Alisa Harris was raised in a very conservative family. They were politically active, and you can tell by the way she writes that Ms. Harris grew to think they were fanatically so. Sadly, I found the tone of the entire first half to be sarcastic and degrading to her family and her beliefs. As a child and teenager, she was totally wrapped up in her parents’ political activities. As she grew older though, she began to question her beliefs. By the end of the book, she has become a Christian who leans more towards believing in shades of grey than she does in black and white.
I know she believes she is right, and has carefully considered why she believes so. Perhaps she has even put more consideration into her beliefs than others who hold to strictly Republican or strictly Democratic parties. She certainly seems to think so. But perhaps she is wrong. Just because a person is wholly sold on something, doesn’t mean they haven’t carefully considered other options or why they believe what they believe.
I am mostly Republican, but I don’t agree with every single thing they stand for. I am also mostly Baptist, but my denomination doesn’t define who I am. If I have a mind of my own, I am not going to agree wholeheartedly with any other single person or organization. I know that my beliefs aren’t perfect either; what are the chances that I would be the only completely correct person on the face of the planet? But knowing that our own opinions are subject to misconceptions and preconceived ideas doesn’t give us an excuse from voting or choosing what to believe in. The fact is, anytime anyone votes for any person who is not themselves, they will be voting for someone who has differing opinions and holds to different beliefs. Yet, we must still vote, even if we are occasionally wrong. We must decide which issues are the most important and vote accordingly.
Ms. Harris grew uncomfortable with the idea of pushing her beliefs on other people. But it seems to me that politics is all about pushing your beliefs on other people. (And I realize I’m oversimplifying here, but hear me out.) We vote for those who are most like us so that they can have the authority to make laws that others must follow whether they believe in them or not. All parties work this way, whether liberal or conservative. They want things the way they want them, regardless of what the opposition believes or wants. All of this isn’t necessarily bad. Right and wrong do still exist, and if people who believe in Right stop voting, Wrong will inevitably conquer.
Ms. Harris was such a strong Republican as a child, she never stopped to consider that the party could be wrong about anything until she became an adult. She believed the Republicans would bring salvation to America. On page 72, she says, “Somewhere in there, I got my gospels crossed.” I agree with her that we shouldn’t hold to our parties as strongly as we hold to our religions. And in both cases, we should know why we believe what we do. “That’s what my parents taught me,” just isn’t going to cut it.
Personally, I try to look at the individual issues when I vote. I have voted for a pro-life Democrat before. And I would choose any pro-life candidate over a pro-choice one any day. (Pro-life also seems to be the biggest issue for Ms. Harris, and for that I am thankful.) I believe that the legal murder of innocent people is the blackest mark of depravity on this culture today. It tells the world and God who we really are and what we really care about as a nation.
If you’re confused about what to believe, what to stand for, my advice is this: take God at His Word. He knows what He’s talking about. Does the situation seem too complex? Trust Him anyway: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverb 14:12
While the tone of this review seems mostly negative, I do agree with many of the things Ms. Harris had to say. Here are some of them:
“I now think that loving America is like loving my family. We have a shared identity and a common experience, a history that ties us together and past grievances that divide us. But I don’t love my family because it’s exceptional, because it can dominate everyone else or has the fastest technology and the riches members or is somehow more blessed by God than others are. I love my family, my country, because it’s mine – because this is the community where God saw fit to plunk me and I have an obligation to its rancorous, disputatious, obnoxious, and suffering members.” Pg. 90-91
“[Jesus] didn’t call us simply to oppose positions that are wrong but to embody values that are heavenly.” Pg. 108
“…politics can leave the politics-obsessed misshapen, with no deeper thought than disgust for their enemies.” Pg. 124
“Yes, our primary job as Christians is to love people, and we can’t love from behind a barricade. But we have other God-given responsibilities too – to fight against those who make unjust decrees, rob the needy, and deprive the poor of their rights. We can make political the things that are political and make spiritual the things that are spiritual.” Pg. 210
Even though this book kept me on edge, it really made me think about why I believe the way I do. It was an exercise in reevaluation, and I welcome that. That being said, I would only recommend this book to adults who are used to thinking for themselves. I wouldn’t give it to a teenager who is used to believing what Mom and Dad taught them and hasn’t fully formed their own opinions yet.
Note: In exchange for an honest review, the publisher provided a complimentary copy of this book through Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers.