This coming Wednesday at our Faith, Order and Witness meeting, it will be my turn to moderate our discussion—parts III and IV of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It [HarperSanFrancisco, January 1, 2005 | ISBN: 0060558288] by activist evangelical preacher and Sojourners sage Jim Wallis. To keep our discussion on track, I've made chapter-by-chapter notes to take with me, but for now I want to say a little about my perception of the book thus far. Maybe later I'll share my chapter notes with you (especially if I'm lacking other fodder for this blog), but I thought some of this might interest some of my readers. Here's a beginning, then.
Although Jim Wallis is a pastor, technically this is not an actual theology book. However, throughout what I've read so far, over and over again Wallis underscores the central biblical themes of justice, equality and human worth. He's well aware of the biblical texts (of course!) and of the incessant, insidious temptations of imperial religion, which at one and the same time seeks to turn God into a flunky at humanity's beck and call while ultimately seeking to transform humans into gods. Whether initiated and sustained in ecclesiastical quarters or by governmental action and decree, imperial religion is imperial religion, needs to be prophetically exposed and revealed for the agent of death it is and at the same time, the people - "the nations" - need life-affirming and life-generating alternatives shown to them. As Jim Wallis reminds us on page 145: The confrontation with evil is a role reserved for God, using imperfect people, churches and nations as God wills. ...to confuse the roles of God and the church with those of the American nation, as George Bush seems to do repeatedly, is a serious theological error that some might say borders of idolatry or blasphemy.
Since I've only been keeping up with the assigned reading, admittedly I haven't finished reading the book, but so far Wallis is outstanding at analysis and at reframing in broader terms the details he lays out, but he's done little about putting the pieces back together again and showing us the foretaste of the apocalyptic vision of a restored humanity - and creation - so necessary to keep us going and for us to know exactly where we're going! At times I'm almost too acutely aware of my background in the theological traditions of the Reformation and their more contemporary updated expressions, but still I miss a consistent and persistent call to live as persons in the shadow of the cross and the light of the empty tomb, which is another way of saying I miss the eschatological vision of a redeemed creation. Nevertheless, on page 153 he finally gets to our lives under the cross...after his assurance on page 151: "...Jesus is Lord. We live in the promise that empires do not last, that the Word of God will ultimately survive the Pax Americana as it did the Pax Romana." On page 167, he quotes Stanley Hauerwas: the world didn't change on September 11, but in 33 A.D. My point exactly! And, the world also changed 33 years earlier, when the tiny defenseless baby in Bethlehem's manger began showing us what divine strength really was like!