“The Good and Faithful Servant: A Small Group Guide on Politics and Government for Christians”

NOTE for Hughniverse members: I have established a blog within the Hughniverse specifically on the subject of Christians and politics, and invite the cross-posting of your comments here and there. I figured that some readers won’t be believers and won’t be particularly interested in this area of conversation, so the other blog –”The Good and Faithful Servant” is its surprising name– is for the readers who want to spend more time on the intersection of Christian theology and politics. What follows below is the introductory post on the subject from the public blog:

My new book is out and it may need a bit of explanation for readers here who are not part of congregations that endorse “small group study” as one means of deepening a Christian’s faith.

For many years, many churches have encouraged small groups of their members –from four to eight or ten people, sometimes organized by age, gender, or for married couples– to meet sometime other than Sunday morning for the purpose of sharing their faith and their lives. The “small group” movement has grown to millions and millions of participants, and some of these groups have been meeting for more than decade or longer.

Often participants agree to study a particular chapter from Scripture or read and discuss a book related to faith. Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, for example, was hugely popular as a study text for small groups. My friend Mark D. Roberts’ Can We Trust The Gospels is an excellent text for groups that want to dig into the reliability of Scripture in the age of the new atheists. Many of the books by Dr. Albert Mohler make for great texts for small groups that want superb material on important subjects.

What is missing from the materials for these groups is a small group study guide organized around a Christian’s obligations as a citizen in a democratic republic, obligations not just to pay taxes and vote, but also to think through the variety of important debates occurring every day in the country. Lots of Christians have lots of political views, and they range across the spectrum from left to right. Far more Christians are simply apolitical, and millions do not even bother to vote. It is rare indeed that Christians meet for the purpose of discussing the issues that confront the country’s leaders every day, and to do so with the intention not of winning an argument but of understanding how Christian belief ought to enter into the conversations about those issues.

Some great books have been written on the subject of Christians and politics, including one of the most important books of 2008, Render Unto Caesar, by Archbishop Charles Chaput, who leads the Roman Catholic Diocese of Denver (and which just recently came out in paperback.) Lots of Christian authors touch on politics as part of broader treatments on how to live in our times, and many Christian authors from across the political spectrum from Jim Wallis to Chuck Colson have written extensively on “world view.”

Most of these books were not written with the specific and singular purpose of small group guide, however, and I was not satisfied with the offerings that do exist for small groups that wanted to tackle the subjects related to politics and government. My problem wasn’t the ideological leanings of one author or another, but that small group guides didn’t even ask the right questions or explore the foundations of an individual’s political identity and how that connects with and ought to be influenced by Christian faith. There’s a sequence of subjects that ought to accompany serious conversations about politics, a sequence that begins with first principles and the recognition of inherited political identities, and a course of study that doesn’t begin from ideology but rather from the teachings of Christ.

Though denunciations of the “Religious Right” are as common on the left as denunciations of the radical politics of some of the left leaning “mainline” denominations are on the right, many Christians have simply given up on the idea of a generalized Christian approach to politics. Many pastors and priests rarely if ever touch on political issues from the pulpit, and small groups rarely if ever dive into a study on the subject. For many devout and earnest Christians, politics is too ugly, bitter and brutal, and they would rather focus on missions or evangelization or one of many other important areas of church life and put politics in a corner with the other unpleasant jobs left to others.

I think this general retreat from thinking about a Christian’s obligation as a citizen in a free society is a terrible development for the country and for the world. It is also an abandonment of at least a big part of a Christian’s life. No part of life is divorced from faith in Christ, and thus politics and government ought very much to be on the minds of every Christian, and not just at election time. The command to “render unto Caesar” wasn’t just about taxes.

Thus this book. It is straightforward and not partisan, though I suspect some will disagree with that assessment. It is not an argument about how you should think and act on particular issues, but a series of short chapters that seek to set up weekly conversations on the most important topics in the public square, from preemptive war to immigration policy. It is written so that anyone with a high school education can read it, and the suggested approach to the weekly discussions builds on the model common to small groups across the land. I also wrote it with a two decades of experience in a variety of small groups, most of which were marked by hurried reading on the night before the group met. The chapters are thus short. The book anticipates 26 meetings.

As it is not intended to be read straight through, I don’t expect any comprehensive reviews any earlier than next spring, though I welcome any comments from any reader who belongs to a group that takes up the project. If there is an audience for this approach, I will follow with a second book on a second series of issues, but half a year seemed like commitment enough.

