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Book Review: Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew? by Charles D. Drew

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The timing is excellent! The political temperature is slowly rising, and will likely boil over in November of this year. Already church leaders and congregations are voicing their own pronouncements as to how they think Jesus would vote, making the sound and fury louder and more furious. With great foresight, Charles D. Drew has stepped onto the scene, before the noise and passion become deafening, to make a solid attempt at cooling the temperature within the church with his recently published 167-page paperback, clearly titled, Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew?

The subtitle of Body Broken indeed expresses what the author is after, Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew? In an environment where many Christians and Christian leaders very nearly equate the kingdom of God with one political party or another, the real potential is for serious infighting and divisions to arise around the communion table. That places politics, politicians, and social agendas above the work of Christ. The other unfortunate consequence is that as a denomination or congregation aligns with any particular party, some of those in the pew will become disillusioned by the political failures of all parties, and thus become disenchanted with a church that is too tightly affiliated with the organization. Drew is very conscious of the fallout, and pursues a thoughtful approach that can bring healing to the rifts.

In the first two chapters the author faces the root problem behind most of the heat that rises in political disagreements and fights, pointing out that we are worshiping the wrong God. If we are panicked over the success of a particular politician or social agenda, then we have forgotten who is in control, and this misdirected worship will become inflammatory. The same can be said in the other direction, for if we place our hope or reliance on government policies and officials, then we have elevated human resources or elected representatives to a place that must be reserved for God alone.

Then Drew gives some good, corrective suggestions in the third chapter on how a church ought to pray politically. Christians must learn to pray humbly, recognizing that we lack the wisdom, the know-how or the power to fix things. Also, Christians need to pray broadly, remembering that God is neither American nor Asian; neither a Capitalist nor Marxist.

Next, Drew moves into chapter four, explaining what Scripture means by designating Christians as “Sojourners and pilgrims.” The crucial point of this chapter is that as Christians, we must remember that we have a sociopolitical identity that is beyond and above any national or party coalition we may side with. Reclaiming and being reclaimed by this reality changes and lessens the ultimacy of the present agenda we may personally espouse.

The author, in chapters five, six, and seven, unpacks Jesus’ directive to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. Drew begins by rehearsing the notion that as Christians we have a double allegiance, the ultimate to the reign of Christ, and the penultimate to our nation. But our one-off commitment is neither blind nor idealistic. After this he focuses on what it means to give to Caesar, and finally examines what it means to give to God.

Finally, in the last two chapters of Body Broken Drew tackles various approaches for encouraging social and political change without necessarily turning the heat up. There are five tracks he posits, filled with examples, considerate ideas, and a few surprises. The value of these two chapters will quickly become obvious to the caring and serious reader.

One of the ways that Body Broken will be useful is that each chapter concludes with a series of “Making It Personal” questions. The questions will be beneficial for individual, group, or congregational readings of the book. These urge the reader to remember what they have read and then to think through ways the principles can be fleshed out in their situation.

Body Broken by Charles D. Drew is a readable book that presents a wholesome approach to national politics and social issues within the Christian Church. The author’s carefully reasoned method will guide the Christian reader to a more sensible, levelheaded manner, and can help churches stay focused on the real issues without compromising convictions. I highly recommend the book.

(Reviewed by Rev. Dr. Michael Philliber for Reader Views)

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About Rev. Dr. Michael Philliber