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Lee Camp’s Scandalous Witness offers new insights into faith and politics in the U.S.

January 13, 2021

Americans seem to be more divided than ever, and politics are at the center of this societal divide, especially in an election year.

Lee Camp, professor of theology and ethics, has answered some of this anxiety with hope in his new book, Scandalous Witness: A Little Political Manifesto for Christians, available at Amazon.com.

“Scandalous Witness” attempts to find a space where Christians can find their place between the right and the left in American politics. In his writing, Camp presents a way to talk about Christianity in regard to politics that’s “neither right nor left nor religious.”

The book is broken down into 15 propositions, such as “Christian Partisanship is Like a Fist-Fight on the Titanic” and “Christianity Is Not a Religion; Christianity Is a Politic.” Camp believes these propositions can radically change the nature of the conversation about Christianity and politics.

When Camp looks at Christianity in light of American politics today, he sees militarism and nationalism on the far right and a “sort of shame-based moralism” on the far left. Both these partisan perspectives fall short of the Good News of the Gospel, he says.

 

Camp notes that in the Western world religion is often defined as a private matter between a person and God, that is thought to have little to say to the realms we call 'public' or 'political.' Consequently the notion that Christian faith should really say something about politics is seen as taboo in our society.

The problem with that idea is that it denies what Christianity inherently is: what Camp calls a “politic.” Christianity naturally addresses many of the same issues that politics addresses, because the Bible addresses those issues as part of its message.

Camp posits that politics cares about such questions as: How do we live together? How do we deal with offenses? How do we deal with money? How is authority mediated, employed and ordered? What does it mean to be human?

 

Unfortunately, it seems that Christianity in the U.S. has been scandalized by false allies, Camp says. On both the right and the left, Christians are looking at the political platforms being presented as “Christian” and realizing there is no way they fit with the good news of Jesus.

 

That’s very different from the original scandal of the gospel as Paul used that language in I Corinthians, Camp explains in the book. Instead, Paul talked about the world being saved by someone who loved even to the point of death and was crucified on a cross.

 

That picture of power—one that is nonviolent, a suffering love even to death—is scandalous to both the right and the left, because neither side wants that kind of claim, that kind of politic. That is the scandalous politic Camp is trying to play out in this book.

 

Lee Camp (’89) has also authored Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World in 2003 and Who Is My Enemy: Questions American Christians Must Face About Islam—and Themselves in 2011, plus numerous articles. He completed his graduate studies at Abilene Christian University and University of Notre Dame.


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