Please let me know if you start the project, and a little bit of background on your group and why you decided to dive in. We live in challenging times, and if even a handful of readers find this useful, it will have been well worth the effort.

Comments

13 Responses to ““The Good and Faithful Servant: A Small Group Guide on Politics and Government for Christians””
  1. Carolyn Strong says:

    The Good and Faithful Servant sounds like something I would really love for a class…grounded Biblically, and would spur everyone to vote, speak-up, write letters, teach… I’m in a small group on Sunday evenings (Focus on the Family, Truth Project) and have found a lot of these religious study books explore the nature of God, why we believe, but wander all over the map forming important sounding themes and made-up phrases of religiousity so everyone goes away thinking they did something, but there’s no change of course. Belief should translate into action. So, I will recommend your book for the next class project and see if they’ll accept it.

    • Hugh Hewitt says:

      Thanks Carolyn. I am not familiar with The Truth Project, but will try and find the materials to review. I appreciate your willingness to recommend the book.

  2. Ken Mann says:

    I believe this is related… enough. In part in response to Hugh’s urging I started giving to candidates during the last election cycle. I’ve donated to a few specific candidates this year (Tarkanian, Lucero, Hoffman). After watching most of the C-Span In Depth program, I was tempted to send money to the national committees. Then the idiocy of the national committee’s backing Scozzafava in the NY special election. This isn’t the first time the national committees have weighed into primaries to back a liberal. I am willing to continue to donate to specific candidates, but how can I give money to organizations that waver from incompetence to outright hostility to conservatives?
    As a Christian I am concerned about the specifically religious groups that I support (STR, Reasons To Believe) and I struggle with the “balance” (if that is the right word) between political activism and giving to groups that are doing God’s work.

  3. Mary Griswold says:

    I already have the go-ahead from my Pastor to use the book in a book study group. I just have to order the book and read it! I blog at rightwinggranny.com and tend to be a political junkie. I look forward to doing the book study as a way to show non political junkies the need to be aware of what is going on around them and to remind all of us what our responsibilities as Christians are. I go to a Foursquare Church in southeastern Massachusetts. It should be a group of less than ten people. I plan to start the study after Christmas as our church is doing an Alpha Course right now.

  4. Justin Flavin says:

    You aren’t the only person writing about this area Hugh – there’s a well established, and well written English blog on this:
    “Archbishop Cranmer”

    http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/

    Well worth dipping into for a perspective on this topic from an Protestant English point of view.

  5. Justin Flavin says:

    “I think this general retreat from thinking about a Christian’s obligation as a citizen in a free society is a terrible development for the country and for the world. It is also an abandonment of at least a big part of a Christian’s life. No part of life is divorced from faith in Christ, and thus politics and government ought very much to be on the minds of every Christian, and not just at election time. The command to “render unto Caesar” wasn’t just about taxes.”

    as an atheist, i totally agree. for too long the admirable idea of “separation of church and state” has been an excuse for militant atheists to exclude christianity from the public sphere. “ooh look – they are the Taliban…” or something similar – which is ridiculous.

    there are many many issues which christianity can give the rest of us advice on – such as the morality of human cloning, or the morality of CCTV cameras, or the morality of warfare.

    to exclude these viewpoints because of militant “church/state separation” activism is actually demeaning to society. we need a variety of opinions – that is precisely what a free society is all about.

  6. Lee Rodgers says:

    Hugh,
    I pre-ordered the book a while back and am eagerly looking forward to using it with our Sunday school class. We are members of a relatively typical Episcopal church which has been drifting, in part, due to the lack of leadership of the Episcopy. The Church is wandering in the desert, IMHO.

    For example, last week we had a discussion based on a taped sermon by a Bishop from CA titled, “10 minutes to Save the World.” As the title suggests, it was full of all the scaremongering garbage you would expect. Add to that, this bishop spoke from his Native-American roots to tell us that Mother Earth was crying out for “Environmental Justice.” He claimed that he was a prophet and that if we didn’t act NOW, there would be droughts and famine and plagues and war and other really bad stuff.

    I started what proved to be a vigorous discussion with the question, “is this guy a Christian? He seems to be all for Gaia but not for Yahweh.” This, as you can imagine, brought the Greenies out.

    That is all to say – we are very much looking forward to your book. Best wishes for great sales.

