Monday, February 4, 2019
Letters to an American Christian- Bruce Riley Ashford
Description: What does it mean to be an American Christian?
In Letters to an American Christian, Bruce Riley Ashford, author of One Nation Under God, addresses overarching issues of the relationship of Christianity and politics, speaks to the way historic Christian belief informs specific hot-button political issues, and challenges readers to take seriously both our heavenly and earthly citizenships. Written as a series of letters to "Christian"—a young college student who is a new believer—Letters to an American Christian will help every reader think carefully about how Christianity informs what it means to be an American.
In the midst of a rapidly changing national and political landscape, Letters to an American Christian reminds us of two important truths: we cannot afford to shrink away from our earthly citizenship, and we cannot afford to lose sight of our heavenly citizenship.
My Thoughts: This is one of those books where my opinion of it seems to have scattered across the board. In some ways, I would recommend, while others would cause me to hesitate in offering it to someone. The most important area of this is is the content of the book itself.
Personally, I agree with most of the points or stances that Ashford takes. And I appreciated that he had the guts to call out some aspects of right wing politics that venture into the realm of idolatry, though he does have more to say on issues of liberal politics. Yet, I also found certain arguments weak or else completely Americanized, with little scriptural backing (not that there IS no scriptural backing, but that he did not point to any).
However, I think what might have hindered Ashford's message was the delivery. While the narrative implies that "Christian" is a real person, none of his letters are included. And while many of Ashford's explanations are necessary for those without a political bent, they seem to explain things that someone heavily invested in politics (as Christian is) would already know. Especially since the tone of the letters reads less like something one would write to an acquaintance and more like an essay written to a larger audience.
Because this book reads more for a large audience than an individual, it actually loses its ability to make strong cases for or against certain opinions. Each topic discussed could have gone further into depth, with more real life examples, but instead the letters only grazed the surface as numerous pages were devoted to explaining things which did not need to be explained or else repeating stories from "Christian's" letters (which should be unnecessary if Christian is real and already knows what it was that he wrote).
Ultimately, I do believe that the book could offer some moral challenge, particularly to those who fall in the trap of idolizing the government instead of trusting in God. However, I do not believe that it will be overly effective in convincing anyone to change their opinions or actions, only strengthen the stance of those who already agree with Ashford's position.
I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of the book from the publisher.