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I grew up attending the Geyer Springs Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas and became a diligent Bible reader. I read it from cover to cover in a number of translations. The Living Bible first, then Today's English Version (the Good News for Modern Man version), the King James's Version, the NIV, and the RSV. Parts I read more than others, and parts I read by far the most were the Gospels, especially the sayings and sermons and parables of Jesus. I was not raised in a political family, but my politics were profoundly formed and fashioned by reading the New Testament.

I learned some amazing things in the Gospels. Jesus said that if you had two coats, take one of them and give it to someone who had none. If someone struck you, you were to turn and offer them the other cheek. Jesus was constantly reaching out to the poor, was profoundly suspicious of the religious (especially those who loved to prayer in public and put their religiosity on display), and had an extraordinarily low disregard for the wealthy. He displayed an affirmation of the worth of women that was simply unprecedented in the Middle East of the time. And while he sternly avoided the rich and powerful and respected, he spent all his time among the poor, the dregs, the lepers, and the needy.

All this stands in stark contrast with today's American churches, especially those in the Bible belt. My bet is that these people in the churches with parking lots filled with Mercedes and Jaguars and BMW are filled with members with lots and lots of coats, not just two. I vividly remember attending First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas where the famous W. A. Criswell utters the astonishing affirmation that the only economic system ordained by God was the free enterprise system. The gap between these teachings and these actions and the portrait of Jesus in the New Testament is gargantuan. Anyone intimately familiar with the Gospels can't help but realize that something has gone seriously awry.

I agree with the first reviewer that Jesus is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but neither is he nonpolitical. But that doesn't negate the fact that Jesus made a host of utterances that, if taken seriously by a reader such as I was as a teen, lead one to a nonpartisan ultra left wing political position. But this all misses the point. While my religion leads me to an extreme left wing political position, I do not think that this should be somehow encapsulated in currently political structures. The founders, especially James Madison though also John Adams and Jefferson recognized that forcing a link between the political structures of society and religion is harmful to religion and to politics. I believe this will become progressively obvious in the decades to come, as the current political involvement of the Religious Right in right wing politics will cause both a repudiation of both. History has witnessed such coalitions before, and always when one goes down, the other is affected as well.

This anthology tries to provide some balance in the current discussion of the connection between Christianity and politics. All too often, the press presumes that the Religious Right somehow speaks for all Christians, and that all Christians are right wingers. This is simply wrong, and one of the weaknesses of the collection is that this isn't sufficiently brought out. In fact, most Christians are not fundamentalists, not right wingers, did not support the war in Iraq, are not supporters of George Bush, and not necessarily Republican. Only about 20% of the US fits the demographic that would be considered the Religious Right, and not all of them share the entire agenda.

The main value, therefore, of this collection is that it serves as a reminder and a corrective to general perceptions. The Gospels clearly and powerfully authorize a set of social concerns that are diametrically opposed to the general impression of the Religious Right, with its obsession on war, on promulgating wealth, on public expressions of religiosity, and unfettered free market capitalism. These are simply not Christian values, yet few in the press ever challenge these.

The writers in this book are from various points of view. My major complaint is the overall journalistic quality of the contributors. There are much better individuals taking up these same issues. I would have liked to see invited papers as well. And some of the more prominent contributors are people I find a tad superficial or wrongheaded. For instance, I have profound problems with the theoretical foundations of the work of John Dominac Crossan (he of the rather silly Jesus Seminar) and surely there was no need to quote so much of Stephen Mitchell's various paraphrases of the New Testament. Few evangelicals were included despite the fact that there are a host of them with left wing politics. Nonetheless, the book is valuable for presenting a wide body of opinion that is in sharp opposition to much of what is being said today about the link between God and politics.

A couple of the pieces deserve special mention. I especially enjoyed Rob Boston's discussion of James Madison's views on the separation of Church and State. Madison, of course, is the key figure in the forming of the U.S. Constitution, having participated in the debates in Philadelphia (keeping for posterity detailed notes that later stood as the major document of what happened in the convention), having written a number of the FEDERALIST PAPERS, including the most important in the bunch, Number 10, having pushed the Virginia statute for the separation of Church and State into ratification in his home state (though it was written by Jefferson--the statute was later the model for the Bill of Rights), a key figure in arguing for the Constitution's ratification, and the primary author of the Bill of Rights. In other words, Madison is the key figure where the Constitution is concerned, and he was also a passionate and persistent defender of the separation of church and state. Despite this, many on the Right out of complete ignorance want to assert that the wall between Church and State is a myth or even a lie told by later generations. But the words of all the major Founders contradict this, so do the words of those contemporaries who opposed the Founders. The major complete by these opponents was that the constitution clearly had no place for God. In fact, it was only in the very late 20th century that ANYONE ever started making the bizarre claim that the Constitution did not place a wall between church and state.

