Thursday, May 24, 2012

Young Evangelicals Still at War? A Review of 'A Faith of Our Own'

Young Evangelicals Still at War? A Review of 'A Faith of Our Own' | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction: Jonathan Merritt suggests that today's Christians "believe we can call a truce in the culture wars while remaining faithful to Christ." Merritt's solution is a de-partisanized Christianity that remains politically active and a broadened political agenda that remains dubious about the trappings and temptations of political power that ensnared the culture war generation of Christians.

. . . Merritt suggests that Christians today are moving "beyond politics," but they must also "advocate for policies that punish injustice, restrain evil, and promote a healthier society." All true enough. What he does not provide is a meaningful reconciliation between Christianity and politics, or any way of helping people know which policies they should advocate in light of their Christian commitments and understanding of justice (which are not, for most of us, as disconnected as they might seem).

What's more, Merritt clearly (and rightly) thinks we should subordinate politics to our Christian beliefs—but his practical recommendations frequently take shape against those he believes have gotten it wrong. As he puts it, "Rejecting the labels and even the culture wars themselves, many of today's Christians are carving out a new path down the middle of the public square." What being in the middle looks like depends upon what happens at the fringes. It is one thing to be a political independent; it is another to know how to enjoy that independence and use it responsibly. Merritt has eloquently advocated the former, but left the latter ambiguous.

. . .   The world will probably have to wait at least one more generation before evangelicals, having properly escaped its grasp, can look back at the stunted partisanship of the past and see it only as a cautionary tale, a relic, rather than something that is yet to be transcended.

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