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Showing 1-10 of 11 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 23 reviews
on November 4, 2016
This short book is important reading for all Christians who feel the need to engage in political discussion, but at the same time are afraid of alienating an increasingly secular, irreligious culture. Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner will sober up evangelicals who feel that America is slipping away from them, but they propose a better, more civil way for religious people to behave in the public square. Not as cultural scolds, or with fire and brimstone denunciations of secular people, but by coming alongside them in grace and truth.

For progressives, especially those who talk of removing Christianity from politics, this book is equally helpful in explaining why that's neither possible nor desirable. They may also learn a greater respect and appreciation for Christians who engage in politics with the right spirit, and spot the difference from those who don't.
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on December 14, 2012
Gerson and Wehner, who served in the George W. Bush White House, offer City of Man as a beginner's guide to sorting out religiously motivated involvement in public policy. They rightly reject the demand of some secularists to disqualify any religiously based input in a policy discussion. They point out to the secularist that his foundation for human rights and the dignity of man can not be sustained logically. My beef with the authors is that they put too much stock in natural law as universal foundation for sound public policy debates. If natural law is so clear, it seems like we should have much more agreement on its content.

For Christians who want to opt out of political involvement because it is somehow dirty or out of bounds for godly people or because they are embarrassed by Christians who have been wrong in the past, the authors rightly point out that the neat separation of spiritual from worldly affairs is illogical and unbiblical. Christians who are fully practicing their faith can not ignore involvement in this key component of Christian ethics that includes speaking into civil government and public policy.

Gerson and Wehner caution Christians against confusing ethical content in the scripture intended for individuals with the content intended for the state. Similarly they warn against confusing instruction for churches with instruction for individual believers. These problems have derailed Christians in the past. Christians also need to understand that any mention of ancient Israel in the Bible can not be blindly applied to any civil government today.

In addition to the message of public policy the authors address the method of public discourse. The recommended approach is Tim Keller's: non-abrasive, culturally sophisticated, theologically conservative, in search of common ground where possible. Interacting respectfully with others will gain more influence than delivering a monologue of black and white statements.

City of Man invites Christians to be active in the public policy discussion but offers little guidance for the actual content of the discussion. I'm going to continue looking for a better book to introduce this critical topic.
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VINE VOICEon October 19, 2010
Gerson and Wehner are two former White House staff members under the presidency of George W. Bush. These men were staff writers who helped to craft policy and the statements to the public about those policies. They are both conservative and they are both Evangelical Christians.

Their book is unapologetically Evangelical and Conservative. Their goal is to give Evangelical Christians a wake up call to their need to become involved in the political and moral life of the communities and the country that they live in.

In their conclusion of the book they state that they hope they have providing three broad propositions to the Evangelical Christian Community. Those are;
1. Politics is the realm of necessity
2. Politics is the realm of hope and possibility
3. Politics can be the realm of nobility

It is their premise that Christians should be decided vocal about politics and become more involved in helping form and shape the political landscape of our country.

Chapter 1 of the book takes us on an exploration of Religion and Politics and whether they are friends or enemies. I think they do a good job of addressing the Biblical aspects of why we need governments and that God is not opposed to the formation of governments. They explore also how governments ought not be formed with an absence of religious thought, but should give consideration to the moral values that religion brings to society.

Chapter 2 gives a history of the Religious Right and does a good job, I think, of showing the good and the bad inherent in what happened with the Religious Right. The movement wasn't bad, but it did birth some individuals who tended to take more pleasure in their power than what was prudent, Biblical or necessary. But the movement itself was not poor.

Chapter 3 gives their view of what "A New Approach" ought to be now that the Religious Right has had it's moment in the sun.

The final chapters are very good in regards to Human Rights, Morality and the Role and Purpose of the State. I specifically enjoyed Chapter 5. I felt it had the most nuggets of gold for what I was looking for. The following quote was my favorite from the book, "A wise government, constructed around a true view of human nature, thus creates the conditions necessary to allow the great mass of the people to live well and to flourish, the enjoy both order and liberty, to live under the protection of the state without being suffocated by it."

This book gave a good introduction to the need for us to be aware of our politic culture and able to articulate our beliefs and disagreements.

I think a good reference tool for Christians looking for a Biblical answer to the social questions and political questions we face today will be found in Wayne Grudem's book on "Politics".

