The Best Book on Politics I’ve Ever Read

My Political Position

As I mentioned in a previous post entitled “Inconsistencies,” I have a love/hate relationship with politics. It’s not that I hate the intellectual challenge of the heavy discussion, I just hate how people treat their political views as concrete absolutes. Even worse, I HATE how Christians blur the lines between their political ideals and the authority of Scripture. Yes, my theology informs and dictates my politics, but my politic does not require me to force my theology down societies throat. I cannot create morality out of legislation any more than I can bake a cake with with mud and rocks.

The Problem with Politics in Church

Many Christians I talk to in the church today are very serious about politics, especially in these days. Today, in the church, we are speaking about politics so freely that we associate the same passion and emotions with social issues with spiritual concerns. This is where I struggle in walking this thin line because I want to remain worthy to the gospel without espousing my own opinions as concrete ideas.

A Book on Politics

That is why I was so encouraged to read “Six Political Illusions” by James L. Payne. I’ll be honest, I have a strong distaste for books on politics (especially ones written by Christians) but this one caught my eye and once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. It’s not the easiest, most engaging read, but Payne clearly knows what he is talking about.

Payne, a political scientist, gives a factual look at politics unfettered by conjecture, which is refreshing with the amount of books out there written by political candidates, analysts, news ‘opinionists’ (notice I didn’t say journalists), theologians, and celebrities. He doesn’t pretend to have concrete answers to complex questions like: How do we solve the debt crisis? What political party is right or wrong? Or How can American end the war on poverty? He simply points out the illusions, half-truths, fallacies, and prejudices we hold to that affect how we draw our final conclusions.

“It is right to be concerned about the plight of the poor. Our humanity and our compassion demand that we seek ways to lift up those who suffer. How to make the charitable impulse affective is a complicated problem that raises many questions. Perhaps government programs need to be greatly restructured, or perhaps government programs should be abandoned in favor of local, personal methods of assistance. This is not the place to debate these questions. My point is simply that in these matters one needs to transcend the naive assumption that if you appropriate money to help the poor, you necessarily help the poor.” Six Political Illusions page 76

The six illusions Payne addresses in this book are: The Philanthropic Illusion, dealing with government’s finances and where that money comes from; The Voluntary Illusion, dealing with governments use of force to collect taxes; The Illusion of the Frictionless State, pointing out the waisted resources spent to fuel government; The Materialistic Illusion, debunking the myth that problems can be fixed by throwing more money at it; The Watchful Eye Illusion, addressing wether government is smarter and wiser than the people it governs; and The Illusion of Government Preeminence, dealing with the notion that government and legislation is the only hope for society.

I hope you will take the opportunity to challenge your preconceptions about politics and read “Six Political Illusions” by James L. Payne.

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