Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Now Reading: The Great Awakening

After I finished American Gospel yesterday, I decided that it was time to pick up and finish a book that I had started over Thanksgiving break, The Great Awakening by Jim Wallis. This is the sequel to Wallis's book God's Politics, which I read and loved last summer. Wallis, the editor-in-chief of Sojourners, a progressive evangelical magazine that stands for a Christianity that embraces social justice issues and moves beyond the current left-right political and religious divides.

Mr. Wallis and the Sojourners movement have had a significant impact on my solidifying political and religious views. In God's Politics and The Great Awakening, he has expressed the need for Christians to reevaluate their views on issues all across the spectrum, from abortion to the death penalty, from poverty to the environment, from integrity to family life. His centrist stances have won the respect of many, and served to make both books into bestsellers. Wallis's position on the issues and call for the faith community to take an active role in building a better world evoke the memory of nineteenth century evangelicals like William Wilberforce and Charles Finney. Wilberforce and Finney were both anti-slavery activists who drew much of their inspiration for their reform movements from their faith. Wallis and Sojourners are not quite as focused on any one issue, but rather are urging a wholistic view of the issues: health care affects the poverty levels, the environment affects health, political integrity and building strong families relate to EVERYTHING... in essence, in today's society, virtually every issue has been synthesized with another, and we cannot address each one in a bubble.

Perhaps I have extrapolated a bit from Mr. Wallis's point in that last thought, but at its core, The Great Awakening builds the foundations laid in God's Politics in urging the American religious community to pull itself out of the bubble in which it has been living. We cannot afford to ignore the important issues that are at stake in the world around us. We cannot afford to let things continue on as they are. We cannot afford to believe that God is private-- rather, as Mr. Wallis says, "God is personal, but never private." And, in a related thought, we cannot afford to only be active about an issue publicly but not be trying to make a difference privately (and vice versa).

I have found great food for thought in reading Jim Wallis's books and various related blog entries (which you can find here on the Sojourners website). I have appreciated his call to re-examine the Christian faith and our role in the public sphere, and I agree with many of his centrist stances on the issues. However, most of all, I appreciate his call to a renewed commitment to social justice and active engagement with the issues of the world today.

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