How Reclaiming Hope Led to The Spirit of Our Politics
I have been thinking for months now about how I would share with you about my new book, The Spirit of Our Politics: Spiritual Formation and the Renovation of Public Life (published January 23, 2024). I do want to promote the book, I believe in it and I believe it will help whoever reads it, but I don’t want to *just* promote it here because that can be boring and a bit of a drag for all of us.
Here’s where I’ve landed: over the next few months, I’m going to write several posts here describing how this book developed, and why I wrote it. These essays will not amount to a list of reasons why you should read the new book, but something of a history and restatement of my core convictions that led to this book.
The best way I could start describing the development of The Spirit of Our Politics is to share about my first book, Reclaiming Hope.
I had two main aims with Reclaiming Hope. First, through an honest account of what I saw working in politics, I wanted to promote humility about one’s own political views and a rightly-grounded hope as integral to a Christian’s politics. Idolatry is the opposite of this. Idolatry entails misplaced hope and hubris regarding one’s own rightness. Ignorance is often the same way. Yet, because of this combination of misplaced hope and hubris, Christians were missing opportunities to serve the public and promote the common good, and they were undermining their own witness.
Second, Reclaiming Hope was a work of cross-cultural, cross-party communication. I wanted to help Democrats understand conservative evangelicals—that they had rational, genuine critiques of Democrats that shouldn’t just be dismissed or ignored—and also to help conservative Christians understand Democrats. This was not because I thought, or even wanted, Democrats and conservative evangelicals to agree on everything. What I was concerned about was the conflation of the faith with a particular brand of politics. I was concerned that the assumption that the Republican Party was God’s Party had led, and would continue to lead, to poor and harmful political decisionmaking. If Democrats posed an existential threat, as many evangelical leaders and pundits suggested they did, what couldn’t be justified in the name of defeating them? The relevance of this dynamic would become more apparent to many by the time Reclaiming Hope published in January 2017 and in the years that followed.
Reclaiming Hope was a book of personal narrative and storytelling much more than it was a book of ideas. I wanted to give readers the space to come to their own conclusions, and to perhaps be uncomfortable with any politically dogmatic conclusion. The book concludes with a chapter that lifts up the importance of rightly-grounded hope and humility, and is clear that these things do not come from nowhere, they must be resourced, but the book is very much not a “what do we do now” kind of book. I wanted the book to start conversations, and open up space.
The Spirit of Our Politics is different in that it is a book of ideas. It is a book that looks backward only to look forward, and it is ambitious in what it proposes. I think that now is the time to look forward, rather than endlessly dissect the failures of the past.
This book is one that will empower Christians with a vision of contribution, rather than some of the present alternatives I see of embattled belligerence or debilitating critique.
It is the book I was meant to write after Reclaiming Hope. In that book, I shared my experiences for us to sift through together. Now, with The Spirit of Our Politics, I’ll offer a new way of thinking about our faith and our politics that would transform our churches, our families and our faith. And it would radically transform our politics for the better.