Archives For Politics


Commitments, Convictions, and Character.
A Feature Review of 

Public Faith in Action:
How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity

Miroslav Volf and
Ryan McAnnally-Linz

Hardback: Brazos Press, 2016
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Abram Kielsmeier-Jones
“JESUS IS COMING-HOPEFULLY BEFORE THE ELECTION,” declared Grace Church’s exterior sign.

The rancor surrounding this year’s presidential election is enough to make even the most long-suffering Christian cry, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!” At the same time, we are here now and need to know how to live faithfully. Public Faith in Action: How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity offers thoughtful possibilities.

The book by Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz “explores what kind of virtues and commitments should inform the public engagement of the followers of Christ” (x). That a Christian should engage in public life is taken for granted by the authors:

Christian faith has an inalienable public dimension. Christians aren’t Christ’s followers just in their private and communal lives; they are Christ’s followers in their public and political lives as well. (3)

Continue Reading…


Against Nostalgia

A Feature Review of

The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in an Age of Individualism
Yuval Levin

Hardback: Basic Books, 2016.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]

Reviewed by Ben Brazil


“Make America Great Again” is Donald Trump’s slogan, but it conveys a sentiment that reaches far beyond his supporters: that our nation is diminished. The Right laments moral decline, while the Left bemoans rising economic inequality.  Everyone agrees that we have, somehow, lost what is essential.

Such pervasive nostalgia, however, is actually near the root of our problems, argues conservative intellectual Yuval Levin in The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in an Age of Individualism. Moving forward, he contends, requires that we focus on the achievements, the problems, and the possibilities of our current, fractured society.

Continue Reading…



Part 1: Our Greed, the Nemesis of Beauty

by C. Christopher Smith,
ERB founding editor

I’ve recently been listening to the audiobook edition of John O’Donohue’s Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, and have been struck by the insights that the late Irish poet offers to our present election season in the United States. I first encountered O’Donohue’s work through his On Being interview with Krista Tippett, which I highly recommend if you are not familiar with his work.

Over the course of a few posts, I will reflect on O’Donohue’s thoughts and their relevance to the current presidential season.

CAVEAT: Although I will be deeply critical of both major party candidates, I urge readers to vote (or not) according to their conscience, asking which course of voting would most likely promote the possibility of beauty and flourishing in the years to come. But even more, I am advocating for a politics of beauty that would saturate our engagement in all levels of politics and transform the ways we think about the ends toward we our communities and nations are moving, and the virtues and practices that are driving us in this direction.

NOTE: For those who want to read along, I will be working from the audiobook edition, which varies slightly from text editions of the book. 

“Our times are riven with anxiety. The natural innocence and trust that we had in our sensibilities in the Western world has been broken. The innocence is lost, and we know now that anything can happen from one minute to the next. We live in very uncertain times. Politics cannot help us because it has become synonymous with economics. Religion has got into the mathematics of morality. And economics itself, as the presiding world ideology, has become radically uncertain.  I believe that now is the time to invoke and awaken beauty because in a sense there is nowhere else left to go and because the situation in which we are in has actually been caused substantially by our denial of beauty. In a way, all of the contemporary crises can be reduced to a crisis about the nature of beauty itself. When you look at postmodern society, it is absolutely astounding how much ugliness we are willing to endure.”  – John O’Donohue

Continue Reading…



The Unexamined Life and Politics of Donald Trump


C. Christopher Smith

Donald Trump’s inclination to not read books has been highlighted in two recently published articles. Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter who collaborated with Trump on his bestselling book, The Art of the Deal, was recently interviewed in The New Yorker, expressing his deep regrets for “presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.”

Schwartz emphasized Trump’s inability to concentrate and his apparent lack of an attention span, and then proceeds to draw a connection between that and Trump’s seeming avoidance of reading books:

Continue Reading…


Enacting New and more Humane Types of Social, Political & Economic Practices

A Feature Review of

Field Hospital: The Church’s Engagement with a Wounded World
William Cavanuagh

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2016.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  

Reviewed by James Honig


Timing is everything. For the church of Christ trying to be faithful to their call to be salt and light in the middle of a particularly rancorous and strange presidential campaign, comes a new volume from William Cavanaugh, a theologian whose new work I always eagerly look forward to and who has been consistently helpful in my own understanding of how the church engages with the world. The title for his new volume comes from an image Pope Francis has used for the church, that the church needs to go near to the wounds of the world and engage the wounded with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this volume, Cavanaugh further explicates how he thinks that might happen.

