I’ve Been Jacked by a Couple Methodists

This post is part of the Patheos Book Club. Check out the Book Club for more posts on this book, an interview with the authors, and for responses from the editors.

In their new book, Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide, pastor Mike Slaughter and activist Chuck Gutenson have given us a valuable book on how Christians of different political persuasions can nevertheless maintain faithful and congregational unity.

This is, I must say, an overcrowded genre. Since the George W. Bush years, the Christian church has been politically polarized. A spate of books has been published in response. Hijacked is one of the best in that crowd, IMHO.

Slaughter and Gutenson are Methodists, and it shows. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, I think it makes their argument stronger. It embeds them in a tradition and gives them credibility. They end their book with an appeal to the (forgotten?) Methodist practice of “holy conferencing,” quoting a Methodist report:

As we seek to steer conversations toward a deeper level of meaning—hopefully—resolution, we can utilize principles of holy conferencing to do so. Holy conferencing starts from our own stories—it is more about who we are together than who is right…all parties must be willing to consider they may be wrong about an issue that is important to them.

Hijacked has a surprisingly robust middle section on logic. It may come off a bit philosophical for the lay reader, but I think it’s the strongest part of the book. In it, they deconstruct the statements that many partisan Christians often use, and they show that these are often illogical.

In one section, with which I take some (postmodern) exception, they write about how an individual Christian or a Christian community can decide something is a core Christian essential (they use the example of the Trinity); on the other hand, they state that another belief (pacifism), cannot be considered an essential. This will be a helpful section for a lot of people who are trying to sort out what is essential to Christianity.

My argument with them is that they still seem to hew to a foundationalism that I have long since rejected. Statements like this make me uneasy:

Biblical doctrine matters; we dare not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I’ve heard statements like this a thousand times, and I think it undermines their argument, because it implies that there is a corpus of “biblical doctrine” which the two of them know, but which remain unstated in the book.

Nevertheless, as I said above, I think Hijacked is among the best books in this overfull genre, and I think it will be helpful to many Christians during this election cycle.


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  • Mark Holcomb

    They don’t just speak for themselves, Tony. They speak from tradition, a sound Wesleyan “foundation”. It’s not just them, it’s like, I believe Dallas Willard said (forgive me if my memory is wrong), that we allow “dead people” to speak into our doctrines. Wesley’s quadrilateral keeps Methodists sound in a shifting culture. Not the first time this has happened in 2000 years of church history.

    • I agree, Mark. I’m a big fan of the quadrilateral.

      But I don’t know how sound the UMC is. I don’t think John Wesley would even recognize it.

      • JR

        What makes the UMC unsound to you?

        • Probably their Biblical doctrine. 🙂

  • ” Since the George W. Bush years, the Christian church has been politically polarized.”

    It is Bush W’s fault for the polarization. Not to get too polarizing here. (ha ha ha…)

    • Curtis

      Actually, it is Karl Rove who is usually credited with getting Christians of all stripes to vote overwhelmingly Republican, primarily by using issues of abortion and gay marriage to alienate Christians from the Democratic candidates. Prior to Rove, Christians tended to split their vote pretty evenly between the two parties. Rove gave birth to the strategy that resulted in the vast majority of Christians voting Republican for the first time in history.

  • Deborah Arca

    Tony, Thanks for your thoughtful reading and review of this book, esp. in – as you say – in an over-crowded genre. I, too, found the book very helpful and hopeful. Note to your readers: we’re hosting a live chat with the Hijacked authors THIS Thursday, from 2-3 pm EST at the Patheos Book Club and would love to have all of you come & join the conversation on how to save your church for partisan politics this election year. Bring your questions, comments and real life stories about how you navigate partisan politics in the church.

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  • Tony, thanks for the review. I should have one coming out soon as well. I too take issue with their section on essential Christian beliefs, but for different reasons. I thought it was an odd approach to essentially pit a matter of ‘orthodoxy’ against a matter of ‘orthopraxy’ to make their point. I, personally, happen to believe that the Trinity and nonviolence/pacifism are both fundamental Christian beliefs, but the former may or may not affect the way Christians live in the world whereas the latter almost certainly will. I am not implying that a belief only has value when it directly affects practice, but Christians have long made orthodoxy, in terms of a short check list of beliefs, more important than orthopraxy. I wish they had compared apples to apples because I think it would have helped their case regarding the way Christians ought to treat others as they navigate difficult political issues.

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