Bruce Ashford models a refreshingly amiable approach. But perhaps he could have used a little more fire and brimstone.
For those Americans who think of themselves as residing within the conservative Christian orbit, things might feel a bit odd these days. On the one hand, they have a president who is rather explicit about protecting their interests and advancing their priorities, even though his personal life does not, to put it gently, match up with their ideals. On the other hand, they feel increasingly besieged, as their moral views—especially about sexuality—have put them at odds with our society’s cultural elites (and sometimes with broader trends in public opinion). They are, it seems, a politically influential and especially controversial moral minority.
Responses to this odd moment have ranged from an almost shameless embrace of political Machiavellianism to calls for a defensive redeployment into friendly institutional redoubts. Bruce Riley Ashford’s Letters to an American Christian takes a bit of a different tack, offering a contemporary defense of what amounts to a pretty standard set of conservative political nostrums in the context of his Christian convictions.
As the title suggests, Ashford, who is provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, offers his arguments in the form of 26 letters written to a college student named Christian. Each letter covers a particular question—Should Christians be involved in politics? What’s the right view of gun control? How should Christians think about transgender issues?—and Ashford’s answers are always well-constructed, amiable, and fairly generous. Few people will agree with everything Ashford argues for, but if more conservative Christian political engagement was marked by the spirit of these letters, …