About Left, Right and Christ

Now Featured at the Patheos Book Club

Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics
By Lisa Sharon Harper and D.C. Innes

About the Book

From the rhetoric used by both conservative and progressive Christians, one wouldn't know they shared a common faith. Now, two evangelical Christian thinkers from opposite ends of the political spectrum come together for a thought-provoking dialogue on polarizing issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage in the book Left, Right & Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics.

Lisa Sharon Harper, director of mobilizing at the progressive Christian justice organization Sojourners, represents the left, and D.C. Innes, associate professor of politics at The King's College, stands in for the right. Equal opportunity forewords by conservative Marvin Olasky and progressive Jim Wallis get things off to a feisty start. Here's a sample:

Olasky: "I'm not saying Harper is a Marxist but she does have a tendency to concentrate on material circumstances."

Wallis: "At times Innes sounds much more like Ayn Rand, the apostle of selfishness, than he does Jesus Christ."

"Both of us are Christians. And so what we have in common is greater than all our differences," Innes and Harper write. "Yet differences there are, and in this book we elaborate on our political differences. How can two people who share the same fundamental life-transforming Christian principles think so differently when it comes to politics?"

The authors tell how they arrived at their current political stances, both led by their understanding of Christian teachings. Innes, an ex-pat Canadian Tory turned American Republican, says "the Christian view of man prompted me to move toward the modern Republican view of politics as the most prudent way for fallen people to live with one another politically." Harper, whose ancestors are African, Native American, and Puerto Rican, says her evangelical faith shapes her liberal perspective on today's issues: "We the people will be called to account for the effect of our public policies on the least of these in our society. Did we bless or did we curse?"

From their divergent perspectives, Innes and Harper explore how Christian faith shapes one's participation in the political process. They argue their positions on issues including poverty, health care, immigration, same-sex marriage, abortion, terrorism, and the environment, in a robust yet respectful give-and-take.

They have markedly different opinions on the role of government, which color their views on the other issues up for discussion. Both find a biblical mandate for their belief, Harper in a "hands-on" government working to make life better for citizens, and Innes in a "hands-off" government that punishes evil and encourages citizens to do good, but doesn't provide for every need.

Harper and Innes agree that the Bible emphasizes the moral responsibility of people to care for the poor among them. "Christians in America are to help make it a better place in every respect: more just, more equitable, more merciful, more wise, more beautiful, more fruitful, more flourishing in every way that God desires human communities to flourish." They differ, sometimes widely, in their understanding of how to get there.

About the Authors

Lisa Sharon HarperLisa Sharon Harper is Director of Mobilizing at Sojourners. Ms. Harper was the founding executive director of New York Faith & Justice, an organization at the hub of a new ecumenical movement to end poverty in New York City. Her writing has been featured in The National Civic Review, God's Politics blog, The Huffington Post, Urban Faith, Prism, and Slant33 where she has written extensively on tax reform, comprehensive immigration reform, health care reform, poverty, racial justice, and transformational civic engagement.

D.C. InnesD.C. Innes is Associate Professor of Politics, The King's College, New York City. He has published articles, chapters and columns in Interpretation, Worldmag.com, The Washington Times, Piety and Humanity, and Civil Religion in Political Thought. He is an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and on the Board of Directors for Evangelical Political Scholars Association.

11/16/2011 5:00:00 AM
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