I’ll admit to being incredibly nervous about picking up a book from 1909 (by a guy with a German? last name) about how to raise good citizens. I fully expected there to be a bunch of stuff about eugenics or not letting certain genders vote or, well, I don’t know. Stuff that would get one canceled these days. Fortunately or otherwise, the Young Citizen’s Reader by Paul Reinsch has been updated for modern audiences. And while I’m sometimes not nuts about such updating, in this case it was needed. After all, a book about politics that’s 100+ years old would of necessity be limited in value. We’ve had twelve amendments added to the Constitution since then, a massive growth in the size of the federal government (and a lesser growth in the size of state and local governments), and now participate in multiple international organizations. Updating this is a good thing.
But the original idea is a good one too. A good book on politics understandable to the 10-13 age group is useful, and something that Christians should be concerned to carefully apply. And a book that’s rooted in an earlier century is especially helpful here, since it avoids the cultural assumptions of our own time. The World Health Organization, for example, is given a fair and brief overview that’s largely free of bias (which tells us this was probably written pre-2020), but more importantly the discussion of American institutions is disconnected from partisan rancor.
As Christians, we believe the government is there for our good and to punish evil. We hold that Christians ought to obey the law so far as we are able, and that we should be active and engaged in public life. This is part of the point of the beginning of Romans 13 and what mainstream believers have taught for the past two millennia. On Independence Day, we have a good opportunity to reflect on the best way to pass these ideas on to the next generation. And this short book is a surprisingly useful tool in doing so, not least because of passages like this:
“Our nation welcomes people from all the countries of the world. Our nation is thus composed of people from a variety of traditions, and all the good and noble qualities which they bring will enrich our national life. They represent time-honored civilizations from which we have much to learn. They bring to our shores not only able hands, but willing minds.” (172)