How the Nations Rage by Jonathan Leeman
In my assessment, Jonathan Leeman’s, How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age, winsomely builds common ground for both left and right wing Christians to find shelter on. His goal in the book is fourfold, to help the reader: 1) rethink faith and politics, 2) invest political hopes firstly in the Church, 3) learn to be before we do, and 4) Prepare for the Battle and for the nations to continue raging. Overall, I think he accomplished these four goals, but some of the points are made more explicit than others in the book; keep reading to see what I mean.
What I Liked
Right off the bat, I can tell you that the most helpful point in this book is the clarification of a common misconception among Christians and seculars alike. That is the separation of Church and state. The misunderstanding goes something like this, “You can’t impose your beliefs on me because our country practices separation of church and state. You must respect that separation.” Leeman rightly confronts this thought with concision, the separation of church and state is not a matter of politics and religion, rather it is a matter of legislation, authority, and jurisdiction. The separation of Church and State is not the separation of religion and politics, because it is impossible to separate religion from politics. This might seem like a semantical argument, but it’s essential. Everything we do from marriage, to work, to politics is both political and religious. We bring reasoning, arguments, structure, and deeply rooted religious beliefs in every aspect of our lives; politics is no exception to this reality. To summarize, the misunderstanding is that big “G” “Gods” are not welcome in politics, but little “g” “gods” (i.e., self) are more than welcome. Leeman expands on this point throughout the book.
There are two sides to my consideration. On the one hand, Leeman doesn’t give as much time to the difficult political questions that I personally find myself wrestling with, while on the other hand, I know addressing political hobby horses wasn’t Leeman’s intention. He takes a different perspective, a higher road you might say. The point he drives is not how to think, but what it looks like to be a Christian who engages in politics.
I bring this point up in my review because I know each reader will come to this book with their own political beef that they want Leeman to rail on. Honestly, he doesn’t do that in this book, but I think his content accomplishes a higher purpose that will serve us as a church long-term.
At the root of this book, Leeman is challenging us to find our first allegiance to Christ. We are not first and foremost citizens of the United States of America, instead, we are citizens of God’s Kingdom, first. This citizenship is affirmed and governed by the jurisdiction of the local church, and Christ is the head of that church. Leeman gently asks us to reconsider the grip we have on our political views and generously engage with Christians on the other side of the ballot.
This is the kind of book that I will promote, especially in light of our politically charged times. Along with his political wisdom, at the end of the day, Leeman encourages Christians to trust in Christ, His sacrifice, His kingship, His reign, and His second coming. This is just the message we need.
Reviewed by Thomas Anderson
Recommended by Thomas Anderson and Luke Gorsett