In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World (Nelson, 2003),
by Hugh Hewitt.
(Originally published online at SU Review, Fall 2003.)
All too often I have run into Christians who rate highly in the wimposity factor: they recoil from any involvement in public affairs or the professional world, fear positions of influence and power and aspirations to such positions because of their perceived corrosive and corrupting nature, and avoid offending their secular friends at all costs. Now comes law professor and radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt to demolish this attitude and approach in his new book In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World (Nelson, 2003). In this regard, the practical reality is that if our freedom (including religious freedom) is to continue it is essential that Christians be amongst those who are the brokers of power in our society.
It is indeed true that power and influence can corrupt anyone--even the devout. Hugh rightly recognizes this, but just as rightly points out that Christians cannot fulfill the Great Commission and be salt and light of the Earth in a society where the leadership has undermined the very religious freedom that makes evangelism possible! The maintenance of such freedom requires leadership who understands and respects freedom in the first place.
At the same time, Christians must also remember that the secular culture is not satisfied by legal and public policy arguments that rest solely upon the Bible. Hugh rightly points out that it is as reasonable for a secularist to be satisfied with a position based solely upon an interpretation of the New Testament as it would be for conservative Catholic and Protestants to be persuaded to a point of view simply because it coincides with the Book of Mormon.
Beyond this, many Christians are far too touchy and squeamish. For those who have not noticed, our popular culture is becoming more vulgar by the minute. Many Christians respond to this in the wrong way—by becoming furious and indignant. This only works to the advantage of secularists, who love to get a rise out of Christians whenever they get the chance. To be practical and to be able to deal effectively with our culture, Christians must take Hugh’s advice: “The essence of good taste is never to be offended by bad taste.” It’s always better to laugh at leftist nonsense than to be made angry by it.
It would misrepresent the primary content of the book where I to continue discussing the attitudes that Christians must have to operate effectively in the public square in such sweeping terms, as Hugh tackles this issue primarily through his specific and detailed advice about how young people with potential should operate and conduct themselves in school and at work, in order to succeed in this world and make a real impact. Indeed, In, But Not Of is highly effective because Hugh spends the entire book in the area where he so effectively operates: the every-day real world. The practical, down-to-earth (yet intellectual) approach that Hugh exhibits in his radio program also characterizes In, But Not Of. It describes important and common-sense approaches to choosing the right school, selecting the best classes, getting the right job, and building up personal networks.
In, But Not Of is not long, but it does not need to be. Every page is made to count, being full of experience and practical advice. As a mid-twenties law school graduate, I definitely fall within the book’s target audience and am perhaps uniquely qualified to say that this book succeeds in what it was designed to do. (In fact, I was so captivated by the intro and chapter titles that I interrupted my study for the bar exam just to read it through—fortunately, I still passed.) Hugh’s book revealed to me some of my weak points, gave me some practical tips, and provided me needed affirmation where I was already doing the right thing but lacked a sense of certainty. After reading this book I am now no longer so hesitant to admit that Alexander Hamilton has long been one of my heroes. This book is a simple and straightforward guidebook for young Christians who are ambitious and want to get ahead in life—and do so without selling one’s soul. Get it, read it, and then give it to a friend.
FURTHER THOUGHTS: I republished my review here, since it is no longer available at SU Review. Most likely, I'll soon modify this slighty and turn it into an Amazon review--5 stars out of 5.
(North Seattle, WA)