The book is a collection of essays, nearly all of them previously published in a variety of academic journals.  While Cavanaugh (or an astute editor) attempts to fashion the various essays into a reasonable narrative arc, they remain, in my judgment, a collection of relatively independent though related essays.

Continue Reading…


How to Address the Issues of the Day?
A Review of

Preaching Poilitics:
Proclaiming Jesus in an Age of Money, Power, and Partisanship

Clay Stauffer.

Paperback: Chalice Press, 2016.
Buy now:  [  Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
Reviewed by Bob Cornwall
*** This review originally appeared on the writer’s blog,
     and is reprinted here with permission.

I was raised in a politically active household. My father was chair of the Siskiyou County Republican Party and had a regular radio spot. He even made it into Who’s Who in American Politics. I did my part as a child going door to door handing out brochures and buttons for candidates ranging from local to national. I even imagined becoming a politician. I’ve really never been as politically active as I was at age fourteen.

I remain extremely interested in politics, but as a pastor I must temper my political activities. That is, I have to remember that I serve a congregation that isn’t politically homogeneous. While I do engage in community organizing and address prophetically (hopefully) important issues that have political implications, I don’t bring a partisan vision into the pulpit. Preachers often walk fine line when it comes to politics. Many of us believe it is important to speak to controversial issues, but we also must take a pastoral approach. At a time when the body politic is increasingly polarized this becomes incredibly difficult. This especially true when the conversation involves money.

Continue Reading…



Today is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, born 12 February 1809.

Lincoln is probably my favorite American president, and he is seemingly one of the most celebrated presidents.  He is probably the figure in US History about whom the most has been written.  Here are ten of the best books about his life.


1. Lincoln
by David Herbert Donald.


Many critics agree that if you are only going to read one Lincoln biography, this is the one to read…


Continue Reading…


Cultivating the Common Good
in a Pluralist Society

A Brief Review of 

Politics for a Pilgrim Church:
A Thomistic Theory
of Civic Virtue

Thomas Bushlack

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2015
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
I have been wanting to write about this book for awhile, and since today is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, it seems like an ideal occasion to write a brief review. Politics for a Pilgrim Church is a helpful and substantial reflection on how Aquinas’s work can guide us as we seek to live faithfully to the way of Jesus in the pluralistic public square of the 21st century. Bushlack starts with an appreciative, but largely critical examination of neo-Anabaptist approaches to political engagement. Specifically, as one working from the Catholic theological tradition, he engages William Cavanaugh and Michael Baxter here. As one who largely agrees with Cavanaugh and Baxter’s work, I read his critiques with interest, and found myself particularly sympathetic to his assertion that  they “provide very little normative content in regard to how one might faithfully engage in the civic and cultural milieu of democratic states” (40).

Continue Reading…


One of this week’s excellent new book releases is:

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America.
Kevin Kruse

Hardback: Basic Books, 2015
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

I recently reviewed this book for the May issue of Sojourners.
( CLICK HERE to read
Only subscribers can read the full review).


Listen to an interview that Kruse
did with NPR’s Terry Gross about the book…

(If you are on a mobile device that does not embed the interview below, click the link above to listen.)

Continue Reading…


“You Welcomed Me”

A Brief Review of

Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration
Mark Adams, Minerva Carcano, Gerald Kicanas, Kirk Smith, and Stephen Talmage

Paperback: Morehouse Publishing, 2013.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Gil Stafford


Living in Arizona, immigration and border issues confront the average citizen almost every day. The news and political advertisements remind everyone living here that Arizona is a border state held hostage by volatile polar opinions. Even the church cannot avoid the controversy. Parishioners stand firmly in their opinions on both sides of the aisle. Any pastor who dares takes sides will suffer the wrath of one or more passionate parishioners. As with any political issue, religious people have their own personal opinions, some formulated by scripture, others by popular media, and a few by personal experience. However, there are few issues, if any, in Arizona that can inflame more people quicker. Arizona’s Episcopal Bishop Kirk Smith wrote, “I have received far more hate mail (and to be fair also many complimentary letters) for positions I have taken on immigration than on any other actions that I have ever taken as a bishop. I know that my coauthors have also experienced verbal abuse, and even threats of physical violence.”

Continue Reading…