Hijacking Biblical Rhetoric for Political Causes

My review of John Coffey’s excellent book, Exodus and Liberation, can be found at reformation21.


Coffey’s work is a brilliant and very well-written exploration of the use of biblical rhetoric connected to the Exodus events and how such language can be manipulated and employed in political contexts. And as of today, Amazon is selling it for $2.56 in hardcover! Here are the review’s concluding paragraphs:

Coffey’s work foregrounds a few serious problems with the use of biblical rhetoric in political discourse. First, throughout the book Coffey details the confusion of Christian freedom and political freedom. The proclamation of spiritual freedom and the employment of the Exodus narrative was so effective that it could not remain within neatly proscribed religious boundaries. Luther and Calvin faced this problem, as did the Puritan preaching that fueled the American Revolution. Even though America was intentionally founded as a secular nation, the Exodus narrative played a profound role in firing imaginations and giving shape to hopes for self-determination.

Second, and closely related to the foregoing point, the use of biblical rhetoric can easily be manipulated to presume divine endorsement for an earthly political agenda. One can easily point to the use of biblical rhetoric by both the North and South in the American Civil War. Coffey’s work details this point time and again.

Coffey’s wide-ranging and meticulously-researched book ought to be carefully considered by American Christian leaders, teachers, and preachers in an age when distinct Christian sub-groups presume that Christian identity demands loyalty to this or that political party, organization, or group, whether on the political left or right. It is all too easy for God’s cause to be conflated with an earthly cause, or for a politician to hijack biblical language for political gain. Exodus and Liberation would help Christians develop a keen awareness of the power of biblical rhetoric and the dangers associated with its alliance to any earthly cause.

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