Ask any variety of individuals whether or not faith and politics have change into too shut for consolation nowadays, and it is protected to say that almost all of them would reply with a powerful “sure.” And they’d in all probability keep that issues have solely gotten worse in current many years. Folks on the left would possibly level to Donald Trump’s broad help amongst American evangelicals, whereas individuals on the precise would possibly level to the social justice motion.
However along with her new e-book, The poll and the Bible (Brazos Press), Kaitlyn Schiess argues that faith and politics have been inextricably intertwined since America’s founding, and even earlier than. Trying again at varied levels and elements of American historical past—from the Civil Warfare to the Civil Rights Motion, from the Chilly Warfare to Reaganomics—Schiess reveals the quite a few and different methods by which the Bible has been utilized by numerous people to encourage, help, and defend politics.
(Personally, I received a nostalgic kick from her chapter on Chilly Warfare eschatology. Rising up in church within the ’80s and ’90s, I spent loads of time serious about the prophetic which means of varied passages and pictures Revelation, and the way they associated to what I noticed within the headlines. It was an train that was each disturbing and unusually comforting.)
Earlier than we go any additional, it might be useful to outline what The poll and the Bible is not. Schiess’s e-book was not written to inform anybody how one can vote; neither is it an apology for any explicit political occasion or motion. And nonetheless The poll and the Bible does delve into varied biblical interpretations, however doesn’t embody a listing of “appropriate” interpretations. As she writes within the foreword:
To be clear, this e-book doesn’t offer you a listing of interpretation strategies or guidelines; nor will it present the definitive interpretations of the passages generally referred to in political conversations. As an alternative, the query is requested, “Is that your Bible?” to the difficult and controversial historical past of American politics.
So what’s the goal of The poll and the Bible? I feel it may be summed up in a single phrase: modesty. Schiess’s e-book is filled with examples of individuals – from all corners of the political spectrum – who had been completely satisfied that they had been making use of Scripture to their politics in an goal means, that their exegesis and interpretation weren’t solely appropriate, however that this was clearly the case. And conversely, their political opponents had been clearly unsuitable.
Schiess – for individuals who have written Christ and popular culture up to now—examines how some interpretations had been in truth incorrect (e.g., the South’s “biblical” protection of the slave commerce) or overly simplistic (e.g., sure conservatives’ use of Jesus’ “Return Caesar” speech). However she additionally considers that there’s loads of room for nuance, and the way nuance is completely essential, partly due to our personal restricted and sinful natures, which can all the time “distort our ethical intuitions and biblical interpretation.”
There is no such thing as a doubt that we stay in a divisive political age, and sadly, a lot of that division is attributable to biblical interpretations. Schiess doesn’t declare that individuals can not have totally different interpretations; we’re all born into distinctive social, historic, and cultural contexts that affect how we view all the things, together with the Bible, and to disclaim that’s pointless. However that doesn’t imply that each potential interpretation and utility is equally legitimate. As an alternative, we want the enter of different believers—each these residing alongside us and those that have gone earlier than us—to tell us and reveal our personal blind spots.
“[H]Historical past ought to remind us that whereas we can not free ourselves from bias and context, we will depend on the varied testimonies of the Church all through time and all over the world to assist us perceive the Bible extra clearly.” writes Schiess. “We really need greater than a Bible and our personal minds. We want eachother.”