Two-term governor of Tennessee Bill Haslam reveals how faith--too often divisive and contentious--can be a redemptive and unifying presence in the public square.
As a former mayor and governor, Bill Haslam has long been at the center of politics and policy on local, state, and federal levels. And he has consistently been guided by his faith, which influenced his actions on issues ranging from capital punishment to pardons, health care to abortion, welfare to free college tuition. Yet the place of faith in public life has been hotly debated since our nation's founding, and the relationship of church and state remains contentious to this day--and for good reason. Too often, Bill Haslam argues, Christians end up shaping their faith to fit their politics rather than forming their politics to their faith. They seem to forget their calling is to be used by God in service of others rather than to use God to reach their own desires and ends.
Faithful Presence calls for a different way. Drawing upon his years of public service, Haslam casts a remarkable vision for the redemptive role of faith in politics while examining some of the most complex issues of our time, including:
partisanship in our divided era;the most essential character trait for a public servant;how we cannot escape "legislating morality";the answer to perpetual outrage; andhow to think about the separation of church and state.
For Christians ready to be salt and light, as well as for those of a different faith or no faith at all, Faithful Presence argues that faith can be a redemptive, healing presence in the public square--as it must be, if our nation is to flourish.
Former Tennessee governor Haslam debuts with a host of suggestions for ways religious Americans can get meaningfully involved in politics. Haslam shares his concern about the country's deep divide, but writes that "people of faith can and should play a leading role in healing the wounds of this country." He concedes that achieving that aim is an uphill climb, because "too often the words and actions of Christians have done more to inflict those wounds than to heal them." Haslam uses anecdotes from his public service such as his veto of a bill that would have made the Bible the official state book to illustrate how he balanced his official responsibilities and his private beliefs, and considers various aspects of his faith, such as the importance of humility when engaging those with different political and cultural leanings. Haslam urges readers to do away with "reacting out of fear" and instead follow the "formational practices of following Jesus" to "serve in the public square for the common good." His insistence that every person must be viewed as having been made in God's image informs his perspective on dialogue with others. Readers open to thinking about the relationship between church and state will benefit from this sensible advice.