News Articles

Compassion key to political engagement, authors say

NASHVILLE (BP) — Navigating the relationship between the White House and the church house can be difficult for many Christians. In a new book, “One Nation Under God,” Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo seek to offer a Christian hope for American politics.

After observing the way most Christians view politics, Pappalardo said they saw a need for a book that demonstrates “Christians can care deeply about politics, but more deeply about the Gospel.” “One Nation Under God,” published by B&H Academic, releases this month.

Christians often fall into one of two political ditches said Pappalardo, lead researcher and writer at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. “On one side are those who throw all of their hopes and dreams into politics. For them, politics is everything,” he said. “On the other side, many believers are so cynical about political engagement they throw in the towel. For them, politics is nothing.”

Pappalardo said he and Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, had discussions about writing a book together before. After thinking through the current cultural environment, the two decided an exploration of biblical political engagement was “crucial.”

“Most Christians we’ve talked to want to apply their faith to politics, but they honestly don’t know how,” Pappalardo said. “They’re looking for some sort of blueprint for living out the Gospel in the public square. That’s precisely what this book aims to be.”

Pappalardo said he hopes readers of “One Nation Under God” will feel better equipped to address controversial and confusing public issues. “Perhaps most importantly, we hope to see Christians start engaging in politics with a truly Christian demeanor — with both courage and compassion.”

The first half of the book establishes a Christian perspective on politics and what it looks like to be engaged in politics in a biblical manner. The second half addresses specific topics within the political sphere, including abortion, marriage, race relations and immigration.

The authors point to the recent Syrian refugee crisis as one where Christians must think biblically and deeply about complex issues. Ashford said two main priorities are behind this particular discussion: a responsibility to the homeless and vulnerable, as well as a responsibility to protect and care for one’s own community and nation. “We are, both in this issue and others, called to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” he said.

For churches, Ashford advised against making pronouncements about public policy, but he said individual Christians should make a reasonable case for their position, provided it balances “caring for our global community, while also caring for our more local one.”

The main role for Christians, however, should come after the refugees arrive, Ashford said. “Once refugees are placed in a city, local churches and individual Christians should take advantage of every opportunity to minister to refugees, both in word and in deed,” he said.

For consideration of our treatment of refugees and other political positions, as well as the best examples of political engagement, Pappalardo said Christians should look to the pages of Scripture.

“Biblically speaking, Jesus shows us how deep the political message of the Gospel is, without making the Gospel only about politics,” he said. “And the Apostle Paul, in his first letter, shows us what it looks like to live as aliens and exiles in our own country — not quite at home, but still working for the public good.”

For more information on “One Nation Under God” and other books from B&H Academic, visit bhacademic.com.