three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
17-July-Aug-2005
By: 
Jim Wallis
user_rating: 
0

Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It

A-GodsPoliticsWallis has a simple message: Religion doesn’t fit neatly into categories like "conservative" and "liberal." In God’s Politics, the founder-editor of Sojourners, a Christian magazine focusing on social justice, criticizes Republicans for interpreting Christianity too narrowly: "How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war and pro-American?" But he also chides the Democrats for downplaying or dismissing faith’s potential value as "a positive force in society." Wallis supports "a new moral politics that transcends the old categories of both the secular Left and the religious Right." He argues that such an approach will bridge the gaps between all camps and ultimately lead to progressive social change.
HarperSanFrancisco. 384 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0060558288

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Now comes a prophet whose message won’t fit neatly into either liberal or conservative orthodoxy, wielding a Bible and proclaiming ‘God is not a Republican or a Democrat.’ … Wallis’s theology will be welcomed by many, and ought to be read by all who have an interest in politics and religion in this country." Dan Wakefield

Charlotte Observer 4 of 5 Stars
"I found this book intriguing, compelling and often convincing, to the point that it caused me to reexamine longstanding positions. … God’s Politics has a lot to say to conservatives and liberals alike." Alex Coffin

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"At a point when many commentators retire, Wallis surges forward with suggested remedies. … If you need a better handle on his theology, take note: ‘The greatest moral question in American politics today is, what is our prosperity for?’ If that question bores you, so will this book. If it inspires you …"
Steve Duin

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[T]o liberals wary of any prescription that includes more religion in politics, and to those worried that his evangelical Christianity is not ecumenical, Wallis makes an important point rarely heard on the religious right: … ‘[T]o influence a democratic society, you must win the public debate about why the policies you advocate are better for the common good.’" Ryan Lizza

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The chief disappointment of this book is that although Wallis pledges to be a ‘prophetic voice’ willing to criticize friends and enemies alike, he fails to honestly grapple with why the religious left has been so impotent. … Despite that flaw, God’s Politics is an important political book and an important spiritual book." Steven Waldman

San Antonio Exp-News 2.5 of 5 Stars
"[Wallis] preaches so much … that he gives only scant lip service to the concerns of the increasing number of Americans who are non-Christian. Nor does Wallis refer to the vision of America’s Masonic founding fathers who hoped to create a secular state free of Europe’s Inquisition and religious wars."
Ed Conroy

Critical Summary

God’s Politics has struck a chord with contemporary Americans. Regardless of how critics feel about the author’s religious beliefs (evangelical Christian) and political leanings (traditional on family values; progressive on issues like poverty and social justice), they are hard-pressed to argue with his central tenets: God belongs to no single political party and true faith transcends political categorization. Wallis writes that liberals and conservatives alike should work for a "new spiritual revival … that could transform our society." While at least one reviewer complains that Wallis glosses over the religious left’s failures, no one denies that he has produced a timely, thought-provoking book.