Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz have provided a tremendous resource in helping us think through the issues for election day: Public Faith in Action: How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity. If you vote on one issue, this is not the book for you. But if you want to think through all the issues, including abortion, then this is a must read, and a great resource, not only for this election, but for upcoming ones on the local, state and federal level.
Their premise theologically seems to be influenced in significant part by Jurgen Moltmann. The first two chapters: Christ the Center and Norm and Christ, the Spirit, and Flourishing presents the basis for their argument for Christian civil engagement. However much one lines up, or doesn’t line up with Moltmann’s theology, that section is thought provoking, and I found to some extent compelling, even if I would be included among those who wouldn’t track with Moltmann completely. The writers who are professors at Yale are Protestant Christians, who draw from the entire church, but appeal first of all to scripture in context, scripture in its own contextual world, and in the context of the world today. Like John R. W. Stott, these authors would certainly advocate reading scripture, and the daily newspaper, or fastforward to today, the news and analysis of such online. Chapter three, Reading in Contexts addresses that. This all is Part 1, “Commitments.”
None of the chapters are long, the book itself less than 250 pages. Nearly any major issue you can think of is covered in a way which thinks through the basic issues surrounding it in summary form, and at the end points to resources for further reading, both on a popular and scholarly level. The authors make it clear that their word is not the final word on anything. That they have read extensively and thought profoundly in-depth on the issues, is quite evident. This is Part 2, “Convictions,” with the following chapter titles: “Wealth,” “The Environment,” “Education,” Work and Rest,” “Poverty,” “Borrowing and Lending,” “Marriage and Family,” “New Life,” “Health and Sickness,” “Aging Life,” “Ending Life,” “Migration,” “Policing,” “Punishment,” “War,” “Torture,” and “Freedom of Religion (and Irreligion).”
Along with issues, toward the end certain character traits to consider surrounding elections both in terms of those of us who are voting, along with the candidates and issues, each are given a chapter under Part 4, “Character”: “Courage,” “Humility,” “Justice,” “Respect,” and “Compassion.”
The book is not an answer book, so you can find how you’re to think, and then proceed accordingly. Instead it’s a book to help us think more informatively and responsibly with wisdom according to God’s revelation in Jesus as given to us in scripture. The authors respect the differences among Christians, while taking stands on issues, themselves, and helping us at the same time see something of the complexity that is involved in so much of this.
I was personally impressed with just how much I learned in such a short book. I consider it a must read and an important re-read for myself. And a resource to keep on hand. Any one chapter is worth the price of the book, but all the chapters put together make this what I would consider a must buy. But one needs to read the entire book, which again isn’t long, to appreciate this.
Be ready to be challenged theologically, for your paradigm to be stretched or possibly even broken. And expect, when all is said and done, to learn a lot. But in a way which doesn’t close the book for you. But instead helps you to engage well with issues, and hopefully within respectful dialog, helping others to do the same. A great need for the nation, and specifically for us who are Christians in this nation, to fulfill our civic duty, while at the same time seeing the good news in Jesus as the one hope for us and for the world which we live out and witness to as the church.