The God of Public Space

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“God is personal, but never private. Restricting God to private space was the great heresy of twentieth-century American evangelicalism.

Denying the public God is a denial of biblical faith itself, a rejection of the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself. Exclusively private faith degenerates into a narrow religion, excessively preoccupied with individual and sexual morality while almost oblivious to the biblical demands for public justice.

We have been buffeted by private spiritualities that have no connection to public life and a secular politics showing disdain for religion or even spiritual concerns. That leaves spirituality without social consequences and a politics with no soul.”
—Jim Wallis in God’s Politics

I was in college in the early 70s as the university world was being rolled by Vietnam protests and the great social upheavals of the 60s. On the religious scene, issues such as racism, civil rights, social justice, poverty, war and peace were pretty much owned by the left which embraced these causes with great passion but who had given up, for the most part, on the historical Jesus and his reality or relevance in the present. Despite wonderful counter-cultural expressions such as the Jesus Movement, conservative evangelicalism was essentially paralyzed and impotent. All most could do was circle the spiritual wagons and hope the storm would pass.

It was during this time of chaos that I was introduced to Sojourners and Jim Wallis. It was like a drink of cool water in a blazing hot cultural desert. I couldn’t believe that such a magazine, or a community, existed. It combined biblical fidelity with a powerful social/cultural critique that was neither morally selective like the right nor spiritually anemic like the left.

Thirty years later, that same voice has emerged with new relevance and spiritual authority. Wallis’ book—God’s Politics —is a refreshing, comprehensive primer on a holistic, biblical gospel applied to present day American society and politics. It’s one of those books that I read and wonder, “This has the ring of truth. Why are so few who name the name of Christ in the public square saying these things? And why are so few in the Church listening?”

While there are times when his objectivity can get a little carried away by his Anabaptist bias, Wallace’s book is one of the best critiques of our present political context and how followers of Jesus can and must engage.

“God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It” (Jim Wallis)

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