Monday, February 6, 2017

Review: Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel

Book: Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore
Prompt: Read a book you pick solely because of its cover
Pages: 224

First, the cover.  I mean, the cover is why I picked this book for the 26 Books Challenge.  You see the front cover above.  But what is really cool about this cover is the inside-dust jacket cover.  Check it out!

I love love love this quote!

I first learned of Russell Moore last year, when then-candidate Donald Trump called him 
“truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!”  Needless to say, I had to find out who this evangelical leader who drew Trump's ire was.  And I loved that after the fact, Moore added "nasty guy with no heart" to his Twitter bio - that cracked me up!  (PSA: For the mental and emotional well-being of myself and everyone who might be reading this, I will refrain from discussing Trump further.)

In Onward, Moore shares what he thinks American Christians need to do to "keep Christianity strange."  The crux of his argument is that Christianity's uniqueness from secular culture is what draws people to it.  And that makes sense: why would people see the need to join a religion if the people in the religion are exactly like them?  Most American Christians would agree that the culture is rapidly moving further and further away from the values expressed in the Bible.  You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the realm of Christian thinking that disagrees with that.  But where Moore differs from many of his contemporaries is on the question as to whether we were ever really a Christian nation after all.

Sure, we were founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and many of our founders were Christians, to varying levels of devoutness.  But a "moral majority" does not equal a Christian one.  Indeed, the fact that many churches, especially in the South, refused to speak out against slavery or the resulting Jim Crow laws, or reassigned those who did.  My dad went to tech school with the Air Force in Biloxi in the 60s.  A local Methodist preacher spoke out in support of the civil rights movement and against segregation and was promptly transferred to a church in the north.  But I digress.

In several chapters, Moore exposes the conflation of Christian values (or cultural Christianity, if you will) and a political solution.  As Christians, it's fine to be engaged politically and to work for political ideas and solutions.  What is not okay is to elevate politics - or politicians - to the same level as Jesus.  For me, that is part of what was so disappointing about this last presidential cycle.  In some cases, people threw away their beliefs - or worse, their consciences - for political expediency.  But again, I digress.

Moore proclaims that "We can be Americans best if we are not Americans first."  That is, we can best serve our country if we regard Jesus as more important than the United States.  If we serve King Jesus before we serve the federal government, our country is best served.  If we carry forth those beliefs in inherent human dignity - of all people, no matter what their life circumstances - and freedom and kindness and selflessness and so much more, the country will be better for it.

Recommendation: As you may be able to tell, I loved this book.  It gave me so much to think about, especially as I've been ruminating on many related topics through the course of the last year or more with the recent presidential election.  It's well worth a read, and is, compared to other books like it, comparatively easy without being shallow.  Read it!

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