Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

Politics and Prose

Byron Borger


by Byron Borger

This is a continuation of a series of articles by Byron Borger, introducing new books significant to the principled practice of public justice.

Branding Obamessiah: The Rise of an American Idol by Mark Edward Taylor (Edenridge)

One of the first offerings of a small publishing house started by Calvin College professor Quentin Schultze, Taylor’s book is an entertaining  study of how the Obama publicity team used sacred language and religious-like storytelling to brand him as a new kind of candidate.  The author has covered Windy City politics for years; the writing is crisp, and the research thorough.  Of course, branding candidates’ images is nothing new, and Taylor understands, it seems, that this is intrinsic to public life—indeed all candidates work in light of religious convictions of one sort or another, a narrative of “sacred vision." Yet, Taylor makes a case that Obama’s handlers promoted a religiously-drenched vision in a new and especially devout way.  Taylor seems impressed by the audacity of Obama’s created image (he is a communication specialist, after all, and enjoys explaining how mass media works), and yet the book feels at times a bit partisan. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the “behind the scenes” thinking of those who helped create the political revival meetings and ethos that catapulted President Obama into the limelight as “The One.”  

Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art  by Abraham Kuyper (Christian’s Library Press)

Former Prime Minister of Holland, theologian Abraham Kuyper, has been one of the chief inspirations for the non-partisan, Christian work of the Center for Public Justice, rooted in Kuyper’s worldview that affirms the goodness of creation and the “common grace” that God offers to all in this world.  Kuyper’s massive work on common grace has yet to be translated into English, but this short collection of essays, written in the early 20th century, is enough to help us understand his seminal views.  An artfully designed paperback, with an excellent introduction by Center for Public Justice Trustee Vincent Bacote, Wisdom and Wonder is now the go-to book to explore Kuyperian views of common grace, modern thinking, and cultural renewal.

Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination  by Brian J. Walsh (Brazos)

I’ve never agreed with those who say that Bruce Cockburn, the award-winning, internationally-known, Canadian pop star, went through a “Christian phase” and then entered his “political phase."  Brian Walsh’s breathtakingly thorough, very rigorous, close reading of the body of Cockburn’s work shows us that faith and spirituality, politics and cultural change, sexuality, and the demand for justice in the face of global inequities have always been interwoven in Cockburn’s 40-year’s worth of recordings.  True, Cockburn cited C.S. Lewis and seemed  Christ-centered in a few albums, and, after working in refugee camps, seeing gross injustices in Central America in the 1980s, he wrote some fiery songs of liberation theology, including a lovely, if romanticized, hope for the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.   Agree with Cockburn’s social analysis or not, he is informed by his charitable work on nearly every continent and a deep longing for a world made new.  Walsh—known for his earlier works on worldview, Christian scholarship, and radical Bible study—knows as much about Cockburn’s music as anyone, and his effort to have Cockburn’s lyrics in conversation with the Bible is a gift for anyone who loves thoughtful poetry and contemporary politics. 

The Challenges of Cultural Discipleship: Essays in the Line of Kuyper by Richard Mouw (Eerdmans)

This brand new book is a treasure chest for the friends of the Center for Public Justice; Mouw has long been an advocate of our work as an early U.S. voice of neo-Calvinist thinking about public life.  Mouw’s Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction is the best overview of Kuyper’s thought, while Uncommon Decency calls us to a high standard of civility in contentious times.  Here, he digs deeper, offering a dozen scholarly essays on a variety of subjects close to the work of the Center.  He writes on the public views of Klaas Schilder, neo-Calvinist explorations of law, lessons from Dutch pillarization for school choice questions, “modal diversity in Dooyeweerd’s social thought,” and more on sphere sovereignty.  A few pieces are particularly theological (one on the intra-Reformed debates about baptism and children), but most are about Kuyperian politics, reformational philosophy, and how this thick Dutch heritage might be embodied in North American today.  

Byron Borger runs Hearts & Minds Books. Capital Commentary readers can get a 20% discount on books listed here by ordering through Hearts & Minds.

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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”