I’m a former hardcore Republican, turned Republican-leaning independent, turned Democrat-leaning independent, turned moderate registered Democrat (I’m in a closed primary state, so if I want to vote in primaries, I have to pick a side). So I appreciate views on both sides, because I’ve been everything along the political spectrum except an extreme liberal or libertarian.
Left Right & Christ got off to a bit of a slow start. The early chapters were a bit vague, thus lowering my expectations. But as the authors got into specific issues, the book delivered and was better than expected.
I was particularly impressed with Lisa Sharon Harper. Most liberal Christian books tend to be high on bleeding-heart liberalism, but light on comprehensive historical and economic facts. I expected Harper to deliver the same thing, but her writing is very well-supported with history. I learned some things from her I didn’t know, and, to me, that’s what books are all about. And even though I’m anti-abortion, I found her understanding of the political realities of this issue to be very helpful.
D.C. Innes writes well, but I was disappointed that such an extremist Republican was chosen to represent the conservative view (but that seems to be the case more and more these days). He says on page 73 that he opposes public schools and school-provided lunches as well as “government environmental protection” and “workplace safety standards.” He says later in the book He wants the Republicans to return to being the party of Reagan, but Reagan was nowhere near this extreme. I wish I could send Innes back 100 years in a time machines so he could experience first hand what a hell hole America was for the working class when there were no worker safety protections (8500 workers killed in the railroad industry alone in 1889) and no environmental protections (the Cuyahoga river caught on fire 13 times from 1868 to 1969, but never since the EPA started in 1971. Meanwhile, Bethlehem was so polluted, only sycamore trees could grow). This guy is not a Reagan Republican; he’s a Gilded Age Robber-Barron Republican. But that seems to be the direction today’s Republican Party has chosen, which is why I finally registered as a Democrat in 2012.
The book’s biggest weakness is that neither author has room to get into any issue in depth. There’s a lot more that could have been said. But it’s still a very worthwhile read. And best of all, it’s one you can recommend to your Christian friends without sounding like an extremist that’s just trying to promote one side of an issue.
I know a man very close to me who has never cared much for going to church. He has never been much of a singer, nor has he ever been moved in a major way by listening to music. He’s not offended by sermons, except on rare occasions; but he’s not excited by them either. He finds church-going to be somewhat of a chore.
He believes in God. He will not dispute what the Bible teaches. Nether does he lead a life full of sins that he would have to give up if he devoted more of his life to serving God. Nonetheless, to focus much of his thinking on God or much of his energy on serving God has never been a priority of his. It always seemed to me that he would never grow closer to God. I had lost hope.
Therefore, I was thrilled when I learned that this man started to attend a weekly men’s Bible study. He told me he did so, because he wanted to learn more about God.
After he attended the study, I asked him how it went. He responded, disappointed, “They spent most of the time talking about politics. All they could talk about was gay marriage and how they all hated Obama.” This man, however, was a Democrat. He had once been a Republican, but their relentless support for the interests of big industry at the expense of workers, consumers, and the environment turned him away.
This man returned to the study the next several weeks, and the conversation changed very little. He felt left out, that everyone was against him, and that he was wasting his time, because he did not attend the study to hear about politics. That he could do by turning on TV. So he stopped attending the study, and has not returned to a church or Bible study since.
This is what talking about politics in the church can do. It can, and does, drive people away from the church and away from God. Here’s what it doesn’t do: It doesn’t change peoples’ political stances, especially those of older adults. Thus, discussing politics in church isn’t worth it. It does little good and lots of harm. So make a promise to yourself that you will never be the one to bring up political issues in church. When you keep this promise, you will be the kind of peacemaker Jesus encouraged us to be.
As I read the early chapters of this book, I thought I would probably give it three stars in my review. The author, Wayne Grudem, writes well and his material is well-organized. He also supports his points with researched material, even if he does so in a totally one-sided manner. In the book’s early chapters, he uses a lot of Bible quotes in demonstrating that it’s good for Christians to be involved in politics. And he makes good use of the Bible in the areas where the Bible actually does lend strong support to the Republican stance on a given issue.
Unfortunately, the last two-thirds of the book has very little to do with the Bible. Grudem uses Romans 13:4’s quote that government “is a minister of God to you for good” as an excuse to argue the Republican stance on every issue under the sun. He covers everything from cap and trade to foreign policy, to activist judges, to gun control, to his desire to abolish public schools, to the money supply, to his claims that the media has a liberal bias. And he doesn’t just mention these things in passing, he argues the Republican view on them in great detail. I honestly cannot thing of a single political issue he failed to address. This book does nothing more than take advantage of Christians who were looking for biblical guidance in politics. Once Christians are lured into reading it, Grudem bombards then with the Republican stance on everything.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who reads the preface. In it, Grudem reveals how the book came to be: “Alan Sears and Ben Bull of the Alliance Defense Fund [an extreme right-wing litigation group] first approached me several years ago with the interesting idea of writing a book like this. They were able to provide helpful funding for some aspects of the research and editorial work…” In other words, the Republicans paid him to write this book!
Grudem gives away his Republican bias even more in the book’s disastrous economic section. He repeatedly quotes economists from the right-wing Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute, but fails to look up the numbers for himself to see if they are deceiving. For example, he quotes the Heritage Foundation saying that the 2001 Bush tax cuts actually increased tax revenues in 2005, thus proving that tax cuts always pay for themselves. But anyone who examines Table 6, column 2, of the IRS Data Book can see that we lost over 100 billion dollars a year in tax revenues in 2002 and 2003, thus proving the Bush tax cuts added to our debt. The CBO calculated that they cost us 2.8 trillion dollars in tax revenue in the first ten years. Thus Grudem deceived his readers by relying on Republican research only.
Most appalling of all is Grudem’s repeated arguments to abolish the public school system and replace it a with a voucher system to fund private schools. What he fails to mention is that the reason our colleges are so expensive is that Pell Grants and student loans enable colleges to charge more, because they’d be stupid to pass up all of that free government money. Republicans argue against Pell Grants for this reason, but they fail to mention that Pell Grants are vouchers, where the government gives everyone money to spend where they want. A private school voucher system will make k-12 education unaffordable for most people. Plus, the logistics of driving and busing kids to schools when they are scattered all over the place also puts lower income Americans at a disadvantage and would be a huge headache.
There are many other points I could argue, but that would take too much of your time. My recommendation is that you not waste your time with this book. In the end, it’s just a political book that uses the Bible where convenient.