    Lee

  7. Lavaux says:

    Is there anything in the Good and Faithful Servant about the nature of truth and how this lends to one’s approach to political issues? As a professional advocate I’m skeptical of the advocates of any political claim because I know they’re usually representing veiled interests (e.g. the AMA advocates in favor of ObamaCare as did the insurance industry before the PWC report). But we Christians can’t hide our light under a bushel, and let God be true and every man a liar. Therefore, a Christian analysis of political issues must proceed from revealed principles supported and advanced by sound reason rather than the promise of favorable outcomes (e.g. Jesus healed the poor and ObamaCare wants to do the same thing; therefore Jesus would support ObamaCare). Which approach does the Good and Faithful Servant take?

  8. Matthew Tynan says:

    In Denver a buddy started a “Benedict and Beers” group to study a variety of Catholic teachings and drink a couple beers.The group meets every few weeks and members take turns presenting material. We are in the early stages of Archbishop Chaput’s book “Render Unto Caesar” discussing two to three chapters per meeting. Nobody is keeping track of the number of beers consumed per session however moderation seems to dictate.

    Here’s a link to the good Archbishop’s comments in “First Things” where he discusses the current hostility of government towards the charitable works of religious institutions. http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/10/a-charitable-endeavor

    I am going to suggest our group read and discuss “Good and Faithfull Servant” and change names to “Hewitt and Hops” if only for an interim period.

  9. Jennifer Sklepko says:

    I love my church for many reasons. I ran into the “we don’t discuss politics in God’s house” when I wanted to bring the Parental Rights Admendent up for a discussion. The assistant pastor clearly stated that “politics” and church don’t mix. I have not given up hope and will order the book and see if I can work the conversation in that way. I believe that our church leadership already have many fires each week to put out over sermons and worship music and political discussions, not properly facilitated, would be another area of disagreement to be mediated regularily. We have a ethnically, culturally, racially and age varied church. The rule of thumb that you can’t please everyone all of the time is the natural course of events.

  10. Chris Thomas says:

    Hugh,

    I sort of resent the Democrat Party and their discussion of the separation of Church and State. When can someone ask for the STATE to get out of the work that could be done by the Church? (welfare, care for the elderly, feed the homeless) These should not be entitlement programs or state run. If they would return tax dollars support would return to the churches where lives can be changed.

    • Mary Griswold says:

      We just finished week 9 of our group study of The Good and Faithful Servant. After week 10, we will take a break until September. There are seven people in the group, and it has been fantastic. The discussions begin with the book and can go anywhere! We are part of a Foursaquare Church in Massachusetts, so we tend to be conservative to begin with, but the discussions do get lively. One member of the group is a total history buff; I am leading the group and write a political blog at rightwinggranny.com, so there is some historical and political perspective in the discussions. We may meet occasionally during the summer just for the discussions! (Generally speaking, in New England God goes on vacation for the summer). I am looking forward to the fall!

  11. philorida says:

    This has been an intriguing topic, and one I have wondered about since I was a teen in the 70′s, being raised in an Evangelical and proactively Conservative home. Having come from Canada, where most of my Christian relatives and friends are at best passive about politics, at worst, socialistic (compassion as the rationale), we were an enigma in comparison.
    My big concern is what is going on in many Evangelical mega-churches (including one I attended in the Orlando area for 15 years), in a incremental shift to the Left. And, now that Soros is involved in funding “Progressive” evangelical groups (led by Cizik and Jim Wallis), I see a much more systemic weakening of our core principles, and a push towards secular socialism (i.e. social justice). I hate to say it, but, I believe we have many pastors who believe Marxism is more scriptural than Capitalism.

Important Links
Lileks Private reserve
Duanes World
Hugh Hewitt Store
  • RSS Hugh Hewitt Blog

    • David Perdue for U.S. Senate In Georgia July 23, 2014
      Breaking my vacation routine to comment on the Georgia Senate race. I supported Jack Kingston from the start of this race. I’ve known him a long time and he’s a good man. But he came up short yesterday, and that means I am all for David Perdue now. It is vital that the GOP hold this seat if the effort to recover the Senate from Harry Reid is to be successful […]
    • The 2016 GOP Field, Romney, and The Western Conservative Summit July 21, 2014
      I left Denver Saturday night for vacation, after attending and speaking to/teaching for the Western Conservative Summit 2016 and the Young Conservative Leadership Summit. I was especially encouraged by the impressive turnout –3,500 Saturday night– for what has become the “CPAC of the Summer in the Rockies,” and by the quality of the 120 16-20 year olds I spe […]