But I think thoughtful Evangelicals will enjoy this book for the concepts that it promotes for us.

Enjoy.
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on February 13, 2013
This is a great book. Written by two guys who seem to be Christians first and politicians second (despite their very worthy political careers), this book provides a solid foundation for Christians who seek to engage in political action and civil discourse (which, at some level, we all do).

The authors recognize some very unfortunate and lamentable missteps and ideas by Christians in the political sphere over the past 50 years, and instead of merely reacting to those, offer a foundational, scripturally based understanding of the forces that shape our society and how government, people, and policymakers interact with those forces.

I would highly recommend this book to everyone. Anyone. And everyone. It is awesome. Obviously, if you're not a Christian, you may not agree with some of the core ideas. But it is top quality. Worth reading for:

1) the analysis and critique of the majority of Christian political engagement over the past 50 years and its effects
2) the thorough historical and philosophical understanding of how Christians can positively affect culture through government

I blazed through this book and will probably read it again. Will certainly reference it quite a bit.

A worthwhile sermon that touches many of these points can be accessed here:

[...]
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on November 23, 2015
The authors give a fairly balanced view on the subject matter. What one may appreciate is that they are writing this from the perspectives of an insider but not as a "religious right". As much as they acknowledged that they are not theologians, I think they did provide with a good assessment on the theological flaws we currently see in the political expressions of the fundamentalists. On the whole, this is a good book to start for someone who is interested in how Christians should engage with the world politically.
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on December 13, 2011
This is a much needed book for America today. After hearing Gerson speak at an event in NY in which he simply hit the high points in a brief summary of the book, I just had to read it. I'm so glad I did. These guys have their fingers on the pulse of American conservatism, its history, its demise, and what will enable it to have a stake in the future. City of Man takes a look at what a balanced view of politics in light of one's faith might look. During a time in which the rhetoric from both sides tends to demonize, criticize, and polarize, this easy read takes a hard look at what's needed in the political landscape.
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on July 31, 2011
Since I've been working through various presentations of Christian interaction with society, particularly in the economic sphere, I thought it useful to read some modern takes on Christian involvement in politics. I thought Gerson/Wehner would be a good contrast with Jim Wallis. Gerson is a former speech writer in the G.W. Bush White House and current Washington Post pundit (and occasional NewsHour fill-in for David Brooks) and Wehner was also involved in policy strategy for Bush. Both are professing evangelicals.

As Tim Keller writes in the foreword:

"(A)ny simplistic Christian response to politics--the claim that we shouldn't be involved in politics, or that we should "take back our country for Jesus"--is inadequate. In each society, time, and place, the form of political involvement has to be worked out differently, with the utmost faithfulness to the Scripture, but also the greatest sensitivity to culture, time, and place."

The authors quickly gloss over a few historical strains of Christian views on politics, comparing the extremes of isolationism and efforts to create theocracy. There is a lot of room between poles on the continuum for a Christians to be.

Engaging in politics as a career can, in the strain of A.W. Tozer, be just as holy an act as sewing a tent, preparing an accounting audit, writing a sermon, or bagging groceries. So long as Christians do the work with a view to glorify God, it is holy, and none of the above are more holy than the other.

The authors look at a proper role of the state that (they hope) all Christians can agree upon while also looking at the proper role of the church within the state. They offer five precepts:
1. Moral duties of individuals and the state are different. Don't confuse Matthew 5 with Romans 13.
2. The Church as a body has different roles and obligations than individual Christians.
3. Scripture doesn't provide a blueprint for government and public policy.
(Emphasis mine):

"(T)he role of the church, at least as we interpret it, is to provide individual Christians with a moral framework through which they can work out their duties as citizens and engage the world in a thoughtful way, even as it resists the temptation to instruct them on how to do their job or on which specific public policies they ought to embrace."

Hence, the church should stand for liberty, justice, and human rights but not endorse specific bills on the floor. As C.S. Lewis believed, it's the role of the layperson and not the clergy to help the Church understand and work through certain issues of expertise. "This is where we want the Christian economist," as Lewis gave as one example that I have posted on my office door.

In stronger language:

"Identification of Christian social ethics with specific partisan proposals that clearly are not the only ones that may be characterized as Christian and as morally acceptable comes close to the original New Testament meaning of heresy."

