To Change the World - Review

I began reading buzz about James Davidson Hunter's book "To Change the World" several months ago and decided I wanted to read ahead of the mass curve so I picked it up.

I'm not going to pretend as if I understood every nuance of Hunter's argument. This book is academic, tends toward technical, and is written by someone who could obviously loan me enough IQ points to make me a genius while himself remaining the smartest guy in most of the rooms he'll enter. Even still, I think this book was a worthwhile pursuit.

In short, Hunter takes on the traditional approach to world-changing - attempting to change the world by gaining power (mostly political power) and utilizing that power to affect positive change on culture and society - and shows that culture change throughout history has rarely occurred that way. The religious right, religious left and pacifism as political factions have been miserable failures, not only in our lifetime but in the 2000 years of the church's existence.

Hunter argues that cultural change rarely happens as a matter of legislation. Instead, it happens more organically outside the central power locations by ordinary people who innovate and institutionalize new ideas which change the culture.

Hunter proposes that the church, rather than trying to leverage a fallen political system, should embrace a theology of "faithful presence." Rather than politicizing every issue, which allows the political system to be the final arbiter, the Church should faithfully embrace Christ-centered principles which goes the way of the cross. The Church should acknowledge the rule of God in every aspect of their lives as harbingers of the rule of God while contributing to the good of the Christian community and to the flourishing of all people.

"To Change the World" takes the form of three essays. The first two are almost exclusively theory; the third puts the first two together along with the beginning of practical application.

Hunter's book is not an easy read. In fact, it can be a slog in places. My guess is that it is a great start for conversations that will spin out of the book and will be a source book for many more practical books in the future. If you want to know where books on culture change of the future began, look no further.