When it comes to evangelicals, no two subjects draw a media crowd more easily than their relationship to politics and voting and the future of the movement.
Both themes collide in the latest offering from young evangelical spokesman Jonathan Merritt, A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars (FaithWords). Merritt self-consciously assumes the position of a representative voice of the new trend among evangelicals, heralding the dawn of a new era of evangelical public engagement. Throughout the book, Merritt manages to be simultaneously observational and prescriptive: "Today's Christians are … " is the recurring formula, with the implication that yesterday's Christians are now yesterday's news.
Of course, Merritt is better positioned than most to make the claim. As the son of James Merritt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Jonathan had a front row seat on conservative Christian politics—and in A Faith of Our Own, he makes full use of it. Merritt describes meeting Jerry Falwell, among others, and manages to cast him in a respectful if critical light.
As to what distinguishes "today's Christians," Merritt's message is an optimistic one, even if not particularly unique. Merritt suggests that today's Christians "believe we can call a truce in the culture wars while remaining faithful to Christ." Merritt's solution is a de-partisanized Christianity that remains politically active and a broadened political agenda that remains dubious about the trappings and temptations of political power that ensnared the culture war generation of Christians.
More than anything, A Faith of Our Own is indispensable for understanding how millennial evangelicals understand their own heritage and their place ...