I wrote the following post on Saturday, November 3, 2012 . . . 3 days before the world knew who the next USA President would be. And at Jonathan Merritt’s suggestion, I decided to wait and publish it today.
Here it is . . .
Saturday: November 3, 2012
When I publish this post on Wednesday, the United States will know who their next President is for the next four years.
Upon learning this news, one part of my country is so angry right now their eyes are crossing. Others are so depressed they feel lower than a whale’s navel.
Still others are euphoric . . . or relieved.
And then there are those who aren’t paying attention and don’t care two hoots.
A reminder to all: Jesus of Nazareth is still on the throne. Everything is under His control. Whether “your man” won or lost, Jesus is our ultimate hope for this world.
That said, a new book that may help Americans to think through where their country stands politically is Jonathan Merritt’s A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars.
(The title of this post comes straight from Merritt’s book.)
In some ways, Jonathan Merritt’s book is a follow-up to Carl F. Henry’s classic work, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Evangelicalism, Hal Miller’s seminal piece The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Evangelicalism, and James Barr’s Beyond Fundamentalism . . . only with a stronger political emphasis added to it.
Kirsten Powers, Fox News Political and USA Today contributor, wrote the Foreword to Merritt’s book.
Cal Thomas (USA Today columnist and Fox News contributor), Ed Stetzer (president of LifeWay Research), and Ronald Sider (author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger) wrote strong endorsements.
In addition, New Testament scholar Scot McKnight highlighted Merritt’s book numerous times on his blog.
Last week, I interviewed Jonathan Merritt on his new book. Here it is . . .
Jonathan, why did you write this book and what is the main thesis?
Jonathan Merritt: I wrote this book because I saw so many young Christians who had grown frustrated by what the Christian movement in America had become. Their disillusionment stems, in part, from the American church’s partisan political entanglement. These Christians love Jesus but they don’t think the church should be the handmaiden of either political party.
I understand the frustration of my peers because I grew up in the inner-sanctum of the religious right. My dad was President of the largest protestant denomination in America, the Southern Baptist Convention.
Jerry Falwell was a family friend who paid for my college education. Growing up in this context, I witnessed the way the church has become intertwined with partisan politics. A Faith of Our Own provides hope that there is a better way.
Any work that challenges traditional or status quo thinking is going to be attacked. And some who can’t refute an argument on its own merits will misrepresent it by creating straw man scenarios. Has your book been misrepresented at all? If so, what have the misrepresentations been and what is your response to them?
Jonathan Merritt: Yes. Such is the burden of most any creative work, I suppose. Some say this book is anti-religious right. That isn’t true. I believe the Christian Left is equally complicit, and I point that out.
Others say it is pietistic, that I encourage Christians to become apolitical and do good works instead. This is not true either, for following Jesus cannot be purely a private matter.
Others claim that I’m just promoting political liberalism. That’s also false. When I call for a ceasefire in the culture wars, I’m not asking people to keep fighting, just for the other side. I’m talking about a different approach altogether.
The fact that the book has endorsements from those on the Right and the Left should clue any thinking person into the fact that the above assertions are misrepresentations of your book. Thanks for clarifying your position for those who may be swayed by inaccurate reviews before reading the book themselves. Moving on, what do you see happening with the future of evangelicalism?
Jonathan Merritt: Contrary to what some believe, evangelicalism is not (and has never been) monolithic. I think it will continue to be a banner under which a range of Christians will be able to gather. As this book shows, however, I think we are seeing a less-partisan, less-polemical, less-power hungry expression of the faith arise. And this, I believe, is a good turn.
I agree. That’s what I’m observing as well in the broader body of Christ as I travel and speak in different settings. What does “a faith of your own” mean and how do God’s people move “beyond the culture wars,” as you put it?
Jonathan Merritt: The title of the book comes from a story of a faith struggle I had in seminary. A friend recommended Faust by Goethe and I read the following quote: “That which you have received as heritage, now discover for yourself, and thus you shall make it your own.”
In that moment, I realized that I could maintain respect for the faith of my father and grandfathers but I also needed to make it my own. As it turns out, this is a call to all those who desire to follow Jesus in this era. When considering Christian history, Albert Schweitzer once said, “Each successive epoch found its own thoughts on Jesus, which was indeed the only way it could make him live.”
Who specifically should read your book and why?
Jonathan Merritt: A Faith of Our Own is for Christians who are discouraged, disillusioned, or disenchanted with how partisan the American church has become. Unlike similar books–that curse the darkness without lighting a candle–this book will force readers to dream and hope.
That’s much the same audience for my book, Beyond Evangelical, which has resonated with countless Christians who are disaffected by the Christian Right and the Christian Left categories. In that regard, voices like yours, Scot McKnight, Roger Olson, N.T. Wright, Leonard Sweet, Greg Boyd, and the late Michael Spencer are resonating with more and more evangelicals today who are looking for a way beyond the Right and Left paradigms.