A trusted senior statesman in Christian ethics and ministry addresses the crisis of political polarization threatening the existence of the church.
Polarization and political gridlock have been the norm in the United States for decades. As that reality seeps into every aspect of our society, churches find themselves not only affected, but often at the very center of the conflict. Rather than remaining places of inclusive community and generous dialogue, our sanctuaries have too often become ground zero of the culture wars.
What can pastors do to restore the church’s witness to the unity of all things in God—especially when it feels like members of the congregation would rather position the church’s identity firmly on one side of the political spectrum or the other? And how can church leaders maintain peace while speaking the truth on important social issues—without either alienating parishioners who disagree or resorting to inane bothsiderism?
Widely respected pastor and ethicist Robin Lovin offers sage counsel in this helpful book, arguing that to resist the trend of polarization in our church we must rediscover how the gospel teaches us to understand ourselves, our neighbors, and the purpose of politics. In part one, Lovin provides an overview of the situation in which we find ourselves, showing how polarization developed over recent decades and how, in both our society and our churches, we have adapted to division as the norm. In part two, he considers how Christians can shape a different response by learning to listen—to the Word of God, to the world, and to those who are not usually heard. With questions for discussion and reflection aligned with the content of each chapter, What Do We Do When Nobody Is Listening? provides an accessible roadmap for navigating out of the morass of polarization into a brighter future of church unity, during election seasons and beyond.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Adam Hamilton Part One: Divisions 1. Polarization 2. The Church in a Polarized Society Part Two: Listening 3. Listening to the Word 4. Listening to the World 5. Listening to Those Who Are Not Heard Conclusion: Taking Up Space in a Divided Society Questions for Reflection and Discussion Index
Robin W. Lovin is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. He formerly served as the William H. Scheide Senior Fellow in Theology at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey; as the Cary Maguire University Professor of Ethics at Southern Methodist University; and as dean of SMU's Perkins School of Theology. He is also a past president of the Society of Christian Ethics and a contributing editor to The Christian Century. His other books include An Introduction to Christian Ethics: Goals, Duties, and Virtues and Christian Realism and the New Realities.
“Calmly reasoned analyses of our sharply divided society are hard to come by. But Robin Lovin has a gift for summarizing complex cultural movements with a clarity and dexterity that others may only aspire to. Here’s an ethicist and theologian who brings light and hope to dispirited people frustrated by tense and even fighting times. Every pastor interested in helping a faith community stick together should be devouring these pages.” — Peter W. Marty editor/publisher of The Christian Century
“Lovin’s new book causes me to consider the question, ‘How is my congregation taking up space and serving as a witness to our overwhelming reality of God’s love and justice in what too often feels like chaos?’ I am thankful for the way Lovin frames our current reality and for his challenge to be a kind of witness that is different.” — Shannon Johnson Kershner pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago
“Robin Lovin graciously reminds us of some things we’d forgotten: that liberal means nothing if it doesn’t mean generous, that conservative means ensuring we never move on from Jesus, that disagreement is the source of most creativity, that faithfulness is tested by entering the marketplace of ideas rather than withdrawing into our bunkers. Crucially, he highlights the question, ‘Who are you listening to?’ as a test of both wisdom and renewal. It would be ironic for any reader coming to this book to require it to confirm ideas already fiercely held. Only read this book if you want to be transformed into becoming a blessing to the stranger who was once your neighbor.” — Samuel Wells vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London author of Humbler Faith, Bigger God
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