Kingdom and Country (Kingdom Conversations #2) – Angie Ward

Kingdom and Country: Following Jesus in the Land That You Love by Angie Ward
Also by this author: When the Universe Cracks: Living as God's People in Times of Crisis
Published by NavPress on July 5, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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We love God. We love our country. What does it look like to love each properly and well?
National tensions are at a record high. People on all points in the political spectrum care deeply about their country, although they differ wildly in their opinions about what it looks like to serve that country well. As Christians, we love God and seek to follow him. At the same time, nothing shapes us and tugs at our loyalties quite like the place we live. And of course we are regularly encouraged to pledge our allegiance to our country--or particular understandings of it. Who wins when the priorities of God and our country clash?
In Kingdom and Country, a collection of leading Christian thinkers and practitioners take a holistic approach to considering the questions of patriotism, nationalism, and where our ultimate loyalties must like. Contributors include Alejandro Mandes, Juliet Liu, Ryan Tafilowski, Derek Vreeland, Rod Wilson, Michelle Reyes, Amanda Smith, Karen Wilk, Sean Palmer, and Tina Boesch
Kingdom and Country is the second in a series of Kingdom Conversations, books that bring together trusted Christian voices to address some of the most urgent and perplexing challenges of our time in timeless and redemptive ways.

Kingdom Conversations is a series of book published by NavPress, in partnership with MissioAlliance, that seeks to bring together the best of evangelical scholarship to talk through some of the most pressing issues of public theology and living in the Kingdom while still living in the world. I was a huge fan of When the Universe Cracks, the first book in the series, which seemed to be most urgently focused on responding to the COVID epidemic and all of the associated crises that came with it. The book offered advice that was specific enough to feel relevant, but general enough that it holds value for any time of crisis.

The second book is Kingdom and Country: Following Jesus in the Land that You Love, and is a response to the rise of Christian Nationalism in the United States. Angie Ward returns as the series’ general editor and she leads contributors in a conversation about existing as citizens of two very different kingdoms. There are ten chapters in all, written by ten different contributors, each chapter at just about 15 pages. Rod Wilson helps us understand why these conversations are challenging and how we can have them in an appropriate fashion. It’s a solid foundational chapter to lead off the book. Karen Wilk offers a theology of God’s Kingdom; Ryan Tafilowski wades into the church’s history with the state and what we can learn from that history. As editor, Ward crafts a straightforward and compelling narrative that sets up the foundation of the discussion, then branches it off into substantive discussions of specifics.

It’s a good book. But I also think it’s a safe book. The upside to this is that it might be read by many evangelicals who find themselves uncomfortable with the increasingly nationalistic tenor of their strain of faith=particularly as we move into the 2024 election cycle. Kingdom and Country is a critique from the inside, carefully questioning the paradigm in which it is set in a way that is clear and concise. The downside is that, at least to me who admittedly exists to the left of many of the book’s contributors, Kingdom and Country’s critique isn’t strong enough. It asks for a small movement away from danger when we should be running away.

And while that’s my critique, I also want to be clear that it is what I expected from the book. And don’t get me wrong: we need people on the inside fighting against the insidious slide toward nationalism. But I can’t help but think the voices need to be louder and little more panicked. Kingdom and Country is a start to the conversation, but it cannot be the end. This book is a gateway into better, more difficult, and more radical discussions.

The goal of Kingdom Conversations and this book in particular can be summarized by this quote from contributor Michelle Ami Reyes: “What we need instead is a national story born from a spirit of ecumenism, generosity, and civic friendship in which Brown, Black, and White, men, women, and children can flourish together.” That’s the goal of this book and I think it does the work of bringing us closer toward that realization.