Hi there! This month’s book review is on Letters to an American Christian by Bruce Riley Ashford. If you don’t read the entire review, know this much: This book is important and accessible to Christians of all ages and stages of life. If you have a chance to read it, I recommend that you do so. Also, however you lean politically, let’s all agree to VOTE in November! Okay, that’s about as political as I’ll probably ever get on the blog. Love to you, friends!
In Letters to an American Christian, Bruce Riley Ashford, author of One Nation Under God, addresses overarching issues of the relationship of Christianity and politics, speaks to the way historic Christian believe informs specific hot-button political issues, and challenges readers to take seriously both our heavenly and earthly citizenships. Written as a series of letters to “Christian” – a young college student who is a new believer – Letters to an American Christian will help every reader think carefully about how Christianity informs what it means to be an American. (1)
Letters to an American Christian is a book that, prior to starting, I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy. This attitude had nothing to do the author or book itself, and everything to do with the fact that politics sends me into a mess of frustration and ultimately I tend to simply back away from the hard questions and issues. I, like many people I suspect, have an underlying feeling that it is difficult to affect change in this area of American life.
Once I began reading Letters to an American Christian, I was hooked. I found myself wanting to sit down and further discuss nearly every chapter with the author. The format is that of letters written to a college student who is new in their faith. I am a middle-aged mom and yet I connected with the book easily. The accessibility of the book to readers in all stages of life is one of its strengths.
Bruce Riley Ashford uses the first part of the book to discuss at a high level the relationship between Christianity and public life and why it matters. He makes the argument that as Christians, we do not have the option to ignore political matters, saying, “If you understand it in the right way, the redemption Jesus brings will never let you completely abandon politics.” (2). Ashford does a wonderful job of showing his readers that politics and political engagement matter and are the duty of a Christian who is seeking the good of the land in which they live. At the same time, he does well driving home the point that politics is not our ultimate identity and the reality that government is not a savior; that title belongs to Jesus alone. This book beautifully describes how those two ideas interact in our everyday lives.
Part Two of the book deals with hot-button issues affecting Americans in modern times. Ashford brings a conservative-leaning view on these matters in a respectful and logical manner. Even if you find that you do not fully agree with him on a given subject, you will be refreshed to hear these matters engaged civilly and with intelligence and tact; something that seems to be lacking from public discourse more and more. You will be reminded that one of the things that make America a wonderful place to live is the fact that we have the freedom to disagree with one another and to voice those opinions. Further, you will be exhorted to voice those opinions with the love, grace, and truth of Christ, not in defensiveness and anger.
Part Three of the book discusses how to engage those who disagree with us (hint: with love) and encourages readers to consider the public and political sphere in light of the Gospel. The two cannot be separated (you can read more about that in the book). Ashford says, “We don’t work to bless our culture in order to win. We do it because we love our Lord and our fellow citizens.” (3) That quote sums up much of the tone of the book for me. Engaging politics is important because it is one way we can love our neighbors.
Who Should Read This Book?
Regardless of your stage of life or political leaning, if you are a Christian, this book is one that will challenge you to think deeper about the issues of our time. If you have children in college, this will offer them a viewpoint on issues that they may not hear communicated at many institutions these days. Regardless of whether they agree with the book or not, it would be a valuable resource for them as they see what it means to engage these topics with civility and respect. Bottom line? Every Christian will benefit from reading Ashford’s book.
(1) Taken from the back cover of Letters to an American Christian
(2) Bruce Riley Ashford, Letters to an American Christian (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2018, 15
(3) Bruce Riley Ashford, Letters to an American Christian (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2018, 225
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by B&H Publishing for review. My commitment to you, my readers, is that I will always be honest and thoughtful in each book review and recommendation. If I wouldn’t recommend it to my friends, I will not recommend it here.