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Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics Paperback – September 6, 2011
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Praise for Raised Right
“Journalist [Alisa] Harris gives a face and a voice to America’s younger generation, offering herself up as a case study of Christian youth caught in a partisan nation.… Young Americans will identify with her coming-of-age struggles and passion for weeding out injustice. Right-wing politicians and older generations of Christians should pay close attention in order to understand, and perhaps empathize with, her demographic.”
“Endorsements to co “A wonderful story for political misfits of all shapes and colors. Harris invites you to hop off the political bandwagon and to walk with her down the narrow way that leads to life. And she reminds you not to veer too far off the path to the left or to the right, lest you get confused and can’t find the way home again.”
—Shane Claiborne, author, activist, and recovering sinner, www.thesimpleway.org
“Raised Right demonstrates that the evangelical stampede to the far right in the 1980s has produced a generational backlash, as young evangelicals like Alisa Harris encounter the Hebrew prophets and the words of Jesus. This is the most encouraging book about evangelicals and politics I have read in a very long time.”
—Randall Balmer, Columbia University, author of Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America
“Raised Right is funny, insightful, and packed with truth. Harris speaks on behalf of a generation of culture warriors longing for a more peaceful way forward. Those who grew up in the trenches will relate to every page.”
—Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkey Town
“In Raised Right, Alisa Harris paints a fascinating picture of how the same religious devotion can send succeeding generations to opposite sides of the political battlefield. And while her story may be more common than ever, it’s uncommonly told. Alisa’s voice is fresh, honest, gracious, and provocative in all the right places. An enthralling and illuminating read.”
—Jason Boyett, author of O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling
“Alisa Harris is a smart, fearless, gracious writer who, in her memoir Raised Right, showcases a deft mature-beyond-her-years honesty and kindness when sharing her affecting story of growing up in a politics-and-faith-charged environment. But the brilliance of Raised Right shines brightest when Harris begins confessing—often with a self-deprecating spin—the personal and spiritual unraveling that happens when she begins to unmarry her faith from her politics. Ultimately, hope wins throughout as Harris discovers small bits of humble truth along the journey. And because narrative in Raised Right is rich yet familiar, readers will discover small bits of their own.”
—Matthew Paul Turner, author of Churched and Hear No Evil
“Raised Right chronicles Alisa Harris’s journey from an evangelical childhood community steeped in the politics of James Dobson to an evangelical young adulthood where the politics of Barack Obama are preferred. It is engaging and well written, and it will be very illuminating to anyone who wants to understand the changes afoot among youth raised evangelical and what those changes will mean for American politics.”
—Jonathan Dudley, author of Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics
About the Author
Alisa Harris is a journalist living in New York City who enjoys writing in quirky coffee shops. A 2007 graduate of Hillsdale College, she has worked as a college instructor in writing and journalism. Her writing has been published in WORLD, the Farmington Daily Times, Albuquerque Journal, and Detroit Free Press.
Top customer reviews
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My upbringing is similar to the author’s. I grew up in a conservative Christian household. I went to conservative Christian private schools from kindergarten all the way through college. Once when I was a kid, I participated in a pro-life demonstration, holding a sign on the side of the road along with my parents and members of the church we attended. I was old enough to understand the abortion issue in a basic way, but not mature or independent enough yet to really form my own opinion. The family car radio was tuned to Rush Limbaugh and, later, the family TV was tuned to Fox News. And for a long time I had this golden halo image of Ronald Reagan in my mind, although I’m not sure if that’s because I grew up in a conservative home or if it’s merely because he’s the first president I remember from my childhood. (Maybe both.)
Unlike the author of Raised Right, however, I never had the desire to get involved in political demonstrations or campaigns. My parents were not as politically active as the author’s parents, and they never pushed me to adopt their views. I just sort of absorbed their views as my own because it was easier than deciding for myself when for many years I felt so uncertain what I really thought. So I am really impressed that Harris—whose parents took her to pro-life demonstrations from infanthood on, who spent months preparing for a debate speech in homeschool so she could win a Ronald Reagan calendar, and who once jumped on the chance to see George W. Bush in person “as quickly as another girl would snatch up a VIP pass to a Backstreet Boys concert”—finally mustered the courage in early adulthood to seriously examine her beliefs and to begin to make her faith and her politics her own. Although Harris’ views have evolved more leftward in recent years, she asserts that “This book is not a liberal credo or a political platform; in fact, this book is born of a struggle to find a faith that transcends credos and platforms.”
I laughed and nodded with understanding while reading about Harris’ experiences growing up as a person who held signs, handed out campaign literature, and attended political party conventions all in the name of building an America as the chosen nation where God votes Republican. I identified with her struggle to pick up the pieces of shattered convictions she once thought were unshakeable. Finally, I felt a kinship with the author as I read about her determination to be a person of faith with complex views rather than a dyed-in-the-wool partisan clinging to unexamined dogma, and yet to retain the things her parents taught her that transcend religious denominations and political parties—things like caring what happens to marginalized people around the world and demonstrating love through service to others.
Of course, it’s impossible to completely separate one’s religion (or secularism) from one’s politics. Nevertheless, I believe it’s imperative for each of us to make our best effort to acknowledge that humans are complex beings with complex beliefs that cannot be attributed to simplistic labels like left or right.
“We seek in one another the assurance that there is just one correct interpretation of the world,” Harris says, “that everything is so simple anybody can see it unless they’re malicious or stupid or willfully ignorant; and we punish one another for proving with our differing conclusions that truth is not that easy. We think we must suppress dissension to present the unified front we need to gain power over our enemies. But there are pro-life Democrats, pro-choice Christians, feminists who love their families, and conservatives who care about poor people. Not all of them are right, but neither are they heretics.”
I enjoyed this book even though it was entirely different than I expected. At its most basic, it is the story of a young Christian woman who has looked around and managed to figure things out for herself. The divisive manner of Christians in politics has little to do with the Bible. She is just one of many examples of younger Christians who no longer believe hook, line, and sinker what their parents told them when it does not gel with the teachings of Jesus. What surprised me was how the book was written with such humor and lightheartedness. There were serious moments but her recollections of her childhood crusades for political and religious causes were sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.
Her story is also about what happens to a child raised in an ultra-conservative home schooled environment when they finally enter the world as adults and realize that the world is not what they had been told. One lovely quote in this regard was:
"For once, I wanted just to care about people as people--not as enemy combatants, potential converts, or notches in my holy belt of truth."
Her journey brought her from a black and white world of short sharp answers to a world where things are complex and messy and filled with wonder and possibility - and reasons to trust God afresh. A world where she learned that many homeless and hungry, unemployed, immigrants, Democrats, and gay and lesbian people are also deeply committed Christians who are loved by God. There are two sides to every issue and we all need to have the conversation.
She had so many good things to say that I would have liked to have seen a final chapter that clearly consolidated her outlook on life in regard to everything she covered in the book. A before and after view, if you will, of how she now sees the world and why she has come to hold this new way of embracing the world and the Gospel. Last, I think her publisher did her a disservice by setting the price too high for a book by a first time author. The Kindle book should have been $8.99 or $9.99 at most. Even best selling authors charge in that range. I think a better price would get this into the hands of a few more readers.
Thanks for writing the book Alisa. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to others.