I'm very concerned for the fate of Christianity in this generation. The so-called friends of the faith have managed to align millions of Christians with a political agenda that most Americans find reprehensible. They unquestionably see things at this moment as a great time, but my fear is that when the reaction sets in--and reactions always set in--the result will be not merely the right wing political ideology that is causing incalculable harm to the nation and world right now, but to the cause of Christianity itself. Jesus warns of being stumbling blocks, but I believe the misguided political activity of the Religious Right today will have created the greatest stumbling block in the history of the faith.

More than every, it is crucial for Christians with a clearer understanding of the faith that the misguided millions in the Religious Right to step forward and offer an alternative, more Biblically-based understanding of society. We must be prepared to undo all the damage that our misguided brethren are currently causing.
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HALL OF FAMEon December 12, 2005
Willis presents an anthology of contributions that make a significant case that much of what "Christian conservatives" support is hypocritical; in addition, there were also several writings included that had little/no link to right-wing Christians that I failed to understand their reason for inclusion.

The following summarizes some of the material presented (there is no overall logic flow - such a series of short vignettes):

Republicans lately have spoken of a culture of life, by which they seem to mean a culture that pursues withholding resources and distorting information (eg. about condoms) that could save millions of potential AIDS victims and stop unwanted prenancies that lead to abortions, prevents girls and women from having safe abortions, but does nothing to sustain their children once they are born, spends huge sums keeping a brain-dead person alive, but next to nothing to provide basic health care to poor children, kills civilians by the thousands in pursuit of political ends that are at best murky, opposes stem-cell research directed at major improvements for those with serious, chronic illness, and does almost nothing to save the thousands of children who needlessly die of starvation or illness every day in developing nations.

Polls consistently show that at most one-fifth of the U.S. subscribes to "extremist" (per George Will) regious views in the Republican base (another poll cited concluded that 59% believe in the Bible's apocalypse. Yet, we allow them to bully the majority with intelligent design, Terri Shiavo, Limited means of birth control, the sense that "Freedom is God's gift to the world" (we are doing God's work), droughts, floods, famine, etc. via ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse - therefore, we need not worry about them (aiding Israel is also good as it brings us closer to the desired end).

President Bush uses the word "God" in Inaugeral Addresses more than any other President; he also uses it differently - not as seeking guidance or blessing, but as a prophet issuing declarations of divine decisions for the U.S. and world.

YUM! (PizzaHut, KFC, Taco Bell, etc.) matches employee donations to radical right-wing James Dobson's "Focus on the Family," while paying drivers $6/hour (includes gas and depreciation), and pulls advertising on "Desperate Housewives."

Leaders who emphasize their Christian principles strongly back torture in the War on Terror.

"AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals" - Jerry Falwell.

Kansas' elected leaders are selected primarily for religious positions (despite a weak and sinking economy), and then support economic measures that make the situation worse.
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VINE VOICEon March 12, 2006
"How Would Jesus Vote?"

That is the main question posed by the editors of this book and according to the contributions from the many authors, it seems clear in their collective eyes that Jesus would in no way support today's Republican Party. The different authors who contribute articles in this book seem to agree that the members who control the present- day Republican Party support a platform and endorse social and political ideas that run contrary to the primary tenets of Christianity. They don't come right out and say that Jesus would support the Democrats if he were alive today but they certainly do not feel that Republicanism is compatible with Christianity and they are convinced that Jesus himself would never vote for a Republican for any political office.

Some of the contributions to this book are by author's whose works I have read before. People like Rob Boston (of Americans United for Separation of Church and State), Thomas Frank, Chris Mooney, and others are among the writers I have read in the past. What they contribute here is typical of what they usually write about when it comes to the mixing of religion and politics. They feel that both government and religion are both better off the less the two are mixed together and they make some solid arguments in this book explaining why militarism, the death penalty, and other positions usually supported by Republicans and the Religious Right are wrong from a Christian standpoint and wrong for America.

There are a total of thirty- three articles in this book and some of them are stronger and more convincing than others. I liked the article contributed by Rob Boston titled "James Madison Rebukes the Religious Right" because it is well- reasoned and it includes facts from the mouths of the Founding Fathers to back itself. The article taken from the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing titled "An Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Abortion as a Moral Decision" is also very good because of its persuasive writing and because it dares to tackle an issue like abortion and argue in favor of the position to keep it legal.

