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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: The Ballot and the Bible by Kaitlyn Schiess 
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As I was reading Kaitlyn Schiess's "The Ballot and the Bible," I found myself experiencing flashbacks of sorts to a lifetime of political engagement and looking at how my own relationship with politics and politicians has been impacted by scriptural language.

There's a lot to unpack in "The Ballot and the Bible," Schiess somehow creating a beautiful balance between deep research and witty, engaging writing. I found myself both incredibly informed and deeply engaged in "The Ballot and the Bible," a book that largely focuses on political history and the national political scene yet also a book that kept bringing me back to the very same issues within local politics.

In "The Ballot and the Bible," Schiess presents valuable questions - "How do Bible passages written thousands of years ago apply to politics today?" "How can we converse with people whose views differ from our own?" Schiess looks at how these things have happened and highlights when it's been applied well and when, sometimes it seems more often, it been misused and even abused.

Weaving together a tapestry of American political history and biblical interpretation, Schiess serves as something resembling a theological tour guide toward faithfully reading scripture, talking about it, and applying it to contemporary political issues personally and universally. While Schiess could have easily become prescriptive, she avoids this approach in favor of exploring common themes such as power, authority, allegiance, national identity, and much more.

While I only recently finished "The Ballot and the Bible," I find that I'm already looking at things through a different lens. I'm listening to political news differently. I'm watching political interviews differently. I'm listening to politicians differently. I'm examining my own political beliefs differently. I suppose you could say that "The Ballot and the Bible" provides both the history and the application for Christians, in particular, to be better equipped for engaging with politics and politicians. Schiess provides both the information and the inspiration for taking our fundamental beliefs and living into them in a way ensures our faith shapes our politics rather than our politics shaping our faith.

Whether talking about John Winthrop's "city on a hill," Obama's progressive and biblically rooted oratory skills, Eisenhower's Cold War Christianity, or Trump's unique relationship with evangelicals, Schiess digs deeper to bring out teachable moments for all of us.

I loved every page of "The Ballot and the Bible," a book that enlightened me, inspired me, challenged me, informed me, and equipped me while also encouraging me to confidently navigate political issues in a way that is more communal and less divisive.

Appropriate for a myriad of settings from Bible studies to seminary and beyond, "The Ballot and the Bible" should be required reading for any Christian before they set foot in the voting booth.

Yes, it's that important.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic