God is Back: Book Review

God is BackAs some will know from reading my earlier posts, I love books. This love of books started early for me as I completed Curious George on my own at the age of four or five and felt an amazing sense of accomplishment. I then moved on to the Sugar Creek Gang books and the Hardy Boys in my elementary and preteen years. As I have grown, so has my appreciation for good books.

A few years ago after coming back from one of my international trips, I read The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. It was and is the best book on the subject of globalization I had ever read. It is hard to find books so well written and therefore intellectually satisfying.

Just last week I was at the library and stumbled across this new book, God is Back by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, both of whom normally write for the Economist magazine. Its premise as summarized in the flyleaf is quite fascinating:

Since the Enlightenment, intellectuals have assumed that modernization would kill religion, and that religious America is an oddity. As God is Back argues, religion and modernity can thrive together, and America’s approach to faith is becoming the norm. Many things have helped spark the global revival of religion, including the failure of communism and the rise of globalism. But above all, the twenty-first-century faith is being fueled by a very American emphasis on competition and a customer-driven attitude toward salvation. These qualities have characterized this country’s faith ever since the founders separated church and state, creating a religious free market defined by entrepreneurship, choice and personal revelation. As market forces reshape the world, the tools and ideals of American evangelicalism are now spreading everywhere.”

This book is a phenomenal synthesis of research and analysis of both history and current affairs. I have not read any other book that does a better job of pointing out the critical role of faith in a pluralistic society. It does a particularly good job of explaining why an aggressive American style of  “hot” religion like Pentecostalism is on the rise worldwide and how it is now clashing with aggressive forms of Islam in places like Nigeria. In addition, it does an insightful job of explaining how the “European Way” that they describe as the “Necessity of Atheism” has collapsed around the world.

This book reads like the follow up to The World is Flat, dealing specifically with the growth of faith around the world and particularly evangelical faith. As an American it gave me great pause to question what type of faith we are exporting to the rest of the world. Having traveled extensively around the world in the last few years, I have been ashamed to see that America has also been very good at exporting other aspects of our “value” system like pornography, greed, exploitive commercialism and and an incessant focus on celebrity. I pray that as American evangelicals have even more influence in the years to come, we will preach and model Christlike values of humility, surrender, obedience and servanthood.

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