The Ballot and the Bible: A Conversation with Kaitlyn Schiess

The Conversation

This transcript excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.

Josh Olds: Give me your elevator pitch for this book. What’s it about? Why should people read it?

Kaitlyn Schiess: Yeah, so this book is most simply a book about how we read the Bible, specifically how we read the Bible in our political contexts. But my desire in writing was not just to say, “Okay, let’s just get in the weeds.” Like, you know, what does this passage about the Jubilee say to our economic life? Or does this passage from Psalms have anything to say about abortion policy? I have found in the last few years of working with a lot of churches, campus ministries, Christian colleges, that when you say we’re having a political conversation, people come with walls up, they come ready to fight, there’s a pretty high temperature initially in that conversation. And so I thought, what if we instead kind of pump the brakes a little bit and look at some examples in history in which scripture has been used, especially American history, I’m thinking about the American political context, some examples in American history where scripture was used in ways that we might find commendable or in ways that we might be quite critical of, and have examples that feel both connected to us. If we’re thinking about the American political context, and yet distant enough from us that maybe we can lower the temperature a little bit, maybe we can learn something about an issue or a biblical interpretation question that’s still very relevant to us, but without immediately jumping to current political questions to do it.

The Book | The Bible and the Ballot

How do Bible passages written thousands of years ago apply to politics today? What can we learn from America’s history of using the Bible in politics? How can we converse with people whose views differ from our own?

In The Ballot and the Bible, Kaitlyn Schiess explores these questions and more. She unpacks examples of how Americans have connected the Bible to politics in the past, highlighting times it was applied well and times it was egregiously misused.

Schiess combines American political history and biblical interpretation to help readers faithfully read Scripture, talk with others about it, and apply it to contemporary political issues–and to their lives. Rather than prescribing what readers should think about specific hot-button issues, Schiess outlines core biblical themes around power, allegiance, national identity, and more.

Readers will be encouraged to pursue a biblical basis for their political engagement with compassion and confidence.

The Author | Kaitlyn Schiess

Kaitlyn Schiess (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a writer, speaker, and theologian. She is the author of The Liturgy of Politics: Spiritual Formation for the Sake of Our Neighbor and is a regular cohost on the Holy Post podcast with Skye Jethani and Phil Vischer. Her writing has appeared in the New York TimesChristianity TodayChrist and Pop CultureRelevant, and Sojourners. Schiess is currently a doctoral student in political theology at Duke Divinity School. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.