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Healing for a Broken World: Christian Perspectives on Public Policy.

Healing for a Broken World. Christian Perspectives on Public Policy. By Steve Monsma. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008. 224pp. $16.99.

This book is written by a Christian evangelical for fellow evangelicals, a powerful force in American society who make up, in the author's estimation, between one quarter and one third of all voters. Although endorsing the evangelical return to issues of politics and policy after decades of isolation, Monsma laments much that flies under the banner of the "Christian right." In his words, "too often our voices are shrill, our grasp of the facts thin, and our vision narrow" (p. 9). Rejecting the reduction of Christianity to merely a private faith, or to partisan politics of the left or the right, Monsma takes up the perennial challenge of rethinking the appropriate relationship of Christian faith to the "world."

In the first section of the book, Monsma identifies the core biblical motifs and principles that should guide Christian thought and participation in God's redemptive work in a deeply broken world. In the second and longer section he applies these principles to a broad range of public policy issues, such as poverty, war, human rights, and the environment. He eschews offering "the" Christian answer, insisting that there is no single line between principle and policy. Carving out this analytic space is essential to his larger project of countering the excessive politicization and manipulation of evangelical Christianity by the political right. He places primary weight upon the principles of justice and the common good, solidarity, and freedom. Others freedom to live in ways that might offend Christian moral intuitions should only be countered, he persuasively argues, when it violates principles of justice and the common good. So although sharing the standard evangelical line that homosexuality is unbiblical, he insists that this in no way demands legal sanctions against it. Indeed a recurring refrain is the need for Christians to focus on the most egregious violations of injustice and the common good, and not to set themselves up as legal guardians of only one version of the moral life. The latter, Monsma argues, reflects a pervasive though lamentable "Christian nation mind set" among American evangelicals, reflected in the idea that the United States is in a special covenantal relationship with God or that Christianity deserves a special status or place within American public life.

This book, with its clearly argued positions and discussion questions at the end of each chapter, is a valuable resource for its intended general audience of evangelical Christians. Monsma effectively counters the pernicious and unbiblical shift in Christian conservative tendency to make issues of sexuality trump all other matters. He makes a persuasive case for a Christian faith that seeks the transformation of the world, without devolving into partisan politics, particularly through the manner in which he reflects on the moral and empirical complexities of policy issues in light of his biblically rooted principles. The limitations of the book stem largely from theological commitments which are more assumed than argued. The emphasis upon divine power and control is hard to square with the participatory vision of God's redemptive work. Scattered references to the importance of affirming miracles such as the Virgin Birth do little real work in the argument though they will reassure many in his targeted audience of his religious bona fides even as they mystify those outside. The identification of religious persecution, alongside slavery, as the most egregious violation of justice in our world, raises questions about the manner in which a "Christian nation mind set" may be operating through American foreign policy despite his explicit disavowals of this religio-political form. Despite these limitations, this book is a worthy effort to retrieve evangelical Christianity from its politicized and morally truncated formations that have risen to prominence in recent decades.



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Author:Cady, Linell E.
Publication:Journal of Church and State
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2008
Previous Article:Christian Political Ethics.
Next Article:According to the Scriptures? The Challenge of Using the Bible in Social, Moral and Political Questions.

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