IN PRISM'S BOOK BAG: Allen D. Hertzke's FREEING GOD'S CHILDREN
reviewed by Rebecca Yael Miller
Allen Hertzke's FREEING GOD'S CHILDREN: THE UNLIKELY ALLIANCE FOR GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004) is a well-researched and highly readable book that charts the course of the faith-based movement, both in the United States and abroad, and its unique contribution to the fight for human rights. His thesis is that "the new faith-based movement is filling a void in human rights advocacy, raising issues previously slighted – or insufficiently pressed – by secular groups, the prestige press, and the foreign-policy establishment."
Hertzke begins by detailing the nature and impact of the global faith-based movement, describing why the movement emerged when it did. He highlights the work of committed individuals who have made a difference – leaders such as Bob Fu, Gary Haugen, Michael Horowitz, Abe Rosenthal, and Robert Seiple, who are influential both in their own faith traditions and in the broader struggle for human rights.
While the American public and its policy-makers need to be made aware of the rise of the faith-based movement and its ability to mobilize activists and voters, and while the American government and the governments of secularized Western Europe need to begin accounting for religion in their halls, the faith-based community – and American evangelicals in particular – need to be wary that we don't become overconfident in the work that has already been done. Although issues such as sex-trafficking, slave labor, and especially religious freedom were barely on the public's radar screen before the faith-based community brought attention to them, there is still much to be done in the global struggle for human rights and many ways to improve the work that is currently being done. Faith-based organizations, and churches in particular, easily become excited about pet issues, but very few work to create environments where contributions are sustainable. Our temptation to offer a quick fix clouds our long-term vision, and we often don't consider the long-term implications of policies we support.
The voice of the church is becoming more audible as the world begins to take note of the growing influence of the faith-based movement. It is our responsibility to steward this influence to advance the work of God's kingdom in a way that looks beyond easy solutions to sustainable ones. The role is great, and the promise is even greater. Hertzke's book is a must-read for any person of faith interested in the role and promise of the church in the global human rights movement.
Rebecca Yael Miller is director of the Research Associate Program at the Institute for Global Engagement [www.globalengage.org], a faith-based organization dedicated to promoting religious freedom around the world. She also writes the Washington Watch column for PRISM Magazine.