Monday, January 20, 2014

Whose Side Are You On?

Jim Wallis is well-known by many Christians, and he often is viewed as controversial in the evangelical community, as he uses the term evangelical while promoting progressive ideals through the social justice group, Sojourners. I've never read or listened to any of his work, so I was intrigued to listen to an audiobook version of his (very long) tome, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned about Serving the Common Good.

The book, running at about 14 hours for the audio version and 300 pages for the print edition, has a lot of information and examples of Wallis' points. Many posts could be written about these points, but I was generally impressed with Wallis' ability to be rather balanced and try to find a common ground in the name of the Gospel.

The basic premise of his text is a fundamental shifting of the paradigm of faith in politics, which argues God is always on our side (whichever side you're on). As the title of the book suggests, Wallis asserts that this perspective and the question of whose side God is on misses the point. We should be asking if we're on God's side. While I'm sure this argument has been made before, and it's not simple to live out, I really appreciated how this view shifts the focus from being anthropocentric to being theocentric. Both sides of the political (and theological) aisle seem to increasingly emphasize humanity as central rather than trying to find out how to re-orient to be in line with God. The result, Wallis argues, should be striving toward the common good rather than our individual, siloed good. And I agree.

If you like texts on the politics of religion, this is a great addition. But the print version might be better. Again, I haven't listened to Wallis before, but for him being such a national leader who has to speak regularly, his narration of his own book was less-than-impressive. In fact, the almost monotonous tone made some very important points seem unimportant. I usually love authors narrating their own works because you can hear their passion and interest in their points, even if their readings aren't great. Unfortunately, both were lacking here, making me sometimes question if Wallis even believed what he was saying. I hope he does because his points are important and much-needed.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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