Book Review: Timothy D.Padgett, ed. Dual Citizens: Politics and American Evangelicalism

Padgett, Timothy D., Ed. Dual Citizens: Politics and American Evangelicalism. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2020. 489 pp.; Hb.  $28.99  Link to Lexham Press

This volume is a collection of essays on American politics drawn from the pages of Christianity Today. In 2015 The Washington Post called Christianity Today “evangelicalism’s flagship magazine.” Timothy Padgett sifted through sixty years of articles and editorials in Christianity Today to collect the essays in this volume.

Padgett, Dual CitizensThe material is divided into five topical chapters with essays arranged chronologically (as early as 1956 and as recent as 2016). Charles Colson (with and without Nancy Pearcey) is featured frequently, and there are articles from Ron Sider, Carl F. H. Henry, and Francis Schaeffer.

The first chapter focuses on U.S. Presidents. There are editorials on the Kennedy Assassination, Watergate, and the election of Ronald Reagan. Philip Yancey’s “Why Clinton is Not Antichrist” (August 1993) is still timely, just swap out Clinton for the current candidate for antichrist. The chapter concludes with three essays concerning the 2016 election, Ron Sider, “Why I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton” followed by James Dobson, “Why I’m Voting for Donald Trump” and Sho Baraku, “Why I’m Voting for Neither Candidate.”

The second chapter covers the “Religious Right and Evangelical Left.” The essays concentrate on the growing influence of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, including a three-views essay by Charles Colson, Jerry Falwell and Jim Wallis on “The Christian as Citizen.” Sadly, this chapter only includes essays up to 2007 so there is nothing on so-called evangelicals and the 2016 election.

The third chapter concerns “Communism and Foreign Policy.” It may seem odd today, but Christianity Today published an article by J. Edgar Hoover on “The Communist Menace” in 1960. Even Billy Graham participated in these anti-communist essays with “Facing the Anti-God Colossus” (1962). The chapter includes Charles Colson’s response to the collapse of the Soviet Union, “If Communism Fails, Do We Win?” (1989) and his defense of “Just War in Iraq” (2002).

The fourth turns back to “Domestic Affairs,” although this essentially means race relations and abortion. Beginning with Earle Ellis, “Segregation in the Kingdom of God” (1957), the book collects quite a few articles on desegregation and race relations. In an essay dated September 30, 1957, the editors say “The Christian church should work for the elimination of every restriction, discrimination and humiliation aimed at people of any race. She should preach and exemplify love and compassion and consideration at all times” (321). In an important essay, “Our Selective Rage.” Ron Sider points out that being pro-life means more than being anti-abortion, a message that has fallen upon deaf ears in recent years.

The last chapter, “God and Country,” deals with the relationship of the church and state. Even as early as 1957, evangelicals were writing articles with titles like “is America Losing Her Cultural Distinctives?” (S. Richey Kamm) and “America’s Future: Can We Salvage the Republic?” (Carl F. H. Henry). Terry Muck suggested in 1987 separating church and state does not require separating religion and politics “The Wall that Never Was” (454). In 2001, Charles Colson warned “poll-driven elections turn voters into self-seeking consumers” (“Pander Politics”), another message that would be good for contemporary Christian leaders to here.

Overall, this is a fascinating book which documents several important shifts within the evangelical world. There are a number of issues missing from this collection, such as homosexuality, feminism, and environmentalism, but this is the choice of the editor. Perhaps another volume will appear collecting articles on these topics. It would be fascinating to track the developing viewpoints within the larger evangelical world on these controversial topics.

It is sometimes shocking how conservative some of the early articles are compared to contemporary Evangelical thinking (the articles on communism for example). On the other hand, reading these essays draws attention to the dumbing-down of evangelical political thinking over the last decade (culminating in the last five years). This book serves well as documentation of the ongoing development of conservative Christianity in America.

Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

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