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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The New Face of Religion and Politics
I admit I'm frustrated with politics as a conservative Christ-follower. I have been for some time. I don't think that my government or my representatives reflect my views, much less the views of the majority of the people in the U.S., much less anything outside of their own self-interest. I grew up in the Reagan era and in the urban South, there was a lot of pride in our...
Published on May 20, 2012 by Eugene Mason

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a small step forward for the religious right
Book Basics

Jonathan Merritt shares his own journey of faith alongside his hopes for those in his generation and beyond. As the son of James Merritt, a large church pastor who served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Jonathan grew up as a foot solider in the culture wars and was personally recruited by Jerry Falwell to attend Liberty University...
Published on June 24, 2012 by Greg Smith (aka sowhatfaith)

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The New Face of Religion and Politics, May 20, 2012
This review is from: A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars (Hardcover)
I admit I'm frustrated with politics as a conservative Christ-follower. I have been for some time. I don't think that my government or my representatives reflect my views, much less the views of the majority of the people in the U.S., much less anything outside of their own self-interest. I grew up in the Reagan era and in the urban South, there was a lot of pride in our leadership back then. We had an enemy in Communism, we were strong economically, and in conservative circles, everything just seemed "right" with the world.

Of course now, years later, I realize just how much was wrong with the world back then, and that politics glossed over much of the real challenge of making a positive difference. We fought the Communists, but we tolerated the racists and the bigots. We built great wealth, but we ignored the poor and let AIDS run rampant across Africa. The Berlin Wall fell, but walls of class envy and ethnic division were built up across our country. Today, much travel, experience and wisdom that comes with age, along with my beliefs, presses me to do something significant to help the poor, to change attitudes on race and to use our resources to better the world.

If only some of these things could be done without the muck and stench of politics clouding the way. In "A Faith of Our Own", I found a voice of many of these concerns in Jonathan Merritt's experiences. The book shares this sense that Christ-followers today, especially the younger generation--the one behind mine--wants to impact their world in a meaningful way. And, like me, they're turned off by the political banter. Worse, and I think Merritt does a masterful job of writing in this regard--they're just frustrated with politics in general and feel used as a "voting bloc" for others with agendas.

So how does one drop a political agenda and embrace the "human agenda"? A God-centered and world-impacting agenda? I think Merritt's book is a great place to start. If you have deeply held convictions that you feel are not represented by the left or the right, and want to find a line of thought and action as you seek to be a part of solving--really solving--some of our woes... you know, the ones in our own back yard where your own personal effort can do some good?--then be encouraged and emboldened by "A Faith of Our Own".
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book Every Christian Should Read This Political Season, May 14, 2012
This review is from: A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars (Hardcover)
One of my favorite quotes is by David Lipscomb. He once wrote, "We are satisfied that voting does much more harm to the church than dancing does." I love that quote because I believe it to be true, but also because it has probably been perceived differently by every generation since it was first written. The Christian generation before mine viewed dancing as a great evil, and voting as part of a Christian's duty. Nowadays you would be hard pressed to find a Christian of my generation who believes in the evils of dancing, and voting is no longer an essential element of the Christian faith. This monumental change is documented in Jonathan Merritt's new book, A Faith of Our Own.

A Faith of Our Own is a well written book about things that are taking place right now in Christianity. The book is not just a collection of data, although Merritt has done his research. It is his personal story of growing up in the church. He is the son of a Southern Baptist President. He attended Liberty University, while Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority, was president. He was brought up in a church where Bill Clinton and other liberal politicians were rebuked publicly from the pulpit. He was raised in an all around conservative environment in the middle of the culture wars. During his upbringing he bought into the hope the religious right was selling. They wanted to convince everyone that, "If all you will do is vote a certain way, then we can change America." Merritt eventually discovered that this was a false hope. Even with a Republican in the White House, and a Republican controlled house and senate little or nothing changed. The two issues that were at the forefront of the culture wars 30 years ago, abortion and gay-marriage, are still at the forefront today. Neither has been resolved.

Merritt does not just point fingers at the religious right. He spends more time talking about the right, because that is the side he knows best, but he also points to similar problems coming from the religious left. The problem for Merritt is not right and left. The problem is how people have practiced Christianity for the last 40 years. Often conservative and liberal churches have driven people to be more conservative or more liberal, instead of being more like Jesus. They have sought to work from the top down, by influencing people of power, such as politicians, to vote their way. So far, this has failed miserably, and the current generation is looking to change how church is done.

