Probably the most common metaphor used in conversations about generations and culture is the dreaded pendulum. “Beware of the pendulum effect!” some wise person will invariable interject into the conversation. “Because your parents were too strict, you’ll be tempted to go and become all liberal.” Whether it’s political involvement, theology, or child rearing techniques, we must always be on guard lest a giant swinging pendulum comes and knocks our progressive selves right into the ditch of sin and excess that the previous generation tried to hard to avoid.
In “A Faith of Our Own”, Jonathan Merritt suggests that our generation should abandon the pendulum altogether.
On the very first page, he addresses the concern that “Christian” equals “Republican”. After all, it’s the subculture that he was raised in as the son of a Southern Baptist minister. At first glance, it could seem like he was about to suggest a pendulum swing in the opposite direction, toward trendy, emergent, liberal Christian politics. After all, his previous book was all about how we should care for the environment.
But Mr. Merritt successfully navigates a clear and compelling path away from the “conservative vs. liberal” dichotomy and instead suggests a Christianity that transcends politics. Through detailed research, personal stories, and quotes from well-known Christian leaders, “A Faith of Our Own” spends a fair number of pages making its case before moving toward solutions. The conclusion is remarkably simple but much needed –
“Christians are not ultimately bound together by our political views or even the theological minutiae that splinter churches. That great unifier that draws us together is our common commitment to Jesus.”
The call to move beyond the “culture wars” resonates strongly with many of our generation. Merritt effectively articulates some of the major shifts that are happening in the Church’s relationship to politics. “A Faith of Our Own” refuses to acquiese to simple “old vs. young” or “conservative vs. liberal” or even “political vs. spiritual dichotomies. Instead, it invites every Christian to reflect on how our faith can best inform our involvement in the public square.
For me, withdrawing from politics isn’t too difficult. I’ve always viewed the whole mess with a fair amount of skepticism, and have recently become more and more convinced that politics and Christianity don’t overlap nearly as neatly as a lot of Christians suggest. I wish I disagreed with Merritt, because it would make this whole review a lot more interesting for you to read. Conflict is at the heart of every good story, you know.
Anyway, here are some some good quotes. Feel free to steal these for your Twitter:
“The kingdom… can never be won through a culture war because it promotes serving above winning.”
“I desire to hear a symphony of Christian voices speaking out about a host of moral issues.”
“We are to love, the Holy Spirit convicts, and God judges. The problem is that some Christians try to do all three.” -Gigi Graham Tchividjian
“When religion squelches our childlike faith, we’re driven back to Jesus’ first words… ‘Follow Me.'”
Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of the book for review.
published October 3, 2012
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