Three books on issues roughly related to how Christians ought to think about America crossed my radar recently. Since I am familiar with all three authors and continue to have an interest in this area, I decided to write a brief review of them.
Leithart’s book, Between Babel and Beast (BBB) is the densest. It’s nearly fifty pages of endnotes comprise 1⁄4 of the book. And yes, they are worth reading. BBB contains sufficient clarity for the patient reader. The volume by Guinness is a more accessible work while Aikman’s One Nation Without God? is a nice primer suited to a broad audience.
Leithart and Guinness have some tough love to share with those of us who may be tempted or even imbibe in making America our de facto religion. This kind of “Americanism” blinds us to where our ultimate loyalties ought to reside: God and His kingdom. Neither author is against Christians being responsible citizens in the City of Man. It would be a massive misread to suggest such a thing. Rather, their concern revolves around not considering the darker realities of some of our American attitudes and policies.
Granted, America does much good for her own and for those abroad, but one should consider the data both authors bring forward in demonstrating our penchant for depicting our country as always wearing the white hat in any geopolitical challenge. I found the arguments of these two authors for our less than angelic side to be both troubling and compelling. Leithart writes, “Babel-like, we are anxious until everyone looks like us—with a McDonald’s in every major city, and a Walmart to boot—or until we can force everyone to play by our rules.” And here is Guinness who is no less strong, “As I said and will say again, America stands before the world today under the judgment of her own ideals.”
Aikman’s book is not a jeremiad per se though I believe he would be in agreement with much of what the other two authors write. As I alluded to earlier, Aikman helps orient readers in need of a solid introduction to some major themes in American history. Aikman includes some wonderful examples and illustrations which helpfully convey the concepts he seeks to flesh out.
We American Christians swim in assumptions which are at odds with the Christian faith. These books help us consider how far we have drifted. They offer a strong, yet necessary medicine. They remind us that the best citizens are those whose chief loyalty is to the kingdom which is currently unseen.
Dave Moore is the author of three books and the soon to be released Pooping Elephants, Mowing Weeds: What Some Business Books Failed to Tell You.