A Misnomer Becomes a Movement

By Jim Wallis 2-14-2008

Tuesday night, I spoke at the historic Park Street Church in Boston, where the second Great Awakening evangelist Charles Finney preached in 1831, calling people to faith in Jesus Christ and then to enlist in the anti-slavery campaign. William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first abolitionist speech here when he was only 23 years old. I was facing a packed church on a Tuesday night, full of 600 20-something evangelicals who want to be a generation of new abolitionists - focusing on the most vulnerable in our world, those suffering people whom they think Jesus would care about. The sense of history and the possibilities of this moment were palpable. Several other constituencies were also there—and you could feel the energy of a movement.

That's what this Great Awakening book tour has been like. It's a book for a movement. Many of you have supported the new book and, by doing so, are supporting a movement. Enough of you bought The Great Awakening in the first two weeks to put us on The New York Times Best Seller List. This puts the book in the front of book stores across the country where, of course, more people see it, buy it, and read it. Thank you. This is a book that is helping to spark and support a revival movement that could change big things.

When you buy your own copy of The Great Awakening in these first few weeks, and then buy it for friends and family, fellow church members and neighbors, you literally help spread the message and the movement. Go to Amazon and see part of the proceeds from your book purchase go to Sojourners or to your local Barnes and Noble, Borders, or your favorite local independent book store.

Several people have already told me that they are starting book studies in their congregations and communities. They asked me if there was a downloadable study guide for small groups. I told them that we already have one—a free study guide for book study groups. Take the book to your congregation or meet up with others in your community to begin a Great Awakening Study Group. Make it a Lenten study book, or an Easter book study, or a discussion group focused on what people can practically do in their own families or congregations to influence public policy.

And while you're at it, support the other "movement books" that are out now—Tony Campolo's Red Letter Christians, Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change, Amy Sullivan's The Party Faithful, E.J. Dionne's Souled Out, and Shane Claiborne's Jesus for President (coming soon). These are all progressive Christian "movement books," and we are blessed to have so many out there now. What a change from just a few years ago! I've read them all and can heartily recommend them as very important books for a movement. Please support them all.

We see the conservative movement strategically support their movement books all the time and put their spokespeople on the best-seller lists and onto the talk shows non-stop. There is no other way to explain how people like Ann Coulter keep getting the microphone to say such outrageous things. A string of six bestsellers that all spew venom against liberals keeps Coulter on the air. So it's a good thing to see progressive Christians supporting our own movement books.

I am on the road now, visiting 22 cities in six weeks. And our Sojourners staff told me yesterday that I had just completed my 80th media interview in the past three weeks. I wasn't really tired until I heard that! So please keep me in your prayers.

Reporters used to say to me, "So you are a progressive evangelical; isn't that a misnomer?" Now the misnomer has become a movement. And just this morning, a highly rated drive-time talk show host on the East Coast asked me to tell him about this new progressive Christian movement.

Something is clearly happening across this nation and it is very exciting indeed. But your support for this new book and for these book events when we come to your city is absolutely critical. Go to the Great Awakening Web site that our staff has prepared to see what other people are saying about the book, or to download the study guide for your book study group. And follow the hopeful stories from our book tour and reports from the road on our God's Politics blog. It's a great time to start a Great Awakening study group in your church or community and bring the movement home.

I believe that a genuine revival is coming and a that new great awakening may soon be here. God is good.

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