Merritt is not alone in recognizing the hypocrisy and flaws of the previous generation. Many Christians have come to the same conclusions. The religious right was awakened to this fact when they lost the youth vote in the 2008 election. They quickly began asking questions, trying to figure out what they had done wrong. Merritt recalls an occasion in chapter 4 of his book, when he was called to speak in front of a prominent conservative Christian organization about why they had lost the youth vote. The group was eager to hear Merritt's data, but when it came time for him to offer some advice he was quickly silenced. They had no interest in making any drastic changes that would allow them to connect with the voters they had lost contact with.

Merritt also points out other reasons for the changes seen in this generation of Christians. They have been more willing to take mission trips. These trips have radically changed how these Christians now view the world. They no longer take the issue of poverty lightly. They have witnessed with their own eyes the poor living conditions of people around the world. The idea of the rich becoming richer is ridiculous, and even becomes a justice issue. This generation has also changed their view on issues related to homosexuality. Many still believe the passages which speak against homosexuality in the Bible, but they no longer view homosexuality as a choice that is made, but rather something a person wrestles with. They reject the idea that homosexuals should be treated as "modern-day lepers." They are more likely to support "protections against violent hate crimes" and "hospital visitation rights and inheritances for gay couples" (116-117). The main reason for this change is that more and more young evangelicals know someone close to them who is homosexual. This generation of Christians has been reminded that homosexuals are people who are in need of Christ's love.

One of the great things about A Faith of Our Own is that it is bi-partisan. Some may be tempted to pigeon hole it into a category, but that would be because of their own prejudices. A Faith of Our Own is neither conservative nor liberal. It does not lean toward the left or the right. If you want to call it anything, call it biblical. It seeks to put forth a way of looking at the world, by first following Jesus. Merritt understands this generation will not be perfect, and that they are already making some mistakes, but they are striving to live out their faith in a way that makes sense. Although he is critical of the previous generation, he does not demonize them. He points out faults they had, but he also reminds the reader of some wonderful things they accomplished. A Faith of Our Own is a book about a generation of Christians who is "more interested in winning hearts than in winning the culture wars" (129). It is a book for anyone who wants to understand the current generation of Christians. As a person who belongs to the generation of Christians Merritt writes about, it is a refreshing look at how this generation has come to faith in some turbulent and confusing times. Although some parts are sad, and even hard to read, it is a book full of hope for the future of Christianity.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of A Faith Of Our Own, May 11, 2012
This review is from: A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars (Hardcover)
Let's start with the unique value of this book, A Faith of Our Own. The big question of this book is how should Christians' faith influence our political views and how we engage in political discourse? More importantly, how do we as Christianity instigate meaningful change in this world in a way that is in tune with the kingdom over worldly political processes? What makes these questions so important is that they are questions more and more young people are asking. What makes Jonathan Merritt's perspective unique is that he grew up in a family that was entrenched in Christian conservatism. Just to give you an idea he starts the book with a story as a senior in high school having lunch with Jerry Faldwell trying to get him to come to Liberty University. His family has connections with the Religious Right.

By reading Merritt's thoughts you gain insight into the struggles and questions of many young adults today in regard to faith and politics (I am still wondering how the word politics didn't make it into the title of this book). The biggest concern is trying to find consistency in faith and politics by wading past all the junk to the core of what is really most important. Reading Jonathan's perspective will help you understand where many young adults are coming from, what they have had to wrestle with and will make you, no matter what your political leaning, consider your own approach to faith and politics.

As has already been mentioned, Jonathan Merritt grew up in the inner sanctum of conservative Christianity. He has seen the inner workings of how previous generations have tried to put faith and politics together and reflects on how there can be a better fit than what he experienced growing up. He saw inconsistencies (and plenty of them) in how Christians of previous generations seemed to seamlessly and effortlessly interweave faith and politics in a way that seemed to be more about politics than it was about faith. That incongruity didn't sit well with Jonathan and it doesn't sit well with many today.

One of the issues I have with the book is that in dealing with these inconsistencies Merritt has a tendency to overgeneralize various demographics to a particular view. It is all very black and white. You get the feeling that all older people have problems buying into conservative politics and put politics over faith and young people have found the difficult balance. Here is another example. When talking about the perspective of young Christians he says,

"More than being central to their theology, the gospel has become integrated into their entire lives." Well, has it? That is an overgeneralization. Is there some truth in that statement? Sure but you could say the same thing about older Christians as well. Taking faith seriously is not exclusive to young people.

