The Common Good


Patheos Press Items
In contrast, a much more sensible position was outlined in Jim Wallis’ bestselling 2005 book God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. Wallis reminds us that there is more to “moral values” than who marries whom. Social justice and inclusion are moral values too. Wallis relatedly highlights that there is more to upholding the “sanctity of life” than opposing abortion; war and capital punishment concern the sanctity of life. Wallis frequently summarizes his point by asking, “When did becoming a Christian mean being pro-rich, pro-war, and pro-Republican?” He means that Jesus, as depicted in the Gospels, seems much more pro-poor and pro-peace.
Since last September, Sojourners has explored the meaning of “evangelical.” Such conversations have supplemented more academic analyses by political scientists and sociologists.
Any Christian who attends to popular culture knows that Justin Bieber is a phenomenon unique to the current teen generation: a social media-created super star. The teen's rise to fame began with a couple of videos his mother uploaded to YouTube, and his fans primarily relate to him through Facebook and Twitter. But what many adults may not know is that Justin is also a devoted Christian and has used his fame to give back to a number of charitable causes. In her new book, Belieber! Fame, Faith, and the Heart of Justin Bieber, award-winning religion journalist and author Cathleen Falsani explores Bieber's faith, family life, and the impact the singer is having on a generation of teens. I invited Falsani to share her thoughts on the origins of the book and what attracted a 40-something mom to want to write about the newest pop idol.
Rev. Jim Wallis however, may be the sort of guy we have in mind. Jim has been a major leader of the liberal wing of Christian evangelicalism. He’s been significant player in Church leadership, has been on the evening news a lot, has spoken before thousands of people on countless occasions, and he helped negotiate a truce between the Bloods and the Crips. Moreover, the guy has been lifting weights for most of his adult life and could bench-press Mark several times. Jim’s burly.
I could go on; there's the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen, the socially conscious evangelicalism of Jim Wallis, or the libertarian faith of Marvin Olasky. When Rick Santorum recently said that "we always need a Jesus candidate," which Jesus did he have in mind?
The thing is, you and I think of “evangelical” primarily as a theological demarcation. That’s why I can be listed in the evangelical portal at Patheos and Jim Wallis can call himself an evangelical on the dustjacket of his latest book. But outside of our circles, “evangelical” is a cultural category — not a theographic, but a psychographic.
In another related article, Sojourners reported on a survey indicating that Sarah Moon’s identification of herself as both “pro-choice” and “pro-life” is not just semantic wizardry. In fact, this survey found that a majority of Americans believe both that abortion should be legal, and that it is morally wrong.
As Jim Wallis noted, God is not a Republican or a Democrat. Nor can Jesus be hijacked for political purposes. Jesus is bigger than our political schemes, be they right or left. The Jesus of the scriptures was a friend of sinners, expanding the circle of love to include groups typically at odds: the infirm, immoral, oppressors, and tax collectors. All belonged to God’s circle of love and all also fell short of God’s call to transforming love.
I’ve noticed a movement afoot among Christians to take back Christmas. No, I’m not talking about the perennial braying over secular America’s “war on Christmas” from those offended by “holiday” trees. (If you want to know what I think about that war on Christmas, read Sojourners’ Jim Wallis’s take on it. That pretty much sums it up for me.)
From SoJo, and I agree with Jim Wallis that Fox News’ “defense” of Christmas goes not much deeper than the protection of businesses to use traditional Christian Christmas greetings. Christmas celebrates the humiliation of God in becoming one of us, “who became poor for us so that we might become rich in him,” and our entrance into that gospeling act of Jesus for us.