SUMMARY: Hope in Jesus. Trust in Jesus. Most Christians would unequivocally agree that those two statements are an important part of being a Christ follower. Therefore it is sobering that a large part of Scandalous Witness takes aim at patriotism being conflated as a Christian orthodox principle.
“The hope of the world is not dependent on any geographically bounded nation-state, not dependent on any king or prime minister, any congress or supreme court,” author Lee Camp writes. “It is dependent on a God who has revealed the ways of suffering love, vindicated in the resurrection, and now calling together a people not bounded by geographical boundaries, a people who will sow the seeds of such hope and possibility into the rich soil of human possibilities.”
Scandalous Witness consists of a collection of fifteen treatises, ranging from 6-13 pages, starting with a summary where Lee states what he is going to argue and finishing with a exposition where he explains his reasoning to back up his summary. Throughout the book Camp calls Christians to live proleptically (“a grammatical term in which a future event is so sure to come, so sure to be the case, that it is spoken of in the present tense”) in hopes of changing the nature of Christian witness in America.
Practically, this means living in the world with hope and purpose because as Christians we know the meaning, direction, and end of history. God’s kingdom has broke into the world. We are called to help and advocate for the poor and the vulnerable. We are called to be political, but never partisan.
“To live by faith, to live proleptically, entails risking that resurrection and life have broken into human history, captivity taken captive by this man upon the cross, and that we are thus free to live accordingly, by love and mercy and graciousness ourselves,” Camp says.
His honest, direct, and sometimes provocative language, repeatedly condemns the American church’s obsession with power and nationalism while calling on the church to be “neither right nor left nor religious.”
“When we reduce the political possibilities for the Christian church to being either a liberal liberal or a conservative liberal, we’ve bought hook, line, and sinker into the rhetoric that gives us a bastardized form of Christian hope,” Lee writes.
Scandalous Witness is a great book to have as a reference for political engagement, especially in regards to nationalism, but also for information on why the church must be separate and distinct from a nation-state. Team this up with Compassion (&) Conviction by Justin Giboney and you have a solid foundation to build a Christian framework for political participation.
KEY QUOTE: “(The church) will be neither prostitute or chaplain but a witness, a voice crying in the wilderness to ‘let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an overflowing stream’; a people, embodying an alternative politic in the world, neither Republican nor Democrat, but radically conservative and outrageously liberal; a servant, helping all, even, when possible, the principalities and powers to fulfill their created purpose of serving, not enslaving, not slaughtering humankind.”
BONUS: Don’t have time to read the book or want to know more? Listen to Lee Camp discuss his book on the Unbinding the Bible podcast.
BONUS II: Sign up for Camp’s newsletter at his website to get a PDF of his 15 propositions.
DID YOU KNOW? Sunday to Saturday has a Good Reads page where we post all of the books we have read – even the ones that didn’t make the cut.
More curated books on politics:
How did the Republican party and white evangelicals become synonymous? Has abortion always been the focus of the Republican party and white evangelicals? In a tight, accessible 100 pages, author Randall Balmer traces the roots of the Religious Right and its wedding to the Republican party from the 1830s through the 1970s and then links the movement to its current iteration in the 21st century.Read more
Pantsuit Politics Podcast co-hosts and lawyers Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers have over 525 episodes and five years of experience talking about controversial issues. In I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) the duo distills the lessons they’ve learned from the podcast into ten rules for Christians to guide them as they discuss politics. From advocating for talking about politics, to getting curious about other people’s views, to being comfortable with nuance and paradox, Holland and Silvers provide practical ways to breakout of political divisiveness and engage in conversations with grace and nuance.Read more