various political persuasions. The gospel, not politics or national pride, should unite us.
I want to close with an extended excerpt from Trueman's conclusion. I don't want to steal his thunder, but I feel this is the best way to give Trueman the hearing he may need for you to actually pick up his work and give it a listen.
"Christians are to be good citizens, to take their civic responsibilities seriously, and to respect the civil magistrates appointed over us. We also need to acknowledge that the world is a lot more complicated than the pundits of Fox News (or MSNBC) tell us.... Christian politics, so often associated now with loudmouthed aggression, needs rather to be an example of thoughtful, informed engagement with the issues and appropriate involvement with the democratic process. And that requires a culture change. We need to read and watch more widely, be as critical of our own favored pundits and narratives as we are of those cherished by our opponents, and seek to be good stewards of the world and of the opportunities therein that God has given us.
"It is my belief that the identification of Christianity, in its practical essence, with very conservative politics will, if left unchallenged and unchecked, drive away a generation of people who are concerned for the poor, for the environment, for foreign-policy issues.... We need to... [realize] the limits of politics and the legitimacy of Christians, disagreeing on a host of actual policies, and [earn] a reputation for thoughtful, informed, and measured political involvement. A good reputation with outsiders is, after all, a basic New Testament requirement of church leadership, and that general principle should surely shape the attitude of all Christians in whatever sphere they find themselves. Indeed, I look forward to the day when intelligence and civility, not tiresome cliches, character assassinations, and Manichean noise, are the hallmarks of Christians as they engage the political process." (pg. 108-110)
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
ChrisDTulare, CAGender: female3 Stars Out Of 5DisappointingJanuary 20, 2011ChrisDTulare, CAGender: femaleI love to argue politics and was looking forward to hearing some cogent arguments for Christian liberalism but aside from some good observations about the church letting secularism creep in, there was typical demonization of conservative icons without evidence and a lot of straw man arguments about what conservative Christian evangelicals believe.