Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics by Alisa Harris
Published: 2011 by WaterBrook Press
Source: Borrowed from the library
Recommended by: Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness
The political system in the United States is broken – the extreme partisanship on both ends of the spectrum is such that neither side is willing to even listen to what the other is saying. I am right – you are wrong, that is the motto. It is one thing to disagree on issues – that is certainly to be expected in any functioning society – but when one cannot or will not listen to another’s viewpoint on something, that society stagnates and it is difficult to make any sort of progress. And, despite the Constitution’s mandate to separate Church and State, religion plays a huge role in American politics. When I read the review of Raised Right on Sophisticated Dorkiness’ blog, I knew this was a book I wanted to read.
Alisa Harris was born into an Evangelical Christian family and was raised as a Republican. Not only did she worship Jesus Christ, but also Ronald Reagan. From a young age, she was on the front lines of the battle against abortion as well as for limited government. But even as she was fighting for the causes she believed in, she seemed to have her own doubts about the way the political process worked. While at a mock legislature session with other home-schooled children, she wanted to debate real issues, but the leaders had other intentions:
I wanted to debate my serious bills so we could converse about the purpose and role of government, but staff members shoved them to the bottom of the stack so they could teach us clever maneuvers to crush our opponents, a goal they could accomplish only by pitting us against one another and stoking our quarrels. They knew we would fight to the death not over abortion, an issue on which we all agreed, but over M&Ms versus Almond Joys. Without controversy no one fought; and if no one fought, then no one learned anything about winning in politics.
This, my friends, is what America is facing right now. Though in the general public people can (and do) fight to the death over abortion, Harris’ point is striking – is fighting the only way to “win”? If we are all citizens, why is it that someone has to “lose”?
But I digress.
It is once Harris attends college that she really begins to see that the world isn’t as entirely black and white as she has known it. Even though she attended a school in line with her conservative beliefs, it still seemed to have an effect. Working at a library during the summer with “heathens who wore ugly clothes, had large hair and glasses, and liked books – a passion I shared”, she realized that friends can be just that and one does not need to constantly be in conflict and conversion mode. And once she moves to New York, she meets people in Bible study that again went against what she grew up believing – Christians who were Democrats! Harris soon realizes that religion does not equal politics.
What I really enjoyed about this book is Harris’ honesty. She admits she doesn’t have all the answers, but she is willing to search for them – with an open mind. And I love the fact that she stays true to her religious beliefs even though her politics may have changed; one does not have to be altered at the expense of the other.
I flagged so many passages in the book, but at the risk of inflaming a political debate that I am not willing or able to moderate, I will simply say that if you are interested and concerned with the future of the American political system you should read it for yourself and then let’s talk.
Thanks again, Kim, for bringing this book to my attention.