If you’d like to know what Anglican Compass’s values of “clarity & charity” could look like in the public sphere, this book from The AND Campaign is a brief yet surprisingly broad and practical guide.
Here at Anglican Compass, we’re all about “clarity & charity.”
- Clarity: We’re committed to maintaining Christian orthodoxy (including a traditional sexual ethic) and communicating as clearly as possible.
- Charity: We’re committed to loving others well (even/especially when we disagree with them) and only engaging with the strongest versions of their arguments.
In biblical terms, we’re trying our best to “speak the truth in love” (see Eph. 4:15).
Now, it’s one thing to pursue those values when it comes to discussing the Anglican tradition itself, but what do clarity and charity look like in the public sphere?
Compassion & Conviction
Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, and Chris Butler of The AND Campaign have put together a brief yet surprisingly broad and practical guide to Christian civic engagement. The stated goal of Compassion (&) Conviction: The AND Campaign’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement is “to help believers engage the civic space as faithful Christians and informed citizens” (p. 3).
I believe that this book successfully achieves its aim. And, with the 2020 election coming up in the USA, it’s a particularly timely book!
Compassion (&) Conviction is broken up into eight separate chapters (+ a “closing exhortation”), each of which covers a different facet of civic engagement. There are discussion questions and group exercises for each chapter at the end of the book, making this an ideal resource for a small group to use. Here are the chapters:
- Christians (&) Politics
- Church (&) State
- Compassion (&) Conviction
- Partnerships (&) Partisanship
- Messaging (&) Rhetoric
- Politics (&) Race
- Advocacy (&) Protest
- Civility (&) Political Culture
Christians & Politics
Chapter one (“Christians & Politics”) contains an argument for Christian participation in politics, built on the “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:16–20), the “Great Commandment” (Matt. 22:37–40), and the “Great Requirement” (Micah 6:8). While Christians shouldn’t engage in politics merely to win self-interested battles, we should engage in politics in order to love our neighbors and represent Christ well. Chapter one also contains some helpful biblical and historical examples of political engagement, from Daniel to Dorothy Day.
Church & State
In chapter two (“Church & State”), the authors argue that we Christians need to increase our civic literacy in order to be good stewards of our civic responsibilities and opportunities. If, like me, you could use a civics refresher, there’s a helpful overview of the basics of U.S. government, as well as the relationship between church and state. John Inazu’s work on “confident pluralism” gets mentioned in this chapter, which reminds me that Compassion (&) Conviction pairs extremely well with the book that Inazu and Tim Keller edited, Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference (click here to read my review of Uncommon Ground).
Compassion & Conviction: The Framework of Social Justice & Moral Order
Chapter three (“Compassion & Conviction”) is devoted to the basic biblical framework of The AND Campaign: social justice and moral order. While the authors readily acknowledge that “there is no single Christian policy or political plan,” they insist that the goal is “to have all Christians think Christianly about politics” (p. 38). Unfortunately, at least in the USA, Christians are presented with a false dichotomy: a political system that “separates love from truth, compassion from conviction, and social justice from moral order as if they’re somehow at odds with one another.
“Here’s how these competing narratives usually play out: those on the right side of the political spectrum say they stand for individual freedom, patriotism, and moral order; the left, on the other hand, claims to stand for justice, equality, and inclusion. Conservatives say progressives are immoral because of their positions on abortion, religious liberty, and the like. Progressives say conservatives are bigoted and lack compassion when it comes to poverty, race, and gender. Both sides have become less tolerant of differing viewpoints and often stamp out candidates and advocates with a more nuanced or moderate perspective” (p. 39).
If you’re frustrated by this current state of affairs, then this book and the work of The AND Campaign are for you. The authors insist that feeling this frustration is not a bad thing. Instead, “the bigger problem is when Christians are unaware or unbothered by the faults on the side they prefer” (p. 40). Convinced that Christians must do better to avoid this kind of political and partisan indoctrination, the authors sympathetically critique both conservatism and progressivism as they set forth a biblical framework based on “speaking the truth in love” (see Eph. 4:14–16).
