- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: B&H Books (June 1, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1535905131
- ISBN-13: 978-1535905138
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Letters to an American Christian Paperback – June 1, 2018
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After a discussion of Christianity and culture and the intersection of religion and politics, Ashford coves a bunch of "hot-button issues." One of his basic assertions is that taking religion out of politics is impossible because everyone is informed by and driven by religious beliefs of one kind or another and the very nature of religion means it will influence our political perspectives. As Christians, "our words and actions should be characterized by truth and grace." Throughout the book, he reminds his young correspondent that "one thing American Christians must remember is that we do not have to agree on the minutiae of every single issue or policy matter."
On the individual issues, Ashford's positions are decidedly conservative (as you might expect for a Southern Baptist seminary professor and minister). But rather than merely give political talking points, he explains from scripture and Christian tradition the basis for his beliefs. In most cases, he presents a variety of positions and leaves the question of which is the "Christian" position open to the reader while describing his own.
Wherever your political and policy inclinations lie on the left-right scale, as Christians we have a commitment to be salt and light in the world. Raucous debate has its place in certain contexts, but in the life of a Christian love and grace need to provide the context for speaking the truth. Ashford provides both. Readers of a conservative or Republican bent will find much to agree with in Letters to an American Christian, but Ashford isn't just giving us an echo chamber. Even if you agree with him on every point, he gives logical arguments, scriptural references, and solid sources and footnotes for further reflection.
Readers to Ashford's left might disagree with him, but Ashford's approach and tone are not condemning of other people but respectful of other positions. Liberal Christians should probably pick this up, if only to be reminded that there are Christians in the world whose conservative principles are based on actual Christian, biblical principles, not on Fox News segments.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
I really enjoyed the author's take on politics as well as "hot-button" issues and found myself nodding along often. While I share many views with the author, being a more conservative Christian myself, I also found myself challenging some of my views based on his arguments. He presented his reasonings thoughtfully and creatively.
I would love to see this book be picked up by a wide audience of readers as I feel it could illuminate the Christian perspective on issues in a loving way while also reminding us that in everything, we should love our neighbor. Just because we disagree on politics or social issues, does not mean hate should be thrown.
**Many thanks to Bruce Riley Ashford, B&H Books, and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Dr. Ashford covers a plethora of contemporary political issues in his faux-letters with Christian: religious liberty, abortion, the Supreme Court, guns, the environment, Black Lives Matter, homosexuality, immigration, nationalism, transgenderism, fake news… if it’s a hot-button issue today, he talks about it. And if you know anything about evangelical views on politics (and you probably do), I know what you’re thinking. But no, you don’t know the stand he takes on every one of those issues. If you tried to guess, you would be wrong on some of them. Because Ashford brings a level-headed, responsible, clear Biblical vision to the issues at stake. “Even if you don’t agree with his take on every issue”, blurbs Lifeway publisher Trevin Wax inside the front cover, “you’ll find yourself thinking (and chuckling) all the way through this brilliant book”. He is right, and I would add that Ashford will convince you of points that you never seriously considered before. His takes on Black Lives Matter and climate change are especially nuanced and refreshing, breaking from the binary political rhetoric that overwhelms these issues.
Although these issues are important and are the driving force of Letters to an American Christian, my favorite letters of the book were in Part One, where he sets the foundation for how religion should relate to government in the first place. Instead of, again, taking the commonly-held view that Christians should leave their religious views at home when they come to the public square or taking the equally-common view that “separation of church and state” only applies to the government not messing with the affairs of the church, Ashford criticizes the faults in both assumptions:
On the one hand, ecclesiastical leaders and churches are not called by God to make public-policy decisions or defend the nation against attack. They should not try to take the place of the government or control it. God doesn’t desire it, and they simply aren’t much good at it. On the other hand, governments and political leaders are not called by God to appoint pastors, baptize church members, or interpret the Bible. They should not seek to take the place of the church or control it. God doesn’t desire it, and they simply aren’t much good at it.
Reading this soon after Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to misguidedly interpret the Bible, this warning was especially relevant.
And that, I think, provides the main takeaway from Letters to an American Christian. As Christians, our chief concern should not be to familiarize ourselves with the latest political rhetoric, party platform, today-in-Trump news, poll updates, or tell-all memoir. We should not worry about defending our political views from all possible sides or “owning the libs”. We should familiarize ourselves with God’s Word, Sola Scriptura, and let that shape our political views. That may mean we feel politically homeless in today’s increasingly-polarized environment, but we will be anchoring our souls to the cross instead of a political party.
Letters to an American Christian is available on Amazon, Lifeway, ChristianBook.com, and many other outlets. It is well worth the read.
I received this book as an ARC and eARC courtesy of B&H Books, Lifeway and NetGalley, but my opinions are my own.