Jonathan believes Christianity has bought into the game of politics hook, line and sinker rather than mapping out a more biblical approach to how Christians engage their lives in what really matters. Merritt argues that for far too long Christians have allowed the political parties to use us as a voting block to move their agendas through while we mistook our partnership with politicians as a means to advance and engage in God's mission. His contention in this book is that our identity as Christians must shape our politics and not the other way around. He also believes that our identity as Christians overcomes the dividing lines between parties as the commonality we find in Christ can bring those who disagree on the issues together worshipping the same God.

Do you think the church has bought into political agendas (his conclusion is usually right wing ones) at the expense of God's mission and our identity in Christ?

Starting in chapter five there is a turn in the tone of the book. The gist is that there are more important things in life than politics. There are needs and hurts in the world that need healed that the church must be a part of and cannot let anyone or anything (including politics and culture wars) distract us from being involved in those things. These issues transcend politics and political parties. These issues bring Christians of various political views together in harmony. When you help the poor, serve the hurting, and reach out to the lost there is a unity those things bring to those who practice them together. Politics get put aside.

So how do we make this change? Merritt argues the change will never come from the top down (we have tried that over and over and failed). The change must come from the bottom up and the inside out (p.123). In other words, if we are going to change this world, we cannot depend on the tools of the world to get the job done. The primary way the world tries to get big things done is through politics. Leveraging politics to the advantage of Christianity is too small. There is a greater power at work in people of faith that can and will bring about significant and eternal change to this world.

One of the ways Merritt attempts to give a solution is through a discussion of their church plant, Cross Pointe Church. He talks about their unity in diversity and how they are attempting to be the church God wants them to be. They are trying to make a difference in the world. This all led me to wonder if it really takes church plants in order to make the necessary changes. He makes a big point out of having to split off of their 125 year old church that was "steeped in tradition" (p.156). What do you do with those who are left behind? How does that congregation go about doing the work of making the transition to being more mission minded? There are many churches in that situation and I would like someone to share some thoughts on how to bring them hope without having to split off to make the necessary changes. I am not being critical of church planting at all. We need more of it but we also need to help existing churches grow to a healthy place as well.

These are difficult waters to navigate and I am grateful Merritt wrote this book to start the conversation. I believe both young and old are starting to see the inconsistencies that have been in the church for years when it comes to these issues and that more and more people have a burning desire to be in the mission, making a difference. We have much to learn and much room to grow.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Faithful Posture, September 18, 2012
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This review is from: A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars (Hardcover)
Jonathan Merritt is a journalist. His most recent book "A Faith of Our Own" is written in a journalist's rather than a policy-advocate's or theologian's style. He employs metaphors and anecdotes which occasionally seem forced, but manage to keep the reader engaged. He prefers to let others make his strongest points for him in well placed quotations. He is not primarily making an argument but describing a landscape, a narrative, and its characters. This is in keeping with the trend in the church to employ a narrative approach to the scriptures and to ministry. If the reader comes to this book looking for something to agree with or disagree with they may be frustrated.

"A Faith of Our Own" tells the church how to stand rather than where to stand. This is an important word to the church today. Poised at the end of an era of Christian participation in politics, the current generation knows something went wrong over the last 40 years, but many of us lack an understanding of the history of the events that shaped us. We know we want to do better than our parents. We want the Gospel that we share to reflect Christ's love. We want to practice good stewardship of all the resources entrusted to us. But we also know that obstacles have been constructed in the past which require our attention and honest repentance before we can expect the world to be willing to listen to us, or to be ready to accept God's love through us. Merritt shows how our generation is moving in that direction.
But he is not providing a blueprint, nor really even asserting a strong position. This book is not about taking a stand, but about an attitude of standing. He is reporting. Which is, perhaps, the correct approach for this time. If Merritt has a goal, it is to re-engage some of us who grew up steeped in the religious right and to provide a model of repentance and humility. He appeals both to those who remain in the fold, and to the many who were turned off by what he describes as the "culture wars" of our fathers. I searched in vain for strong statements, but there are precious few in "A Faith of Our Own."

Merritt is almost hipster in this regard. If he were not sincere, his image would fit that mold, and in truth, he is probably most appealing to the hipster-Christian fold. They will probably get it. What feels like "anything goes" reading from the right might retain an echo of dogmatism reading from the left, while intentionally being neither. This will annoy older Christians who will write him off as either a hippie or a poseur. But he is genuine, and humble. He should be heard and considered in earnest. He is right that the appropriate approach "is not reaction or response, but reflection."

