"Who lost America? In the following pages I'll present an answer we don't like to hear: America was never ours to lose." (Intro - xiv).
Michael Babcock...more"Who lost America? In the following pages I'll present an answer we don't like to hear: America was never ours to lose." (Intro - xiv).
Michael Babcock is professor of humanities at Liberty University and author of UnChristian America. His book is surprising for a number of reasons two of which include that he tastefully, but forcefully, sets his sights on conservative evangelical thinking that is not rooted in Scripture and calls them out on it. Second, he is a professor at Liberty University (the place that the late Jerry Falwell built). This second fact alone seems to lend at least some credibility to his work.
The first chapter delves into the history of groups such as the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition. Plus he talks about his own history with these groups.
Chapters two through five (the bulk of the book) is where he strikes quickly and with force. He talks about the "Founding Fathers" and shows with clarity something that many of us have known for a while: many of the "Founding Fathers" who conservative evangelical christians look at to prove our country being founded as a christian nation would not be considered evangelicals by our "standards" today. One salient point that Professor Babcock highlights is that Scripture needs to set the tone for Christians not history or culture. When we look to Scripture we see only one nation being called out by God for a divine purpose (Israel) - and now, according to I Pet., the church. America, Russia, or any other nation could never be a "Christian" nation in that sense. "In an effort to 'take back America' evangelicals have become warriors on the losing side of culture." (Pg. 62).
Chapter 3 hammers Ronald Reagan. In fact Babcock says this, "But in the end, Reagan was never one of us. Not really. Not in his fundamental understanding of the nature of God and humanity. Reagan drew from the deep taproot of American mythology, not biblical truth." (Pg. 78). He is drawing on speeches from Reagan and how Reagan (and others) have "Christianized humanistic values - myths of utopia, self-reliance, and pragmatism." (Pg. 68). And now what was once allowed to co-exist as paradoxical is now an open war of values. And what does Jesus offer instead of the empires of Rome, Marx or America? Sacrifice and denial of self. These ideals do not set well with a country that is defined by its westward expansion that was marked with rationalism, materialism and humanism. Which leads Babcocks conclusion that, "Evangelicals have greatly underestimated how long this battle has been raging." (Pg. 109). The tear did not begin in 1962, or in the 70's with Roe vs. Wade but much, much earlier to the point that America was "never ours to lose" because we never "had" it in the first place.
Mr. Babcock then gives five great principals for Christians in regards to governments/authority. First, God's sovereignty over the political realm. Second, submit ourselves to rulers. And third, and seemingly very hard for evangelicals right now, recognize the importance that God places on honor and respect (Titus 3:1-2). Fourth, God's standards don't change. Finally, our civic responsibilities are always defined by godly living. As Babcock writes, "Political freedom and economic opportunity are wonderful things, but that's not what God desire for all people" and "The political instinct - to win, dominate, manipulate, and control. Kingdom living requires gentleness and humility, self-effacement instead of self-promotion."
A few pages later he makes telling statements that Christians in the first century knew that their survival didn't depend on political solutions or better laws. They were a group of people, a "moral minority" who had a faith in Jesus and what he accomplished. Yet, Christians today what to say we are the "moral majority" and we need better laws, Christian this or that if we want our "christian" nation to survive. When christians have lived on the fringes and margins they have always fared better (in terms of being in and for the world what we have been called to and of by God).
The strangest chapter in his brilliant book is the next to last chapter. "What's worth fighting for?" I agree with his idea that life is worth fighting for. But for Professor Babcock it is THE issue that christians must not compromise, back down, or away from. It is odd given the whole nature and tenor of his book up to this point. To Professor Babcock, champion life is being against abortion. No compromising, no relabeling or redefining terms. He opposes "culture of life" or "consistent pro-life ethic" and does not like finding 'common ground.' He says, "the biblical approach refuses to translate life into a political platform on health care or the environment." (Pg. 191). I understand what he is getting at, and even agree with it to some degree but health care (or lack of it) is a life issue, what we are leaving to our kids and grandkids in terms of a physical world is a life issue. Abortion is, obviously, a life issue. But it is not the only moral issue out there. And it is not the only life issue either. UnChristian America is not where it was 60 years ago. Abortion, is, unfortunately, here to stay. I am pro-life. But I will seek to find common ground (I believe I can be committed to life and seek ways to reduce abortions and to speak for a pro-life ethic). The moment we say "only pro-life, no compromises" but then help to counsel girls to give their babies up for adoption rather than aborting them we have in fact compromised our position.
His finally chapter gets back to a portion of scripture that a lot of evangelical, conservative Christians don't want to touch....the Sermon on the Mount (which happens to be my favorite portion of Scripture!). He says, "It really matters that evangelicals have been so deaf to the great Sermon Jesus preached." (pg. 199).
Michael Babcock gives to the christian community a wonderful book that will probably be largely ignored by many Christians (especially of the conservative type) and trashed by many Christians too (again, especially those conservative christians). This book hits too hard, too deep, too close to conservative christian golden idols (primarily the one called America). Read this book. Digest it. Ponder and think about it. And then, like i intend to do, read it again!(less)
I have had this book for a while and have referenced it many times. The book is: Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions: A Comprehensive Introduction...moreI have had this book for a while and have referenced it many times. The book is: Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions: A Comprehensive Introduction to the Religions of the World by James A. Beverley.
This is no lightweight book but a detailed, thorough examination of the world's leading religions. The book is set up alphabetically to make it very easy to use and includes Baha'i to Witchcraft. Each chapter begins with a little bit about the religion then makes its way to a chronology that highlights various important dates with either the religion itself or the "founder" or important members. Numerous chapters included extended information about the religion, how it compares to Christianity, points at which the author sees areas of dialogue between Christ-followers and those who choose to follow other religions. Also included is various splinter groups within or coming out of each religion, what they hold to and also a informative insert that gives websites and resources for further investigation into each religion or sect.
I absolutely love this book. It is complete, well-researched, fair, balanced and unafraid to make strong statements (and the author does this when he tells of some unfortunate events that have happened within his own religious path (Protestantism). Many resources like this have come and gone but I believe Dr. Beverley's will be around for a long, long time. His style, for being a reference/non-fiction work,is engaging and pleasant to read. The chapters are not long or dry but made me, actually, want to read the book from start to finish in one sitting. Obviously that did not happen as the book is well over 700 pages. The book, however, doesn't seem like a tome but given all the detailed information given it seems that when you have this book you have several well-documented encyclopedias in your library. And that is a beautiful point about this book: this book can replace numerous volumes you may already have on world religions. If you don't have this book.....get it now! You won't be disappointed. Given all the issues that are going on not only in our own country but in our world....it is time that people start actually learning what religions believe rather than just listening to tv personalities that generate fear and terror about things they really don't know. Become informed. I am not there yet, but with this book I feel that I am on a better path of understanding and true dialogue. (less)