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Dec 14, 2005

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Neil

In many ways I find myself agreeing with you, although I am a huge fan of Wallis and would recommend this book to my religious right colleagues to help them grasp the other side of the conversation from an evenagelical perspective.
You say that, 'If we are truly to move beyond left and right to a unified Christian witness we have to start with the authority of scripture and be willing to bring ideology into conformity. Any other use is a denial of scripture’s authority.' While this sounds great on paper it is not that easy, we are still left with the problem of interpretation and meaning and that always takes place within a particular framework or cultural linguistic context.

Denis Hancock

Well darn! I recently bought this book from Amazon.com and it is third in my reading queue.

Oh well. I'll read it and see what I can get out of it.

Sider and Knippers book on Evangelical Policy is the next in my queue. Thus far Sider has not disappointed me, although he makes me a little uncomfortable.

Michael Kruse

"While this sounds great on paper it is not that easy, we are still left with the problem of interpretation and meaning and that always takes place within a particular framework or cultural linguistic context."

You bet! I take it as warning when I find myself defending my interpretation, not because it seems to be the most sensible all things considered, but because to surrender my interpretation might cause me to change my values or behaviors. That to me is putting ideology ahead of the authority of scripture. Equally dangerous is when, by reflex, I start attributing sinister motives to those who disagree.

I believe Wallis to be a passionate man of God who is trying to live what he preaches with integrity. (Probably more than I am.) God bless him for jump starting the debate in Evangelical circles. I think he is a powerful representative for his position. I just wish leaders like Wallis would step back and double check their rhetoric for accuracy more often. He is not alone in this need.

Michael Kruse

By all means, read the book! I think it is a cogent well written book articulating a given perspective. My critique has more to do with what I wanted then what I got. I am looking for innovation and the title led me to believe maybe I was going to get some of that. To me, this is just more of the same thing Evangelical Left has been saying for decades but it is said very well.

Michael Kruse

I really like the Evangelical Public Policy book edited by Sider and Knippers. Sider has often dismissed as part of the Evangelical Left but I think his perspectives are more nuanced than that.

I think the book is an excellent primer on thinking about policy from a Christian perspective.

Denis Hancock

The thing I find most fascinating about perceptions within and without the church is that when it comes specific issues, the "Right" and the "Left" are pretty close to being on the same page. Or at least in the same chapter...

Yet, the two sides do not often see the commonality because political ideology overwhelms our debates.

The press continues to assume that "right-wing", "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" are words that are inextricably linked -- and it is people like Sider, Campolo, and even Wallis who are able to confound those who like nice neat pigeonholes.

David Stearns

This book is definitely worth reading. If nothing else it gets you thinking. While it is obvious Wallis' sympathies are primarily with the left, the title points out that he is criticizing both left and right, "Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It."

The primary point of the book isn't to criticize Bush's economic or military policies. The point is that Republicans have no right to claim that "God is on their side", that to be an evangelical Christian does not necessarily mean you are a Replican so as to encourage the Democrats not to write-off Christians but to embrace the biblical ideals of Judeo-Christian belief as part of their platform, and that there are many more issues that should be viewed from a religions perspective than simply homosexuality and abortion, such as economic policies affecting the poor in the US and other countries, and decisions whether or not to go to war.

If nothing else, this book is a reminder that we Christians, Republicans and Democrats, have a responsibility to consider all the world around us from a Christian perspective, and to act with compassion for our neighbors in accordance with our Christian beliefs.

Pastor Al

I'm one of those strange people who are evangelical theologically and yet "pragmatically liberal" when it comes to politics. I too enjoy Wallis however I think his interpretation is more in line with the progressive view [pc language for liberal] than with biblicial theology.

In the discussion about the "police force" I'd have to ask about the UN peacekeepers in Africa who were sexually abusing the girls in the refugee camps. As to the war in Iraq I happen to have read a book called "The Pentegon's New Map: Waging War and Peace in the 21st Century" I felt the author's comment about Saddam had to go and the summer of 2002 was about as good a time as any was appropriate and whether we "like it or not" was truth.

Peace Alan

Michael Kruse

"This book is definitely worth reading. If nothing else it gets you thinking. While it is obvious Wallis' sympathies are primarily with the left, the title points out that he is criticizing both left and right, "Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.""

Thanks David. Respectful criticism can be very rewarding. I think Wallis is a dedicated man but the book reads to me like his politics are directing his theology and not the other way around. That is the problem with many on both left and right.