I would go further than Merritt on most points. I would, if it is possible, seem more conservative to the liberals and seem more liberal to the conservatives. More importantly I would bring an analysis, rather than a report, of politics which demonstrates why the religious right movement of the last generation played out the way it did, why the liberal elements are progressing the way that they are, and why confusion about the appropriate role of Christians, and in particular the church as an institution, in politics remains among the most contentious issues within evangelicalism.

He claims that "Government can be a powerful tool for justice and goodness, and often Christians must advocate for policies that punish injustice, restrain evil, and promote a healthier society." But I only agree in part. That government is effective, though flawed, at punishing injustice and restraining evil may be true, but I believe only the love of God can motivate us into goodness. This may help resolve some of the confusion surrounding Romans 13.

When Merritt says "politics itself is not the problem," he is hedging against the conservative-styled small-government movement which is yet another form of "foolish participation in politics," un-nuanced and hypocritical in the hands of Tea-Partiers. I agree with his concern, but I agree more with Jacques Ellul that politics "is the trap continually set for (the church) by the Prince of the World."

Merritt identifies characters to some extent so entrapped, who thought very much was at stake in the culture wars, without explicitly identifying what those claims were, and whether they were right. He does not go into depth searching what really was at stake and who really stood to gain or to lose in particular situations. A more Ellulian approach might have sought out and described by way of a warning the ways that well-intentioned actors found themselves compromised by participation in and proximity to power. There is no explication of the way of Jesus as a subversive power-under response to the demonic power-over ways of the world. I'd recommend Mark Van Steenwyk's recent "That Holy Anarchist" to Merritt and his readers on this count.

Merritt gets closest to this perspective in the excellent climactic chapter, "A Touch Closer." Taking his cues from folks like Shane Claiborne, Merritt describes a Christianity in action which is acutely attentive to the least of these. "Follow Jesus. Live like He did, give yourself to others, and share the good news that God has brought freedom to us all." I've written before that those of us who believe in regeneration ought to perceive it as an event which adjusts human nature radically, changing us from primarily self-interested individuals, into God-and-others interested servants, living out a form of sacrificial altruism which rescues the oppressed while simultaneously providing a way of redemption for oppressors. Claiborne emulates this beautifully in his work. He is focused entirely on how to live out the way of Jesus before the world. Merritt says, "When the religious leaders attempted to make Jesus choose sides, He declined. When one of His disciples attempted to employ the world's tactics at His arrest, Jesus rebuked him and displayed a radically different approach. Through His life and ministry, Christ made it clear that His kingdom could not be pursued by marginalizing those who seek to marginalize you, attacking those who attack you, or combatting `anti-Christian' earthly kingdoms by installing `semi-Christian' earthly kingdoms. Instead Jesus calls His subjects to begin `loving, serving, and hopefully transforming the enemy who seeks to destroy you.'"

Merritt's concerns with the "brutal tactics" and "sour tone", and his appeal for "passionate but reasonable discussion" lack the insight that when the pile of political goodies gets stacked too high, the competition for those goodies, which in politics in a democracy are allocated by argument, is bound to become vicious. As Christians we can help reduce the negative tone primarily by removing some issues from the realm of political contention. We do this best through voluntary sacrificial altruism, or what Merritt calls "sacrificial followship." It is for this purpose which we can apply the words of Merritt's mentor, "As Christians we may be compelled to enter the political arena from time to time. But we should always be uncomfortable there."

Instead we should get involved. We should say with Merritt, "If you are a woman who feels you cannot bring your child to term for any reason, come see us first. We will walk beside you during this process to ensure that you can bring your child to term and provide for that child's needs in infancy. We will purchase diapers and pay for the doctor visits." Our true concern for the unborn can best be communicated by what we are personally willing to sacrifice for their sakes. Political activism is mere cheap talk in comparison.

Merritt recognizes the coalition-building element of politics as being close to the root of many problems. I'd recommend a survey of public choice economics, my own discipline, in this regard. A good place to start would be, ironically, Bruce Yandel's "Bootleggers and Baptists" theory on regulation. The same free market economists espoused by the religious right when politically expedient have a great deal to say about the dangers of political expediency!

