Saturday, May 26, 2007

Thy Kingdom Come

When I’m reading a book the author will frequently reference another book. Whether they just refer to the book, take quotes from it, or unapologetically have a section titled “books that I recommend” one way or another they peak my interest in reading another book while I am reading theirs. Sometimes, friends and family members will recommend books that sound similar to others that I have read. Occasionally, my attention is brought to certain book as a direct challenge to my current beliefs. A few time I’ve had books recommended as responses to blog posting of other books that I’ve read. After this new book is brought to my attention my typical response is to log onto my local library website and reserve it. Frequently I also reserve just about everything else by the same author. By the time the book arrives at the library and I get my email that it’s there I have forgotten which of the methods above prompted me to read it in the first place. Such is the case with the book I read yesterday and this morning.
I had a different than normal day at work. I was asked to meet a technician out at a subdivision and be available in case he had any concerns in building one of my jobs. Much if this time just involved me waiting in my truck and answering the occasional question. We also deviated from our normal Friday routine of trucking the kids over to Granny’s to spend the night. All of this allowed for more time to just sit back and relax with a good book.
I’m not sure how I found this book but I’m glad I did. The book is Thy Kingdom Come an Evangelical’s Lament How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America by Randal Balmer.
Balmer is an Evangelical Christian and a contributing Editor of Christianity Today. He has found a very comfortable balance of politics, religion, and science. I agree with most of his opinions about where the compromise should be made if there is a conflict among the three. I have a few differences with him in the area of public education but nothing that would stop us from having a very cordial discussion on the topic. Outside of that most of his opinions mirror my own, although Blamer expresses them far more eloquently than I could hope to do.
If for no other reason this book is worth the read for the detailed history of religion and politics in the new world. The chapter titled Where Have All the Baptists Gone details the formation of the religion by John Williams and follows it right up to the present, pointing out how dissimilar and directly contradictory they two seem.
Other chapters go on to detail the many positons taken by the religious right and how they seem to go against the position that you’d expect from Biblical teachings. Abortion, the environment, divorce homosexuality, capital punishment, torture etc, Balmer explains the Religious Right’s position, and hypocrisy, on all of these issues and more.
The best part of this book is not the specific accusations, but the perspective. Unlike other books Balmer is not an outsider with a grudge against a group that he in no longer affiliated. He is deeply involved in the Evangelical movement and is doing his best to call them to repentance and get them back on a course that he feels is much closer to the true teaching of the gospel. Unlike Strobel’s book Balmer does not attempt to make his points through statistics or through science. His most frequent source used to criticize the movement is the New Testament and the teaching of Jesus Christ. I like his strategy and Blamer uses it as skillfully as I would expect from a Yale Divinity School professor.
As he points out in the first paragraphs of his conclusion, most of those who really need to listen to and respond to this book will likely resort to claims that Balmer is not really a Christian and attempt to “kick him out of the club”, so to speak. This is very unfortunate. Agree or disagree with his conclusions, Blamer teaches us that as a Country we still have a lot of work to do to truly apply the teaching of Christ in our lives.

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