Back around 2003, our church youth group placed a yard sign out near the road that said, “War Is Not the Answer.” The responses were interesting: the church received lots of phone calls, mostly outraged, demanding that the sign come down, as well as occasional calls of support and gratitude. About two weeks later we showed up on a Sunday morning to see that the church’s next-door neighbor had lined his property with 50 large American flags.

What surprised me the most, and disappointed me the most, was that the predominant response to the church’s yard sign was a dismissive, “Oh, they’re just Democrats.” The fact that Democrats in Congress, just like Republicans, had voted for the recent resolution to invade Iraq did not matter. The possibility that the sign might have been a witness to the way of Jesus was incomprehensible in our politicized culture, in which Democratic and Repub­lican are the only options for understanding politics. Thirty years ago an antiwar church sign might have been labeled liberal, 50 years ago it might have been called communist, and now it’s simply Democrat. It’s never about Jesus.

Kristopher Norris and Sam Speers seek to expand this narrow understanding of politics. Graduate students, writing under a grant from the University of Virginia’s Project on Lived Theology, Norris and Speers visited five congregations around the country, attending, participating, interviewing, and watching how these congregations practiced politics.