Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Review: Republocrat

I finally got around to reading Republocrat, a fairly small and easy to read book by Carl Trueman. Carl is a professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and a British transplant to America. Moving from Britain to the U.S. has to be a little disconcerting under any circumstances but when you go from the church culture of Britain to the rather unique church culture of America, it must be especially jarring. In Republocrat, Carl looks at the way that politics, especially conservative politics, has become intertwined with evangelicalism to the point that for many they have been indistinguishable.

At the outset it is clear that the dividing lines in politics are quite different. Positions that might seem right of center in Britain probably fall into the liberal category in America. While Republocrat takes aim mostly at right-wing politics in the American church, because that is where most evangelicals fall, he doesn’t spare the Left either. I especially liked this quote:
The Left…has degenerated at points into little more than a knee-jerk and childish reaction against anything middle America and middle Britain consider valuable or worthwhile. (Republocrat, pg. 14)
That is spot on (I think that is what Brits say). Carl takes some pains to talk about the difference between traditional liberal policies that had more to do with working conditions for laborers, women’s suffrage, actual oppression versus the new identity politics of the modern Left, a political movement that is perpetually aggrieved and outraged about any sort of restrictions on their behavior or anyone making a nickel of income more than someone else. The historical background of politics in Britain was quite helpful to me as a reader to give me some of the background that formed where Carl was coming from. What I know about British politics is restricted to “The Iron Lady”, aka Margaret Thatcher, more recent PM Tony Blair and the members of parliament harrumphing and taking thinly veiled shots at one another during debates.

In some or perhaps many places, Carl misses the mark by a lot. One area where I think he is off target by a lot is the way he seems to divide up “church life” and “regular life”. For example:
There is no Jew or Gentile in Christ’s church; nor should there be any English or American; patriotism is a fine civic virtue and Christians should be good citizens, but it should be checked at the church door as we enter the threshold of Christ’s kingdom, not that of Thatcher or Clinton or Bush. (Republocrat, pg. 36)
The idea that there is something magical when we stand on one side of a church door as opposed to the other is a common misconception and completely false. The Kingdom and the work we are called to is by and large outside of church buildings, not inside it. The presence of a cleric, a pulpit, stained glass and pews doesn’t not herald to believers that they stand amidst the Kingdom. I would argue that patriotism has no place among God’s people in any circumstance, not just when they are in their Sunday best listening to a sermon.

I also think he is off the mark a bit on Fox News. I don’t think many people really think Fox is “neutral”. I reference Fox News knowing full well that they are a more conservative outlet and as such are intentionally a counterpoint to the rest of the “mainstream” media (NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, NPR, etc) that are overwhelmingly liberal. “Fair and Balanced” is a cute slogan but where it is fair and balanced is in providing a ready source of news from a decidedly conservative viewpoint

Having said that, I fully expected to find a lot to disagree witth and wasn't disappointed but that doesn’t change the fact that Republocrat is an inexpensive book and quite entertaining. Most importantly it is thought-provoking and something that many Christians dwelling in America should give thought to. Is there a danger in placing so much of our political allegiance with one party? Are we harming the Gospel witness by identifying with one brand of political discourse? We need to think about these issues. If you are interested in an alternate view to the dominate American understanding of politics and the church, Republocrat is a great place to start.


Anonymous said...


Sounds like a good read.

Have you read Boyd's: The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church

I do not agree with all of Boyd's doctrinal positions, but his work on this subject is very good in my opinion.

Here is a review in case you are interested in it:

The Path through Politics Is Not the Road to God When the kingdom of God is manifested, it will wear the face of Jesus Christ. And that, says author Gregory Boyd, has never been true of any earthly government or power. Through close examination of Scripture and lessons drawn from history, Dr. Boyd argues that evangelical Christians who align themselves too closely with political causes or declare that they want to bring America 'back to God' are actually doing harm---both to the body of Christ and society in general. Boyd shows how Jesus taught us to seek a 'power-under' kingdom, where greatness is measured by sacrifice and service. There are no sides or enemies because we are meant to embrace and accept everyone. In The Myth of a Christian Nation, Dr. Boyd challenges readers to return to the true love of Calvary and the message of the cross---setting the 'power-over' politics of worldly government aside.

-Mike Hutchison (Hutch)

Arthur Sido said...

Mike, I started reading it but I had a hard time with it. I need to try it again. I just got a new book that should prove interesting I about to mention on da blog.