Honoring God in Red or Blue (Book Review)
Reviewed by Stephanie Summers
In Honoring God in Red or Blue: Approaching Politics with Humility, Grace, and Reason, Wheaton College professor Amy Black serves as an honest broker. She states that "Instead of telling you what you ought to think, this book will give you tools and practical advice to help you apply your faith to politics. I have no hidden agenda to convince you to vote for [a party]." Black delivers on this commitment to her readers and shares tools for the journey throughout the text. She also moves the reader through reflection towards the development of a thoughtful and faith-informed perspective on political issues.
Written for a lay Christian audience, the book develops from her premise "that a well-functioning government is indispensable" yet not everything. She is careful in her explanation and defense of the need for a government "strong enough to provide for its people but weak enough to allow citizens and institutions to thrive." To that end, Black titles the first of her three sections "In Defense of Politics" thereby showing that government is one of many institutions in society ordained by God and given an important role and set of corresponding responsibilities to fulfill. Black asks Christians to reflect on our own faith engagement with politics by highlighting how we talk as well as how we have embodied misdirected aims and agendas.
Black's second section, "Government in Action: How Our System Works," begins with a helpful chapter identifying the roles and interaction of state, local, and federal government. The remaining chapters in the section, "Party, Ideology, and Politics" and "Church, State, and the United States," provide exactly the kind of theoretical and historical introduction (or refresher) that citizens need to understand how our government works. In addition, these chapters provide helpful reflection tools designed for group use alongside the text.
The third and final section of the book is quite practical. Black discusses different models for relating faith and politics alongside the theology that undergirds them so readers can better examine their own commitments. She develops a set of suggestions for handling political disagreements and applies her line of thinking to the specific policy issue of reducing poverty. In Black's chapter "Ready, Set, Vote! A Decision-Making Guide" readers should not miss the material in the main text which reflects a more comprehensive and nuanced set of institutional resources than what has been highlighted by the publisher in the textboxes.
I've been recommending Honoring God in Red or Blue: Approaching Politics with Humility, Grace, and Reason to two groups of people: Christians who tell me they want to take their responsibilities as citizens seriously but feel they don't know enough to be responsible, and to Christian citizens who are weary from the fighting that often characterizes our engagement in politics. To both, Black's book offers practical tools to encourage a faithful response to her invitation to approach politics with humility, grace, and reason.
Stephanie Summers is the CEO of the Center for Public Justice, an independent, nonpartisan civic education and public policy organization based in Washington, DC.