Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo serve the church well in their book One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for Politics. Walking the line between religious escapism and messianic activism, they present a balanced and hopeful view of Christian political engagement.
Although being an introductory volume, the book covers significant ground: from setting a foundation for responsible Christian political thought to entering broad policy discussion on several controversial issues in our culture today. Ashford and Pappalardo successfully bring complex issues, such as nature vs. grace and sphere sovereignty, to the bottom shelf for all to take from. They also offer biblically grounded and well reasoned thoughts on divisive issues – even within the church – such as the environment and immigration.
Chapter six, “Cultivating Wisdom and Public Virtue,” was my favorite. In these mere eleven pages, the authors set forth “six ways our political engagement can – indeed, must – be governed by Christian wisdom and virtue” (55). These include: seeking the good of the city, being shaped for public righteousness and civility, and taking a longer and broader view. In fact, one of the great strengths of the book is in each of the later chapters, which deal with various policy issues, they include real-life examples of people who both engaged the culture on the issue and did so in a winsome way, that is, with wisdom and virtue.
If I had to offer one weakness, it would be the title “One Nation Under God” and it’s explanation in the concluding chapter. Ashford and Pappalardo, drawing on Richard Neuhaus’ comments on the phrase, utilize it in a way quite different from popular usage. Thus, while they may be on to something in terms of how we ought to understand the phrase; since their meaning is so different from the conventional understanding, I find it to be unhelpful, perhaps even misleading, without a more concentrated and thorough explanation.
In sum, I highly recommend One Nation Under God as a profitable introduction to anyone seeking to think about how Christians ought to engage the political sphere. Whether you’re seeking to engage merely by voting and advocating for a particular issue or, more substantially, by running for public office, this book will serve you well.
You can find out more about One Nation Under God here: https://www.amazon.com/One-Nation-Under-God-Christian/dp/1433690691.