U.Va. Prof. Charles Marsh's New Book, 'Wayward Christian Soldiers,' Condemns 'Faustian Bargain' of Evangelical Christian Leaders

June 25, 2007 -- “The Jesus who storms into Baghdad behind the wheel of a Humvee is not the Jesus of the Gospel,” writes Charles Marsh, U.Va. professor of religious studies, in his latest book, "Wayward Christian Soldiers: Freeing the Gospel from Political Captivity," published today (June 25, 2007) by Oxford University Press.

An evangelical since his baptism at his father's Southern Baptist church, Marsh is deeply dismayed by what his fellow American evangelicals have given up in exchange for the political power they have gained in recent years. In "Wayward Christian Soldiers," Marsh offers an impassioned account of the political misuses of faith by evangelical Christian leaders and churches in the United States — the results of a Faustian bargain for political access and power.

The author shows that the most prominent voices in American evangelicalism have arrogantly redefined Christianity on the basis of partisan politics rather than scripture and tradition. The role of politics in distorting the Christian message can be seen most dramatically in the invasion of Iraq, he argues: Some 87% of American evangelicals supported going to war, while every single evangelical church outside the United States opposed it.

“With many other Christians in the United States and many more abroad,” says Marsh, “I have watched in horror as the name of Jesus has been used to serve national ambitions, strengthen middle-class values and justify war. ...We have recast the faith according to our cultural preferences and baptized our prejudices, along with our will to power, in the shallow waters of civic piety.”

Marsh argues that the Christian Right must move away from the divisiveness and fervor of the political arena and return to bearing quiet witness to the Gospel in the practices of hospitality, peacemaking and contemplative prayer. "Wayward Christian Soldiers" is a meditation on keeping the mysteries of the faith from political misuse while offering ideas on how to be a Christian after George W. Bush. Offering an authentic Christian alternative to the narcissistic piety of popular evangelicalism, "Wayward Christian Soldiers" represents a unique entry into the increasingly pivotal debate over the role of faith in American politics.

Marsh enters the religion-and-politics fray in this provocative, and even prophetic, manifesto. In Marsh's view, American evangelicals have sold their birthright to Republican politics, wholly abandoning the Gospel's call for justice, peace and mercy by supporting the war in Iraq. Evangelical leaders do not invite people to peace and reconciliation, but rather offer "base and sinful thoughts disguised as moral values."

About the author:
CHARLES MARSH is professor of religious studies and director of the Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia. His books include “Reclaiming Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” “The Last Days,” “God's Long Summer,” which won the 1998 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, and most recently “The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today.” A graduate of Harvard Divinity School, he has written for The New York Times, Books & Culture, and Modern Theology.

Book details:
“Wayward Christian Soldiers: Freeing the Gospel from Political Captivity”
by Charles Marsh
Published by Oxford University Press on June 25, 2007.
($25.00 | hardcover | 244 pages | ISBN-13: 978-0-19-530720-7 | ISBN-10: 0-19-530720-8)

*BOOK COPIES available to the media upon request via overnight shipping. Contact Sarah L. Russo (above).