Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What Would Jesus Do: Review of God's Politics: Why the Right gets it Wrong, and the Left Doesn't Get it. By Jim Wallis

Ok, I'll go right out and say it, if you are a Christian, or a Jew, or a Liberal, or a Conservative, or a Human, this could quite possibly be the best political book you will ever read. If you are not political, this book could make you political, but the best thing about it is this: It will make you Political in the best way.

I first became familiar with Jim Wallis while watching some videos on the Veritas Forum. What he said just struck a chord with me. I had been listening to conservative talk radio, and I did not like all that I heard, you see, I like listening to Christians, and when you listen to talk radio, you get not Christians, but conservatives. Republicans are not necessarily Christians, though they have courted the Christian vote for decades. The rhetoric of the "Christian Right" has become quite pervasive in our culture, seemingly only concerned about issues of abortion and gay marriage on the moral front while giving tax breaks for the rich and slowly dismantling the safety nets under the poor. This is the "How the Right gets it Wrong" part of the subtitle.

But then, the Democrats have often steered me the wrong way as well. They support the poor, but seem determined to remove God from public life. I've heard politicians say things like "I believe in God, but it won't affect my political stance." What do you think about a person like that? Do I really want to vote for someone who does not always act according to their beliefs? Do I want to support someone who wants people to be able to legally kill their babies? Do I want to support someone who would like to remove any representation of Christianity from the public view? This is how "the Left doesn't get it." The answer to bad religion is not no religion, it's good religion.

The politics that Jim Wallis offers us is what he calls prophetic. Not prophetic in the sense of the prediction of the future, but prophetic in the sense of what the Biblical prophets did the most often, and that was to tell God's truth. To tell the people to shape up, to not take advantage of the poor, not to defraud widows and orphans (pronounced single mothers and children without fathers.) Prophets insisted on justice, and that the blessings of God be spread around more or less evenly. This is the kind of politics that Rev. Wallis wants us to believe in. The the belief that says we've had enough of trying to clean up the trash of the world without trying to figure out who's dumping the crap here to begin with.

Also Rev. Wallis asks us what Jesus would do. The Right would like us to believe that Jesus is pro rich, pro war, and only pro American. Over 30,000 children around the world die of starvation each day, and we are supposed to be concerned about capital gains tax? You see, it's not that there is any shortage of food or water in the world, it's that there is a shortage of people who care enough to give it to someone who needs it. Millions of women still die of complications in child birth, the vast majority could be prevented by modern medicine. Wars still rage in the poorest countries in the world because of stupid things like diamonds and money. And there is still the epidemic of HIV/AIDS.

Wallis tells us that the monologue of the Right wing is over. I think it is close, but not quite there yet. Our current presidential situation is a bad one, and hopefully it will be over soon, but it seems that on so many fronts, we have lost ground instead of gained it, not only as a country in a world, but as a faith. I want to see Prophetic Politics gain some ground, not a politics of complaining about problems and passing the blame to the other party, but a politics of solutions, of ideas to fix problems, not just to throw money at problems, but to guide passionate people into their life work of helping other people. Because I think it's what Jesus came to do, help people, and not the rich ones, but the ones who really need it. The poor.

In conclusion, I'd recommend this book to anyone, especially if you have become discouraged by the current political climate. It is a pretty long book, it took me quite a while to read, much longer than normal and you can tell just by the last time I did a book review, but it is well worth it. It's a great book written by a man fully qualified to write it. It will change your view of things.


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