My husband works in politics so I probably hear more about it than most people, and yet over the past several years I’ve found myself growing more and more disillusioned with the escalating rhetoric and degenerating tone in our political arena. This is not to say that good people are absent from politics; there are plenty of principled people on both sides of the aisle (including but not limited to my husband!), but in large part I feel like there is a lack of civility, a reluctance to work with other viewpoints, and a scary proliferation of illogical arguments and ad hominem attacks. It’s done by both parties at all levels and it turns me off.
That’s why I found City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era such a refreshing and inspiring book. The authors note that “the younger generation feels alienated by leading figures on both the right and the left. Along with so many of their elders, they are looking for something deeper and something better.” In a well written but brief 136 page book, the authors explore how religion and politics intersect, the historical context for different perspectives on particularly Christian involvement in American politics over time, and how we might navigate to a political philosophy that is in line with religious beliefs while not being used by either political party.
Both Gerson and Wehner are Christians, and so the book tracks primarily Jude0-Christian perspectives, although I think the arguments would be thought-provoking and illuminating to someone seeking to understand the American political scene in general. I thought it was interesting how the authors explain the rise of the religious left and the religious right, and how many Christians are increasingly disillusioned with both groups. Their research showed that these Christians “sense that both the religious right and the religious left may be treading the same path – baptizing someone else’s policy preferences and calling the result Christian.”
After surveying the data, the book turns to questions of the role of religion in the public square: when should churches speak out, the role of the individual in relation to the government, how faith can impact policy in a pluralistic nation, and so forth. Although the authors are not very specific in their conclusions, I think that’s good because it leaves the reader space to think over the issues for himself and consider what the political landscape would look like if people were more civil (see Colossians 4:6) and principled.
Overall I think City of Man is good food for thought, and I would recommend it if you are interested in politics.
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