A New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision for the Common Good (Chalice Press, 2012) is a collection of essays edited by David Gushee released in late summer. On the eve of a national election, it seems only fitting to write a little review of a book with the word “manifesto” in the title.
A manifesto is a plumb line, a marker in the sand, a call to action. A manifesto is a political word. Having studied and worked in both sectors, I have found that politics and religion make an awkward combination. Politicians with strong religious affiliation often make really strange decisions. And religious leaders with strong political affiliations often make really, really strange decisions. Both of these institutions compete for loyal followers representing, at their core, a zero sum game. While I’ve seen people navigate the tension, it’s a rare occurrence.
While I cringe at the strange bedfellows of religion and politics, I also realize that there is little, if anything, in the world that is not political. In its broadest sense, politics is a way of describing the actions of people groups. So religion is political, cultural trends are political, book clubs are political, politics are political and line dancing is political (in fact, line dancers are some of the most political people I know, zing!).
So A New Evangelical Manifesto is a political book. But it’s mainly a book about the politics of the church – the outward presence, actions, and thinking of those who are following Jesus. In talking about the church’s outward presence, it necessarily addresses the more popular form of politics, looking at the well-known issues like poverty, climate change, sexuality, and economics, through the lens of God’s kingdom while also engaging lesser-discussed topics like human trafficking, the role of children in society, torture, and consumerism.
With over 20 contributors, a wide range of opinions is represented with most falling in the moderate to left-leaning crowd (with many identifying in some fashion with the evangelical label). The specific chapters provide good starting points for conversations on a variety of issues facing the world. Overall, while not exactly breaking new ground, A New Evangelical Manifesto joins a line of publications (like Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics) strengthening the voice of a more centrist Christian message too often lost in a world sharply divided into extreme categories of conservative and liberal.
A copy of this book was passed on to me at no cost to myself other than the time spent reading it by the good folks at SpeakEasy.