Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book Write-Up: How Should Christians Vote?

Tony Evans.  How Should Christians Vote?  Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012.

I would like to thank Moody Publishers for my review copy of this book.  See here for Moody’s page about it.

I’d like to use as my starting-point for my review something that Tony Evans says on page 63:

“Frequently, when I’m with other African-Americans, and the conversation of politics comes up, many will assume that I am a Republican because of my friendship with former President George Bush and the positions I take on life, marriage, and limited government.  Yet when I am with many Anglos, it is often assumed that because I am an African-American and emphasize justice in society that I must be a Democrat.  So, naturally, I get asked a lot, ‘Tony Evans, what are you?’”

Evans responds that he votes “according to what God says on the matter.”  That means that his votes lean in the direction of being pro-life on the abortion issue and pro-justice.

But Evans acknowledges that things can be more complex than that for a number of Christian voters.  What if a candidate is lousy on social justice issues but is pro-life on abortion?  Evans admits that Christians prioritize issues differently when they vote, and he calls on Christians to be tolerant of each other when it comes to their voting preferences.  On page 79, he appears to be sympathetic to voters who prioritize other issues over abortion, due to their experience of “injustices and disparities…”

I guess that one reason that I am frustrated with this book is that it leaves me perplexed.  On the one hand, Evans is quite dogmatic about what he believes the Bible says about government, and he affirms that Christians should vote according to what God supposedly thinks about political issues.  Although he denies partisanship or commitment to political conservatism or liberalism, his overall stance strikes me as rather conservative: he believes in laws against abortion; he is against same-sex marriage; when he talks about welfare, his main concern seems to be that people who choose not to work are dependent on it; and he supports less government so that the free enterprise system can work its magic, and so that private institutions (i.e., church, family) can thrive.  I wondered more than a couple of times as I was reading this book why Evans couldn’t just say that God wants us to vote for conservatives.  I would disagree with him on that, but at least the book would be direct.

On the other hand, Evans appears to acknowledge that Christians can make different choices, based on where they are.  Although his discussions of social justice in the book are rather anemic (he does, however, refer readers in the endnotes to a book that he wrote about justice), he states that not everyone finds the cliche that “A rising tide lifts all boats” convincing, for what if one does not have a boat?  Good question.  Too bad Evans does not flesh out more why a Christian might choose to vote in a liberal direction.

I think that the book would have been better had Evans talked more about where he believed that Democrats and liberalism lined up with the word of God, and where he believed that conservatism and Republicanism lined up with it.  It should have also had a chapter with sections about the various issues, particularly poverty, which explored their various dimensions and the effects of public policy upon them.  Instead, the book is a combination of dogmatism with an acknowledgment of nuance that is not adequately fleshed out.

Overall, I found this book to be unsatisfying.  If there was something that I enjoyed about the book, however, it was Evans’ discussions about why God acts as God does.  Evans asserted, for example, that God may choose to act in response to believers’ activity, prayer, and thoughtfulness about issues.  The book did not satisfy my thirst for a nuanced discussion of the relationship of the Bible to contemporary political issues, but it was not horrible, for it did contain some thoughtful theological discussion.

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