Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus says it all for me. Because of the moment we are now in, this book feels like the most important one I have ever done. I always knew I would write my own Jesus book — focused solely on what he said, what he meant, and what it means today. I decided this was the time to write that book. Some of the early readers tell me they think it’s the best I’ve ever written. I really and deeply hope so, given the deep spiritual crisis we are in that goes far deeper than politics.
This is indeed so much deeper than just a political crisis; underneath lies a deeply spiritual and dangerously moral one. I always “road test” all my ideas for a book. And the line I have spoken to people across the country since the 2016 election that gets the most response is this one: “The soul of the nation is at stake, as is the integrity of faith.” I have been grateful to see even some presidential candidates and media pundits now raising the “soul of the nation” language.
Everything has become so polarized, partisan, and binary. "Don’t go left, don’t go right; go deeper," is something I have often said but is more important now than ever before. And for us, going deeper means into Jesus. In endless conversations with pastors, including one here this week on the little Block Island where my family rests and retreats each August, clergy tell me they don’t know how to raise social justice issues without exposing how politically divided their congregations are — with religion taking angry ideological sides and news networks shaping Christian views more than the gospel does.
I wrote this book for them, and for all the laypeople who desperately want to learn how to apply their faith in Jesus to the historical moment we are in, but also for a whole new generation — many who have left the churches and religion but are still very eager to hear what this brown-skinned rabbi who was born in what is now Palestinian territory has to say. Almost miraculously, Jesus has survived all of us Christians, and there is a great hunger out there for his liberating and transformative message. The central message of this book is that Christians have become disconnected from Jesus; and it is time to return to him, to become connected to Jesus again. And I believe that key to navigating our current political and religious crisis is to look to the teachings and person of Jesus, both of which are supposed to turn our world, society, and politics upside down.
In particular, this new book raises up the questions that Jesus asked or were prompted by those listening to him at the beginning of his short ministry. There are eight questions, I believe, that provide the essential keys to put our political times into spiritual and gospel perspective; and begin a process of turning things around — in learning what we are for and not just against. Each chapter will ask a question that Jesus asked or sparked as he walked and lived among us. And he expected a response — both then and now.
We all know we are approaching the most important election in any of our lifetimes, and we need to change the national discussion from binary politics to a moral conversation that can help bring many together. That will be my mission between now and November of 2020 — to help change the national narrative with your help, by traveling to cities and rural communities across the country to raise the key Jesus questions we all need to answer.
But I am told almost every day that messages of religion, faith, or even moral values can’t break through the intense and shallow media environment we all have to live in and is often so depressing. Good news and hope don’t stand up well to all the bad news and the cynicism that results. Sojourners, with the book’s publisher HarperCollins, is planning a nationwide series of town meetings and local events to change that, and we are reaching out to our best friends and contacts in the media. But that will be a tough road, and I am asking for your help.
The truth is that you all, Sojourners readers and supporters, have the capacity to turn the teachings of Jesus and how they should transform our politics into a national conversation. You are clergy and committed lay church members, leaders in many sectors across our nation, teachers in all kinds of schools, activists already addressing the most important issues of our time, both mentors and students, and among you is a whole new generation eager to make a difference in the world, with the faith to help them do that.
Our strategy is to take some of the key questions Jesus asked or prompted and pose them into the national discussions of both “church and state,” in our congregations and the political coverage of this election. But we can’t just depend on the media for that. We need your help.
We are suggesting two ways that you can immediately help this mission to help change the national conversation:
- Pre-ordering Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus will help the book break into and even change the national conversation going on right now. You can directly help change that conversation by reading the book, sharing it, and using it as a tool and guidebook in your congregations, small groups, schools, and local communities. We have also created a 10-week study guide with videos and resources for small group and congregational and school study. Pre-order here via the official Christ in Crisis website.
- Inviting me and other voices to come and speak in your community, so we can go deeper into conversation together about what these questions mean in your community and our country and world more broadly. We are already in contact with diverse local leaders in many places who are going to participate in those conversations. If you build the events, we will come. ( Here’s how to invite me to speak. )
Let me be perfectly clear: This book is about our Savior and Lord and what he requires of us. The way of Jesus discredits and diametrically opposes the politics of the small, narcissistic, and amoral man in the White House, who appeals to many of our deepest demons and sins and so often models the exact opposite of the spirit of Christ, and whose words, behavior, and policies are in fact in the spirit of anti-Christ. Jesus has always been the name that is the greatest threat to the earthly tyrants of power. It still is. Jesus must now be reclaimed and is worth reclaiming in both our personal and public lives.
I wrote this book to be both timely and timeless. And it is my honor to now share it with our entire Sojourners community — and ask for your help in getting the message out. Bless you all.