Can I recommend this book to others? Yes, though don't look to Merritt for strategy, or answers to specific questions regarding policy. Instead, read the story of a young man who has watched much of what has happened in the last twenty years, as the evangelical strongholds have begun to crumble, from positions particularly close to the action. Merritt operates well as a reporter in part because he has a great deal to report. But also read how Merritt has sought out a way to walk within the church, as it grows out of a peculiar stage, with incredible grace.

I could go more into the details of the text, describing the conversations recounted, the history as told from the inside, the close encounters with power and with love. But this is what Merritt does well. Instead I would encourage others, and myself, to imitate his attitude, his humility, and his passion for Jesus, as we proceed deeper into our understanding of how to advance the Kingdom of God in this present age.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dubious Disciple Book Review, February 11, 2013
This review is from: A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars (Hardcover)
This is a book every Christian in America should read.

While I manage to avoid politics on my blog, I have been a little less successful on social media. This past election was scary and embarrassing. I have never felt our country so divided in my lifetime, and I have especially never felt Christians so divided.

Enter Merritt's new book, with its subtitle of Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars. Merritt is an evangelical Southern Baptist, but the identification means little. A new wave of Christians are growing up in the church, and making a positive course correction by moving beyond partisan politics, following Jesus without fighting the culture wars.

For many, having churched in an us-versus-them atmosphere, this new wave will be uncomfortable. Merritt tells how, having been raised in a conservative family with ties to the "so-called Religious Right," he thought faithful followship of Jesus meant defeating liberals.* Like Forward contributor Kirsten Powers, I, too, have been asked, "How can you be a Democrat and a Christian?" Oddly, I sometimes wonder the opposite: How can you be a Republican and a Christian? So, Merritt set me straight as much as he did the GOP.

The new wave of young Christians have so had it with partisan politics that they are voting not for Christian principles but against culture wars. A poll conducted by Relevant magazine during the election year--a publication influential among young Christians--asked "Who would Jesus vote for?" The majority of respondents were self-described conservatives, and yet their top response was Barack Obama. Horrors!

Today, we know who won. Obama and the conservatives. Eh??

Take the issue of homosexuality. Merritt waffles all over the place, like he can't make up his mind what his stance should be. To a lesser extent, he does the same with a short discussion on abortion. Even I was frustrated as I read! Get off the fence, man! Only later does Merritt explain that he purposefully avoids contentious issues as a distraction to the hands-on teachings of Jesus. Jesus didn't ask Peter to picket the wolves, but to feed the sheep, right?

Chastised, I realized that I had forgotten the spirit of my own recent book. Merritt has hit the nail on the head, and accomplished it with a book that you won't be able to put down.

* Liberals = "a cantankerous minority of secular humanists attempting to chase Jesus out of God-blessed America."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth your time..., October 3, 2012
This review is from: A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars (Hardcover)
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars (Hardcover)
I grew up in a politically active Democratic household therefore when I registered to vote I became a Democrat. At some point I changed political parties and became an Independent but for the past fifteen years or more I have been a registered Republican. The one constant in my life has been my faith, I have always been a Christian thus in the last few years I have, without changing party affiliation, informed people that I am a Christian Conservative. What, you might ask, has that to do with reviewing "A Faith of Our Own" by Jonathan Merritt? Everything.
As did the author I grew up believing Democrats were tolerant and Republicans were extreme bible thumping fanatics, at least until I became one. As a Democrat faith had its' placed but not in politics. Jonathan Merritt begins his book by presenting a simple bit of information: Christians can be both Democrat and Republican. From there he proceeds to present a particular ideology in regards to faith and political opinions. The book gradually instructs the reader on the development of partisanship, in terms of Christianity, from his perspective as a person who was raised in the heart of Evangelical Christiandom.
As I read the "A Faith of Our Own" it confirmed my own observations as to how believers have divided themselves not by biblical doctrine but political ideology. Merritt writes:
"Christianity has a major problem. Yes, it is an image problem. But more importantly
it's a problem of corrupting the gospel with petty politics and partisan ideology"
(Kindle location 49-51)
"A Faith of Our Own" by Jonathan Merritt is an important read particularly for those of you who consider yourselves political junkies. It is a necessary read for all believers particularly with the rhetoric that will be presented between now and November. By provoking the reader to consider his or her beliefs when it comes to political philosophy and faith hopefully it will aid the individual to use common sense and not common ideology when voting. The book is not meant to make you a Democrat if you are a Republican or a Republican if you are a Democrat hopefully it will stop some of the foolishness I see in terms of political bashing on both sides of the aisle.

