Scott Rhee's Reviews > God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It

God's Politics by Jim Wallis
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bookshelves: good-christianity, politics, religion

Conservatives (and by that I generally mean Republicans) like to think that they have a monopoly on Christian moral values. Conversely, liberals (i.e. Democrats) believe that they are the more rational and level-headed, owing to their more secularist views. Neither, of course, are correct or viable mindsets.

Personal experience has led me to the conclusion that rationality and logic can be found in both politics and religion. Such rationality is, unfortunately, difficult to unearth because it is buried beneath a pile of loud-mouthed craziness from both the Right and the Left. It requires a lot of digging.

Jim Wallis, a liberal evangelical Christian political activist (I know... let that simmer in the brain for a minute or two...) and editor/founder of Sojourners magazine, has been digging in the religio-poltical dirt for many years. A strong voice for the Christian Left, Wallis has been an advocate for many social justice issues, including poverty, war, gay rights, and the pro-life movement.

While I don’t subscribe to everything that Wallis promotes, his liberal views and his strong adherence to Christian teachings has often instilled me with a renewed faith in humanity.

Wallis helped me to see that it’s possible to be a Christian AND a liberal.

I know that sounds weird to say, but there was honestly a point in my life when I felt that I could only be one or the other, that I had to make a choice between the two, and my choice would ultimately be a betrayal to the other half of my self. One shouldn’t be made to feel this way, and yet many people do.

Part of the problem is cultural.

In Wallis’s book, “God’s Politics”, Wallis writes in his introduction that “God is not a Republican. Or a Democrat.” which, for some, may seem like a “DUH!” statement.

It wasn’t for me, though.

I had been one of those dupes led to believe, incorrectly, that Republicans weren’t just on the side of the Right; they were also on the side of the right, as in, “correct”. This was due in no small way to my religious indoctrination.

I was what is referred to as a “born-again” Christian. Rather than going into a lengthy explanation and testimony, I’ll simply say that I went from being an atheist to giving my life to Jesus Christ by professing that He is my Lord and Savior. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s the basic gist.

When I became a Christian, almost everyone I knew was a Republican. Everyone at my church was Republican, and the few that I suspected weren’t kept their political views to themselves.

At the time, politics wasn’t that important to me anyway, I’ll admit. I was kind of still basking in the afterglow of my new life in Christ, so I didn’t really give a shit what anyone’s political views were. We were all just shiny, happy people.

Eventually, though, the honeyglow began to fade. Reality seeped in. Then, George W. Bush happened.

I never liked W.

From the first time I saw his Texan “good ol’ boy” face (which reminded me disturbingly of MAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Newman), I couldn’t stand him. I didn’t hate the guy: he was a Christian, after all, and a seemingly devout one. He was also a seemingly good family man. I just didn’t like him.

I wasn’t supposed to dislike him, though. That was pretty much the unspoken rule among my predominantly Christian friends. (I had non-Christian friends, too, but I let some of these friendships lapse as I felt like I wasn’t really supposed to like them, either. Love them, yes. And I prayed for them, and their unsaved souls, of course. But I just couldn’t “hang out” with them anymore. I was in a new clique. The popular kids. Oops, I mean Christian kids.)

Even after his pathetic performance during the presidential debates, even after his inauguration, even after 9/11: I still harbored a strong dislike for the guy. He was smarmy, hickish, and disingenuous, but I couldn’t articluate any of that to any of my friends.

It was right around the time that initial buzzings about going to war with Iraq started to happen that I noticed it: I was beginning to seriously doubt my faith. Part of the problem was that everywhere I looked, people seemed to be too accepting of the clearly outrageous bullshit being espoused by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfled, et al. And, by “people” I mean “Christians”.

Why was it that I could see that the stuff they were saying just wasn’t adding up but nobody else could? Of course, it wasn’t just me. Many people were criticizing the President and alluding to the possibility that the Bush Administration was misleading the general public through misinformation and outright fabrications simply to garner support for war. These people, unfortunately, were “liberals”. Most of my friends rarely used the word themselves but when they did, it was dripping with vitriol and disgust. I was a liberal sympathizer. I and my fellow Christian friends with liberal views kept quiet.

Many other people bit their tongue, too, because they didn’t want to be perceived as rocking the boat. After all, Bush himself said that if you weren’t for him, you were against him. Which is fucked up, of course, but even more fucked up was the fact that I bought it. Because he was a “Christian”.

It was a downward spiral after that. I’m not going to lie or exaggerate: eight years of the Bush Administration killed my religion and faith.

It’s unfortunate that I spent so long feeling angry and upset and saddened that I couldn’t be both a Christian and a liberal. I probably said a lot of hurtful things (unintentionally, but that’s small comfort) to some of my Christian friends. For that, I am sorry.

Thankfully, Jim Wallis happened.

I picked up a Wallis book at the recommendation of a friend, who happened to be a Catholic and somewhat liberal in his views. I wasn’t expecting much, but I did read it.

Wallis’s words rekindled something inside me, something I thought I lost forever.

He helped me to realize that I could be true to both sides of myself---my Christianity and my liberalism---and still have a vibrant faith.

I can’t say that my faith is that vibrant. It’s been a long road back to feeling okay about calling myself a Christian again, and I know that I have a long way more to go, but I haven’t given up the soul-searching, and that’s in large part due to Wallis.

“God’s Politics” was written in 2005, and I wish that I had read it then, because my crisis of faith was probably at its peak during that time.

Wallis writes at length about the Iraq War. An ardent pacifist, Wallis’s indictment of the Bush Administration is powerful. From a biblical and legal standpoint, Wallis makes a clear case that the Iraq War was, in every possible way, immoral, unjust, and illegal.

I’m sure many conservatives would read Wallis’s indictment of Bush as more liberal whining and Bush-bashing. That’s unfortunate, because they won’t get the point.

The main point of Wallis’s book is that it’s okay to marry politics and religion. The separation of church and state doesn’t mean that politicians can’t be religious or use their religion to help guide their decisions. Wallis is simply saying that there is a danger in using religion to implement and justify bad policy.

I’ll be honest: “God’s Politics” kind of fizzles out for me near the end. It ends up being a disjointed, unfocused series of essays and sermons on a wide variety of topics. Not that they aren’t readable and full of useful information and guidance, it’s just that Wallis seems unsure of how to end the book.

The first part of the book, however, in which Wallis talks about the two issues he is most passionate about---poverty and war---is eye-opening and important. It is especially so due to Wallis’s contention (well-supported by Scripture and science) that the two are inextricably linked.

Paraphrasing quotes from Pope Paul VI and from the Book of Micah, Wallis contends that “the possibilities for peace, for avoiding war, depend upon everyone having enough for their own security... (p.191)”

His contentions aren’t all that shocking, but in a culture in which the poor are constantly vilified by the wealthy, where politicians continue to make policies that favor the rich and hurt the poor, and where so-called “Christian” men and women vote to increase military spending while cutting programs that are designed to help the needy, his views almost seem revolutionary.
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Reading Progress

November 6, 2015 – Started Reading
November 6, 2015 – Shelved
November 9, 2015 – Finished Reading
November 10, 2015 – Shelved as: good-christianity
November 10, 2015 – Shelved as: politics
November 10, 2015 – Shelved as: religion

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Princessaquasong I'm glad you came back to Christ.

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