My Review of Stephen Mansfield’s Ask the Question

26266679“Knowing only in bits and pieces blinds us to the whole. We must learn the stories of faith before we grant power to candidates for high office.”

In the midst of an intense and tumultuous Presidential election year, many persons of faith and no faith seek to have substantive conversations about politics and religion and the impact and influence the two have on one another without the rancor and polarization which had increasingly defined contemporary American political life. In his newest book New York Times Bestselling Author Steven Mansfield argues that asking for “religious clarity” of American presidential candidates is necessary and essential for informed voting.

Ask the Question: Why We Must Demand Religious Clarity From Our Presidential Candidates (Baker Books, 2016) is a thoughtful guide to understanding the place of faith in American politics, especially when it comes to Presidential political leadership. The reason, notes Mansfield in his introduction, is to “understand the inner compass of those we elect to power.”

And in arguing to understand that inner compass, Mansfield delves into the life and stories of John F. Kennedy whose speech to Southern Baptist ministers during the 1960 Presidential campaign helped to ease the uncertainty of electing a President who was Catholic; Thomas Jefferson whom Mansfield says was a ‘none,’ that is, he did not hold to a particular religious viewpoint or denomination; Abraham Lincoln who struggled to believe throughout most of his life but found help during both the American Civil War as he lead the Union war effort and the death of his son Willie from both clergy and the Bible; 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney who was the first Mormon candidate and who the author suggests, lost the 2008 election “… in part, because he was not willing to be Mormon enough.”  and current Democratic Presidential candidate and former First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, Mansfield says,”is among the most religious politicians on the American scene today.”

Mansfield also takes the reader on a much needed history lesson back into the early days of America as her leadership struggled to protect religious faith as a right without resorting to state sponsored support as it had been in England and end the persecution of Baptist ministers and other minority faiths such as Catholicism by the dominant Anglican faith of America.

He also takes the reader on a journey in the current state of religious illiteracy in America and suggests, that a class or two in World Religion needs to be part of American education because Mansfield argues, “Religion often plays a role in world events…” and that “knowing religion as we should in America will elevate our politics and helps us to be wise and discerning in our increasingly faith-based world.”

Ask The Question underscores the belief that religion still matters to millions of people across this planet and that it is not going away as much as has been predicted over the centuries but that it continues to be a potent force in the world both on a personal, national, and international level.

This book challenged some of my assumptions and current thinking about politics and faith. It will challenge other readers. It should and I am glad that it does.

A very worthy read for people who care about the condition of this nation and this world, I gave this book a 5 Star rating on Goodreads.

Note: I received a copy of this book from its publisher, Baker Books, in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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Jim Kane

I am a hubby to my wife of over 30 years, dad to two university students, caregiver to his mom, a minister, cat dad to Hanna who we adopted from our local animal shelter, a life-long aviation fan, and a reader and blogger. I began this blog in 2008 and post my book reviews, messages to my congregation, prayers, and other things as well. Thank you for stopping by!

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