I received a complimentary ebook in exchange for an honest book review, this I have done.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Voice from the Religious Right, Pulling Us Back to a Biblical Center, May 21, 2012
This review is from: A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars (Hardcover)
In this dangerous new era of political campaigns, when any angry billionaire can blanket America with hate-filled attack ads, the rise of Jonathan Merritt may be an answer to prayer. Merritt, at 29, is heir to evangelical royalty as the son of former Southern Baptist Convention president James Merritt and a family friend of the late Jerry Falwell (as well as other Religious Right luminaries). Yet, Merritt is using his considerable clout as a hot young writer to urge evangelical friends nationwide to move, as his subtitle puts it, "Beyond the Culture Wars."

Why should we pay attention to Jonathan Merritt now? Every day, fresh headlines show the growing toxicity of politics. With uncapped spending by Super PACs, the New York Times predicts that billions of dollars are flowing into frequently angry messages that, by definition, candidates cannot even try to moderate.

In religious circles, there's not a more important voice emerging than Jonathan Merritt, who is calling for religious calm from every public pulpit that welcomes him. From the Huffington Post to the Washington Post, from FOX News to network TV talk shows, Merritt is using his considerable connections to call for truly biblical compassion. Despite his own blanketing of American media, where can you find Jonathan Merritt's most eloquently argued manifesto for rethinking faith and politics? In the pages of this new book. That's why you should pick up a copy on behalf of your own faith, whatever that faith may be, and on behalf of those who hope to see some civility return to our republic.

Don't misread this review and think that Merritt is arguing for Christians, or anyone of strong faith-based convictions, to simply walk off stage and give up on activism. On the contrary! Many truly biblical issues fuel Merritt's passion. Google up evangelical Christian advocates of abolishing nuclear weapons and you'll find that Merritt has hung his shingle along side Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo and many others. Look for Christians who are preaching that we must all work together to save our environment and, once again, Merritt ranks among the top names.

In the book, Merritt writes: "Christian leaders who claim to represent the larger movement often so thoroughly misrepresent the rest of us that many would cherish clearing the deck and starting from scratch. Today's Christians believe we all need to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. To listen more and speak less and perhaps infuse our debates with a modicum of respect. Turning imperative debates into an episode of The View doesn't help anything. People crave a civil society for both personal and pragmatic reasons. Most of humanity feels the offense of harsh words even when they are directed at others. ... A coarse culture is also an unproductive culture--especially in a democratic society whose engine runs on compromise and coalition building. When incivility reigns, progress is stymied and compromise is replaced by stalemate."

Care about your faith and the future of our world? Pick up a copy of Jonathan Merritt's book for an eloquent plea about a truly compassionate way to wage your own campaign.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous - and not just for younger believers, September 2, 2013
If the ONLY by-product of the "culture wars" was the Pharisaic "You're not a real Christian if you don't vote_________" , I would have been 100% against the mingling of politics and faith from the pulpit. But besides corrupting the Gospel (as if that weren't enough), the toxic political waste severely erodes a loving parishioner's trust in leadership and makes a wasteland of an honest believer's ability to invite others to Christ-honoring worship services, since those services could degenerate instead into hideous political rallies.

I'll never forget standing in BooksAMillion and pulling a book called "Sex, Mom, and God" off of the shelf. The author, Franky Schaeffer, once one of the staunchest soldiers of the Religious Right, shares how he woke up to the way Bible believing Christians were being used by politicians. As the son of an influential Protestant father, Francis Schaeffer, Franky's book gave no quarter to those involved in the "culture wars". Jonathan Merritt, also the son of an influential Spiritual leader (his dad is a well known Baptist Bible expositor and a former head of the SBC) is more restorative in his work. Merritt's balance is desperately needed - he reminds his readers that crass manipulation of church members is not a Republican specialty. Then Merritt points out that vastly different political conclusions can be reached by decent, noble churchgoers, and that these Christians might even be: __________ (insert political party).

May more and more believers speak up for the Lord Jesus Christ as Jonathan Merritt has done in this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Rocks, December 13, 2012
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Without going into a long background story, I have been having a crisis of faith. This book helped restore my faith. Rather than fussing over "being relelvant" and "seeker friendly" the author points out how young people today view the world. Refreshing and for those working on creating "generational synergy" I recommend it.
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A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars
A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars by Jonathan Merritt (Hardcover - May 8, 2012)
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