What is "clearly Christian" is debatable, but I would argue that a pastor endorsing specific budget bills that contain a complex array of complicated items is problematic (more on this tomorrow).

I sent this quote to my congressman (Tea Party):

"Yet to govern is to choose--and those in public life have a duty to develop, as best they can, a sound political philosophy, to engage in rigorous moral reasoning, and to make sure they do not become so captive to ideology that they ignore empirical evidence."

4. Political involvement of Christians depends on the context they live in. New Testament Christians accepted their non-democratic governments as given, and submitted to authorities. Through democracy, we have the ability to peacefully pursue changes in our society that they didn't have, and perhaps this obligates us to different action.

5. God doesn't deal with nations as He did with Israel. (America is not Israel. But step into your average Southern Baptist church on a 4th of July service or "God and Country Day," and you might get confused about that).

Gerson and Wehner summarize the emergence of the evangelical Christian Right and the decline of the mainline denominations, for better or worse. They are clearly not fans of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson.

They then shift to what they see as the proper role of government:

"There are, we believe, four categories--order, justice, virtue, and prosperity--that can help Christians think through the proper role of government in our lives...A wise government, constructed around a true view of human nature, thus creates the conditions necessary to allow the great mass of the people to live well and to flourish, to enjoy both order and liberty, to live under the protection of the state without being suffocated by it...We count ourselves conservatives in the tradition of Edmund Burke, who averred that God instituted government as a means of human improvement."

Basically, the classical liberal view of man's dignity but supported by a belief in man being created in God's image and undergirded by the ultimate belief in an ultimate source of Truth to provide a basis for our laws. Gerson and Wehner agree that democratic capitalism is the system that best allows man to be free and have the best opportunity to fulfill his God-given potential and creativity. "Judging by its fruit," democratic capitalism has never produced a famine and has provided the highest standard of living in terms of material wealth, liberty, and religious freedom, therefore it makes sense for Christians to promote it as a good way to order society.

The authors conclude the book with a look at rhetoric, how important it is for members of a society to have the freedom to be persuaded:

"(B)ecause human beings are created in God's image, they are morally autonomous and free to choose. They are capable of reason, and of being reasoned with. What most separates human beings from animals is a moral conscience, the ability to engage in private and public conversations about the human condition."

They conclude with some advice for Christian "persuaders" from the viewpoint of people who were responsible for crafting Bush speeches and op-eds.

There are some real weaknesses in the book, so I give it 3 stars out of 5. It's brief, so they don't contain well-defended arguments of either political or moral philosophy. The sources they draw from are also fairly few. I'm reminded that Christians have been dealing with this for thousands of years, so it'd be better to read something written 1,000 years ago than something written last year. They also ascribe certain economic outcomes to policy they see guided by Christian ethical principles, which I find problematic as economists disagree with them based on the data. Examples: Was it welfare reform that reduced poverty or the 1990s technology boom? Was it Rudy Giuliani's policies that caused crime to decrease in New York, or did he simply benefit from a nation-wide phenomenon of widely debated causes? Economists doubt the effects of policy in these examples, but Gerson and Wehner seem unaware of that. Obviously, the Bush Administration pushing through billions for AIDS-related medicine to Africa had some great outcomes we would not have seen otherwise but other examples they give are not that clean-cut.

Major issues like taxing and redistribution are completely bypassed in this book. They recognize that Christians will debate these issues and that Scripture doesn't give us clear-cut prescriptions. If you're looking for something in-depth, this isn't your book.
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on July 22, 2015
Despite being a relatively short book, it is nonetheless a comprehensive treatment of a very important topic. A good read.
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on January 25, 2013
Refreshingly free from the rhetoric that so often plagues politics and Christianity and the issues that surround them. It was very thought provoking and reasonable.
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on August 7, 2013
This book is written by two conservative (evangelical) Christians, and aimed at 1) presenting the case for active Christian involvement in American politics, and 2) warning conservative Christians against the extremes and very unchristian attitudes rampant in politics. Both these tasks they accomplish admirably. I do think that at times they were kinder in their analysis of the failings of conservative politicians than in their analysis of liberal politicians, but this only underscores one of their main points: that no one comes to politics without an agenda, whether moral, spiritual, or political.
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