Cover Image: Defending Democracy from Its Christian Enemies

Defending Democracy from Its Christian Enemies

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Member Reviews

In the most recent episode of my podcast (Cabernet and Pray), I sat down with Dr. David Gushee. Dr. Gushee is the author, co-author, or editor of twenty-eight books (one of which was a textbook for an ethics class I took for my Master's degree). In the podcast episode, we dove into his recently released book called Defending Democracy from Its Christian Enemies (see: Amazon link).

Dr. Gushee explains the need for the book like this: "One perennial and very challenging aspect of Christian ethics is political ethics—how Christians should engage government, the state, and politics. In my experience, this is an area in which Christians are generally instructed very poorly by their pastors-if they are instructed at all."

It's fascinating to read a book from a Christian whose argument is that Christians today pose the most significant threat to democracy. "It is not fundamentalist Muslims who today are serious candidates for federal and statewide offices in the United States. It is Christians who are positioning themselves to remake our 240-year-old democratic and church/state arrangements."

He goes on to explain that “Authoritarianism in Christianity is a feature, not a bug, and it is unlikely to change in most Christian quarters anytime soon.”

One of the boldest statements he makes in the book goes back to a deep cultural issue in the United States. "The United States may offer the most pronounced example of a nation that has never been able to overcome its founding racism, and thus has never realized its democratic principles and aspirations.”

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I work with Christian leaders all over the country every day. Many of them are scratching their heads trying to figure out what is happening in their churches and why is their leadership being challenged in new ways. This book takes head on the movement that Gushee describes as "Authoritarian Reactionary Christianity."

From a historical perspective, understanding how religious counterrevolutions follow secular revolutions (chapter 4) will give the reader context for why and how our current Christian culture is responding like it is.

While the author's seven chapters on how seven different countries have seen democracy weakened might be more than you're interested in reading, it provides the background historical research necessary for seeing patterns. This is also important so that we don't see ourselves in the U.S. as special or immune to movements and trends in other countries.

The book concludes with three helpful chapters as suggested solutions to the problem, accessing diverse content from the Baptist tradition, the black Christian democratic tradition, and what it might mean to renew a deeper understanding of "covenant" (a theme in some of Gushee's other works).

I appreciated the author's conclusion that "Democracy, while flawed, still appears to be the best available political ordering of human community" (p. 191).

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