"God be merciful to us & bless us, & cause His face to shine upon us.
That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.
Oh, let the nations be glad & sing for joy!"
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"One Nation Under God" by Ashford and Pappalardo. A Review.
Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics
Ashford and Chris Pappalardo
One LifeWay Plaza
Nashville, TN. 37234
ISBN: 9781433690693; December
Rev. Dr. Michael Philliber for Deus Misereatur
5 Stars out
It’s that time! It happens every couple of years when
the American blood pressure spikes, the nation grabs it’s communal chest,
staggers and stumbles, all red-faced and in cold-sweats. It’s called election
season, and by all reports on social media, news accounts, video feeds, journal
articles, coffee shop chats and blog posts, it’s the end of America once again!
The sun is about to turn black, the moon blood red, stars are on the verge of
falling out of the sky to crash into the earth. Into this national apocalyptic
and apoplectic ailment steps a new, 176 page hardback, “One Nation Under God: A
Christian Hope for American Politics” that seeks to bring sensibility and solidity.
Bruce Riley Ashford, professor of Theology and Culture, provost and dean of
faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Chris Pappalardo,
lead researcher and writer at The Summit Church, have banded together to
present this easy-to-read guide into the hands of Christians from all walks of
life. Their aim is “to share a perspective on politics that tempers the
expectations of those with inflated hopes, empowers those with deflated hopes,
and equips every Christian to apply Christ’s love in the muddied arena of
The book unfolds into two sections. The first six
chapters work out the biblical, and Christian, backstory of our world and
politics, and then move forward to the sane, stable and sound reasons
Christians can engage with politics. The authors recognize that there will be
tensions in the political arena because of where we are in human and philosophical
history; “The gospel story is deeply at odds with modern political narratives
because each looks to a different place for history’s true meaning” (32).
Therefore, wisely, they remind us that we “should not expect more from politics
and public life than can be had in this time between times” because infusing “politics
with majestic hopes will only lead to crushing disappointment” (56). This means
that as Christians involve themselves in statecraft we exercise a public
righteousness and civility where we “hold our convictions, but out of love for
our neighbor and concern for our witness, we hold them in a gracious and kind
manner” (58). Ashford and Pappalardo rightly see the importance of civility in
our public discourse, and describe it as “not spinelessness but self-control;
it is the capacity to show love and grace particularly
when we disagree with others and even when we dislike them.” And this
civility has two sides, civil speech and civil attitude (58-9).
The second segment of “One Nation Under God” attempts to
address seven hot subjects, and how Christians might persuasively speak to
their fellow citizens. The topics include life and death issues, sexuality,
economics, the environment, race, immigration and war. The authors workout
their thoughts from Scripture and Christian convictions (thick reasoning) and then
imagine ways to bridge into the secular square to speak insightfully to those
who reject both sources of authority (thin reasoning).Though some readers may
find the directions and conclusions more conventional, or less rigid, than they
like, nevertheless they will be helped by the mental exercise presented in
these chapters. The concluding pages bring in Augustine and his approach in The City of God and how this can be an astute
model for Christian participation in the civic arena, because we “Christians should
be, without qualification, the heart and strength of every good social effort”
“One Nation Under
God” is a perceptive and peaceable volume. Throughout the material the authors thoughtfully
interact with several thinkers, to include Lesslie Newbigin, N.T. Wright, Martin
Luther King Jr., Richard John Neuhaus, Abraham Kuyper, and Richard Mouw; and have
crafted a handy, useable resource for Christians as we think sanely about our
Nation, elections, and our public responsibilities. The book would be ideal for
discussion groups, church leadership, and even Adult Christian Education
classes (it doesn’t support or promote any candidate or party). It would also
be worth passing a copy along to Christian friends and family. I salute Ashford
and Pappalardo for their excellent work.
Thanks to B&H Publishing Group for providing, upon my
request, the free copy of “One Nation Under God” used for this review. The
assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal
Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).
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