With other contributions, it's a hit and miss game, with some of them offering some good, well- reasoned arguments and others falling a little bit short. For example, there are some articles that talk about the importance of social justice. These articles claim that social justice is endorsed by the Bible and they include Bible passages to back them. But what these articles don't necessarily talk about is whether or not government is supposed to take an active role in achieving these ends. The authors of these articles seem to suggest that social justice for the poor is a Biblical requirement that governments must address. However, I cannot think of anything in the Bible that says coercion is a necessary element in the quest for social justice and that governments are thus obligated to take from one person by force and give to another. The way I interpret the Biblical passages on social justice is that individuals should assume this obligation, without the use of coercion of any kind. The reasoning offered here, and in certain other articles, is not as convincing as its authors intended.

The different writers who contribute to this book have an important message to share but what they talk about is completely biased and closed to any further debate. They include many Bible quotes to back up their claims that what Republicans believe in is actually anti- religion. But I have read articles from those on the other side that also use Bible quotes to back their claims. What this shows is that, as many already are aware, there is a passage in the Bible to back most any claim. Depending on interpretation, almost any political or social position can be backed by something, somewhere, in this sacred text.

The timeline at the end of this guide is interesting at first, but it gets a little silly because it is nothing more than an anti- Religious Right rant. I don't support much of what the Religious Right stands for politically, but this timeline is a little too outrageous, even for me. Most all of the events highlighted are, in some way, a negative expose on some religious leader or political movement. For example, 1980 has a mark for Jerry Falwell that reads "Jerry Falwell founds the Moral Majority and declares war on homosexuality". In 1997, there is a mark for Falwell once again that reads "Ellen Degeneras comes out; Jerry Falwell nicknames her `Ellen Degenerate". 1999 has a mark on the timeline that reads "Vermont legalizes same- sex unions; Gary Bauer calls the move `worse than terrorism". I can understand why the editors included these things on the timeline and I know they are trying to prove a point about the extremism of certain members of the Religious Right or affiliated political organizations. But this timeline gets a little carried away with its constant negativity and its tendency to split hairs.

I can appreciate the general message of this book but I have a difficult time giving it much more than a small recommendation. First, I don't like that the two editors composed this book entirely of articles written by other people. When I first saw this book on- line I wanted to read it right way because of the eye- catching title. I thought it was going to be an original book by Clint Willis and Nate Hardcastle with some good, sensible reading about the Religious Right and its desire to make the United States government more theocratic in nature. But this book is nothing more than a collection of material borrowed from others and much of it I have already read before.

Overall, "Jesus is Not a Republican" is a book that is good enough to recommend but not by much. There are some good, thoughtful articles in this book and some not- so- good articles that are not very convincing when it comes to religion and its proper place in politics and society. If this book could be re- edited and about one- third of the articles eliminated, I would be more inclined to give it a full recommendation. But as it stands, it is worthy of only about two and one- half stars. I'm going to round this up to three stars and reluctantly give it a recommendation. It has some important information to share and some solid, persuasive arguments to make. But there is a little too much negativity, weak reasoning in some instances, and one- sidedness to rate it any better than average.
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on February 17, 2006
Jesus is not a Republican is one of the best books I have read this year. It points out the horrible way the "Religious Right" has subverted Biblical texts to advance their agenda, which basically is a war on the poor in this country. I read the entire book in one sitting - I just couldn't put it down.

It's that good!!!!!
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on September 27, 2006
Until tonight I had never heard of this book, and all I have read of it so far are the five reviews of it, but I can't help but wonder if the authors borrowed the title from my "[...]" web site, which I inaugurated at Christmas time in "the year of the Lord" 2003.

By that time, I had already spent seven years publishing a site covering much of the same material, with the same name.org. That site emphasizes the positive, i.e. it shows how very Liberal Jesus was and why those who would follow him in our time should be as well.

In 2003 I used the newer, more negative URL for a site that emphasizes the negative, i.e. to show "Christians" how un-christlike so many of today's leading Republicans are, and hopefully persuade some to rethink their allegiance to that party.

Now, I'll be recommending this book, and reading it myself.
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on August 3, 2013
A well written collection of essays by several authors. The title essay covers some of the dichotomies that exist within Christian Doctrine.
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on November 19, 2014
Sadly humorous. This little book tells it all in plain and simple terms. We are our brothers' keepers, but the OP will never sweet that way.
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on May 15, 2009
This is a compilation of essays written by a number of people during the Bush era that demonstrate the thinking that was so prevalent amongst the religious right of that time. It is the fartherest thing from the example that Christ set as one could imagine. In my opinion once again, Christians have done more to hurt Christianity than any other group of people have done to Christians. This book lets the reader come to that conclusion themselves, sometimes with humor and often with righteous indignation.
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