Friday, July 14, 2006

Book review--"God's Politics" by Jim Wallis

“For non-violence to be credible, it must answer the questions that violence claims to answer, but in a better way.” – Jim Wallis, God’s Politics

I mentioned this book before, I think, and now I have finished it. Before I say anything, please note that Wallis is talking about the USA. Other nations’ mileage may vary. He is right when he talks about the need for consistency on the part of neo-cons, for example, who talk about the value of life when it concerns abortion or euthanasia, but not when the death penalty is under discussion. He notes that the Roman Catholic church is more consistent on the issue of life than most evangelicals. Wallis also talks about the liberals whose beliefs and aims may be Christian, but who have allowed the neo-cons to take the religious high ground out of fear of seeming bigoted against other spiritual traditions and beliefs—diversity run amok, as he calls it. Wallis thinks that neither end of the political spectrum really thinks through, theologically, their positions, and that’s why voters are so disillusioned and why they are not voting.

He has some good points. He notes that most people really think that the government should stay out of people’s private lives, unless those private lives hurt other people (for example, domestic violence, pedophilia or problem gambling). This allows individuals to practice their spiritual beliefs freely, to follow that good ol’ American precept of “pursuit of happiness” and generally have free will, as granted by God. He finds it ironic (and so do I) that the party that just a few years ago was championing “less government” now is involved in spying and wiretapping of US citizens who are not even suspected of a crime.

Wallis is clear, though, that the problem for the Democrats is that they do not take a stand. They did in the case of civil rights for African-Americans, but they are not taking any strong stands today—too afraid of hurting their numbers with one demographic group or another. “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” I don’t remember who said that, but it’s true.

Some of the book was, frankly, padding—the statements of various groups that Wallis has been involved with, for example. They’re good to know about, but would have been more appropriate as appendices. They don’t advance his arguments (although they encapsulate them).

Still, a interesting and energizing book. I recommend it—no matter where you stand, Wallis has a few pins to burst your bubble and make you sputter, “But, but…”

1 comment:

susan said...

I've read it, too, and found much of it repetitive. Still, the basic premise that the church must maintain its prophetic role of calling the nation to accountability is timely. Wallis' example of the "holey Bible" -- the Bible without its references to poverty and justice is powerful.

Clarence Darrow--Beyond Scopes and Leopold & Loeb

Personalities fascinate me--people do. One way I try to understand history and places is through people--which is why I love good histor...