This chapter’s group exercise, a “Crux Session,” deserves special mention (see pp. 135–37). A facilitator brings up a social or political issue before either asking a participant “Where’s the love?” or telling them to “Kick the truth.” After responding with a biblical/theological assessment, other participants can either say “Amen” (and defend/elaborate) or “Hold up” (and critique or add nuance). Dialogue must be civil, avoiding both hypersensitivity and the use of buzzwords or catchphrases. I bring up this exercise because I hope that it catches on to guide Christian political discussions in churches and households!
Partnerships & Partisanship
In chapter four (“Partnerships & Partisanship”), the authors examine the difficulties involved in partnering with others, including political parties, while avoiding partisan and ideological indoctrination. In their words, “it’s intellectually lazy to agree with Democrats or Republicans on every single issue. That’s a clear indication that we’ve been indoctrinated, which is never an option for Christians” (p. 73).
Instead, if we Christians are going to be able to critique our own political preferences, we need to do a better job of catechesis and discipleship so that we can be confident in our identity in Christ. Ephesians 4:14, the verse immediately preceding “speaking the truth in love,” comes to mind here: “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.”
As a helpful exercise in avoiding political indoctrination, the authors recommend picking
“at least one issue where you know many Christians disagree with you and commit to earnestly learning why they believe what they believe and consider it. The worst that can happen is that you will better understand your brothers and sisters who disagree with you. And maybe you’ll learn something that will sharpen or even change your opinion” (p. 67).
Before moving on, let me just say that my biggest “quibble” with this book is that “it won’t address whether or not third parties are desirable or viable” (pp. 61–62). I really wish that the authors had engaged this important question.
Messaging & Rhetoric
In chapter five (“Messaging & Rhetoric”), the authors remind us that words matter (just read the book of Proverbs!). Christians should be known as quality communicators, avoiding the temptation to reduce and oversimplify debate down to buzzwords, talking points, and cheap rhetorical victories. There is some very good advice for communicators on pages 80–81. We shouldn’t rely on mere rhetoric, nor should we be duped by politicians who merely say what we want to hear.
Politics & Race
Chapter six is devoted to “Politics & Race.” The American church needs to come to terms with its history of racism in order effectively to pursue racial reconciliation (see Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise for a historical overview). We must be clear on the biblical and theological reasons for pursuing racial reconciliation, avoiding the cheap substitute of “colorblind ideology.” Identity politics is deeply flawed, yes, but it is not completely inaccurate, given the history of racial discrimination in the USA. The authors give some excellent questions to ask to tell the difference between a coalition and a mob on page 102 (including: “Am I allowed to ask questions?” “Is the group acting out of love for our neighbors?” “Do we listen and respond to people who disagree?”). They also outline four steps to racial reconciliation (Awareness, Relationships, Advocacy, and Active Reconciliation) on pages 103–4.
Advocacy & Protest
In chapter seven, the authors address “Advocacy & Protest,” both of which can be useful political tools. Christians should be known for their passion for truth and their love for the common good of their neighbors. We should put the needs of others above our own. Given our representative democracy, “Romans 13:1 is not an injunction against protest and advocacy, but a mandate for it” (p. 110). The authors provide biblical examples of advocacy and protest before urging us to be strategic in how we advocate and protest, so that we don’t waste valuable time and money.
Civility & Political Culture
Finally, in chapter eight, the authors address “Civility & Political Culture.” Without backing down from the truth, Christians should cultivate civility in political discourse and hold politicians accountable to that standard. We shouldn’t use an appeal to “civility” to escape frank conversations, but we Christians should be known for
- giving our opponents the benefit of the doubt,
- affirming points of agreement whenever possible, and
- serving others instead of selfishly grabbing power for ourselves.
My Closing Exhortation: Read This Book!
If you’re a Christian in the United States of America, please turn off FOX News, MSNBC, CNN, etc. Read this book and take its framework to heart.
Imagine the good that could come for the Church and for our country if this kind of Christian thinking about politics took off! Instead of Christians merely parroting the fear-driven ideological talking points of their political parties, picture brothers and sisters in Christ coming together across political persuasions to call our elected leaders on the Right and the Left to something better.
In 2020, we need clarity & charity more than ever. In these difficult days, Christians should step up and lead for the sake of the Church and the world. To that end, I heartily recommend Compassion (&) Conviction and the work of The AND Campaign.