Public Faith in Action

How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity

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Celebrated Theologian Offers Wisdom for Civic Engagement

Christian citizens have a responsibility to make political and ethical judgments in light of their faith and to participate in the public lives of their communities--from their local neighborhoods to the national scene. But even in countries where Christians are free to engage in public life, it can be difficult to discern who to vote for, which policies to support, and how to respond to the social and cultural trends of our time.

In this nonpartisan handbook, world-renowned theologian Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz explain that Christians need to develop habits of wise reflection if they are to engage faithfully with their political communities. To do so, they need to identify the key commitments of their faith that connect with contemporary public issues, understand the roots of those commitments, and learn what sorts of questions to ask when applying those values to the concrete realities of their contexts.

Following Volf's successful A Public Faith, this book offers Christians practical guidance for thinking through complicated public issues and faithfully following Jesus as citizens of their countries. Public Faith in Action focuses on enduring Christian commitments that should guide readers in their judgments--not only for the next election, but beyond--and encourages legitimate debate among Christians over how to live out core values. The book also includes lists of resources for further reflection in each chapter and "room for debate" questions to consider.

Contents

Introduction
Part 1: Commitments
1. Christ the Center and Norm
2. Christ, the Spirit, and Flourishing
3. Reading in Contexts
Part 2: Convictions
4. Wealth
5. The Environment
6. Education
7. Work and Rest
8. Poverty
9. Borrowing and Lending
10. Marriage and Family
11. New Life
12. Health and Sickness
13. Aging Life
14. Ending Life
15. Migration
16. Policing
17. Punishment
18. War
19. Torture
20. Freedom of Religion (and Irreligion)
Part 3: Character
21. Courage
22. Humility
23. Justice
24. Respect
25. Compassion
Afterword
Index


Endorsements

"A concise, readable, theologically informed guide for Christian political engagement, this book deftly integrates relevant biblical principles and contemporary data, summarizes the key issues at stake, and points to important additional reading. An excellent contribution to the rapidly growing body of work on how Christians can engage politics in a faithful way."

Ron Sider, president emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action

"The question isn't whether you'll live out a public faith but how. In this wise, measured, and refreshingly concrete discussion, Volf and McAnnally-Linz encourage Christians to be active, thoughtful contributors to the 'life together' that is society. The book is unapologetically convicted, but it makes room for the global realities that demand different responses and creates space for Christians to come to different prudential conclusions. Here is an antidote to polarization."

James K. A. Smith, Calvin College; author of You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit; editor of Comment magazine

"Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz's volume achieves its aims: opening up a series of serious questions that are a matter of public debate in a pluralistic society, while exhorting Christians to responsibly explore the answers through the lens of faith."

Stephanie Summers, CEO, Center for Public Justice

"The world needs our active Christian faith more now, perhaps, than ever. Public Faith in Action provides a deeply thoughtful model for how we as Christians might work out our faith for the glory of God and the flourishing of communities and people. One needn't agree with every application here in order to be instructed, challenged, and inspired by this call to commitment, conviction, and character as we strive to serve a suffering world faithfully and well."

Karen Swallow Prior, author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More--Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist


The Authors

  1. Miroslav Volf

    Miroslav Volf

    Miroslav Volf (DrTheol, University of Tübingen) is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School and founding director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture in New Haven, Connecticut. He has written more than fifteen...

    Continue reading about Miroslav Volf

  2. Ryan McAnnally-Linz

    Ryan McAnnally-Linz

    Ryan McAnnally-Linz (PhD, Yale University) is an associate research scholar at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. In addition to his scholarly writings, he has coauthored articles with Miroslav Volf for Sojourners, The Christian Century, and...

    Continue reading about Ryan McAnnally-Linz

Reviews

Named One of the Best Religion Books of 2016 by Publishers Weekly

"Mixing faith and politics can be tricky, but [the authors] have assembled a helpful, concisely written guide to help Christians through this election season. Working on the premise that Christian faith must naturally spill over into public discussion, they offer insight into making informed decisions around candidates and political issues. Aptly subtitled, the book asks readers to consider issues from a biblical perspective and then to take action in a courageous but respectful and humble manner, working to influence society while representing Christ well. Political hot potatoes such as immigration, debt, same-sex marriage, abortion, and affordable health care are explored. The authors draw conclusions without pushing an agenda and suggest that moral issues don't always have to trump the law. . . . For readers who don't agree with their conclusions, they offer 'Room for Debate' sections with questions for reflection as well as additional resources for deeper study. . . . A must-read for anyone contemplating debating the issues during this election cycle."

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The tone of the volume is reasonable and non-accusatory. The authors have succeeded in presenting their case in a way that is inoffensive and engages the big ideas in culture without demeaning people that do not hold the same positions. The style of communication is exemplary for real public discourse. . . . This book is to be commended for seeking to diagnose and respond to central questions related to significant public concerns. . . . Another strength of the volume is that it works from the understanding that the Christian worldview touches every aspect of life. . . . This book is worth reading and sharing. Although some of their conclusions are debatable, the general approach to each topic is exemplary. . . . It is a worthwhile example of faithful engagement of important issues in a non-contentious manner."

Andrew Spencer,

Ethics and Culture blog

"I commend Public Faith in Action first of all because for many of us, a wide-ranging inventory of our political convictions is long overdue. . . . There will be parts of this book you won't like. There will be conclusions you don't agree with. But in my reading of it, even in the spots where I disagree with them, the authors never come across as glib or smug. They refuse to take potshots. That this is the case is a testament to the sincerity of their stated goal for the whole project: 'not to end a conversation but to enrich it, not to achieve passive submission but to invite critical discussion.'. . . When all the news stories and friends' posts we see serve to confirm our hunches and beliefs, our biases and fears, we lose sight of the fact that the sincerely-held views of many millions of our neighbors--and, quite possibly, crucial aspects of the truth--lie outside of our narrow feeds. That's why a book like Public Faith in Action will make a lot of us uncomfortable--and why it's so important for our individual and collective civic life."

Tim Hoiland,

timhoiland.com (blog)


Resources