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.