Michael Kruse

"I too enjoy Wallis however I think his interpretation is more in line with the progressive view [pc language for liberal] than with biblicial theology."

Thanks Allan. This is my primary beef with the book.

will spotts

I find many of Wallis's criticisms of the right are correct. But I fear the results of his own perscriptions would not fare much better.

I'm a little concerned with the use of the word prophetic. Wallis and others rightly point out that God is not on the side of the right wing. But using that term implies God IS on the side of the policies Wallis endorses. It amounts to the same thing -- prophetic, regardless of the way it is intended, still has the implication, "Thus sayeth the Lord". I tend to find very very few political ideas qualify for such an imprimature.

Neil

Michael you said 'My critique has more to do with what I wanted then what I got. I am looking for innovation and the title led me to believe maybe I was going to get some of that. To me, this is just more of the same thing Evangelical Left has been saying for decades but it is said very well.'

This was certainly the greatest disappointment with the book. A third way is needed, I'm just not sure what it is or how to articulate it. Maybe a third way would just lead to further poloarization?

Michael Kruse

Will, I think the never ending battle is to discern the difference between what God wants and what we want. At least a piece of this has to be an honest attempt to be confronted by scripture. Wallis unexamined premise about the jubilee is a glaring example of everything that I think is wrong with Evangelicals, right and left. Even honest examination of scripture may lead us to different conclusions but could we all agree to at least start there?

Michael Kruse

"This was certainly the greatest disappointment with the book. A third way is needed, I'm just not sure what it is or how to articulate it. Maybe a third way would just lead to further poloarization?"

Across the top of the cover of the book is "A New Vision for Faith and Politics in America." My beef is this is the same vision Wallis and others have been promoting for decades.

I think a third way or new way had to include at least four basic biblical principles:

1. Everything there is belongs to God. The ulitmate measure of our success is did we use our resouces (i.e., eveything we have) to the ends that God cares about.

2. God calls every human being to be productive stewards of God's resources. Work and use of resources is done out of service and celebration to God.

3. Private property is inherent in God's call to stewardship. To trivialize private property is to thwart God's call to stewardship.

4. "There are to be no poor among you." God calls us into community and expects us to use our resources to bring everyone into prosperity.

I think if most of the ideological traps we fall in is because we fail to fully honor one or more of the above.

T Freeman

Michael,

I haven't read Wallis' book, but I've also thoroughly enjoyed the title. As a person with an economics degree, I also appreciated the distinction you made between helping the poor and helping the economy, which are often different things. That being said, I thought your distinctions on the "slaves" and "land" statements by Wallis were too thin to take them from very far from what seemed to be his point. Maybe it's just me, but if the slave situation was exactly as you describe in Israel, I walk away with the same feeling of what God does and doesn't like. Regarding the land, I don't know what Wallis' version of "equity" looks like, but your interpretation of Leviticus on the point seemed like one that most on the left would be perfectly content with. Let me know if I'm missing something. I'm a lawyer and an adjunct prof at a Christian university so these are things I'd love to discuss with my students.

Michael Kruse

I agree that in terms of general thrust that Wallis and Jubilee are talking about the same thing: The preservation/restoration of shalom. What I am taking issue with is the way he is using scripture for policy setting. For example, the Jubilee "cancelled debt" so we should cancel debt for developing nations. Jubilee "redistributed property" so we should redistribute property. These are being offered as biblical justification for policy decisions.

It may indeed be approriate policy to cancel debts or redistribute property as the MEANS for achieving shalom. Biblical principles may warrant such action. But is inappropriate to use Jubilee as a MANDATE for using these precise MEANS. Those that may legitmately argue against debt reduction are castigated for violating biblical teaching on "debt forgiveness."

I don't know if I am getting at your question but I would point you to the right side bar where it says "Series Index." There you will find a "Jubilee" link where I wrote a brief series. You may also find the "Economic Justice" link of interest.

I would also highly recommend a book by a prof. of mine, John Stapleford, called "Bulls, Bears & Golden Calves: Applying Christian Ethics in Economics." IVP, 2002. It is written to be a supplement for college Economic textbooks but it can also be read independently. IMO, it is the best primer on economics from a Christian perspective I have read.

Finally, next week, probably on Wednesday, I expect to do a short series on my take about thinking economicaly from a Christian standpoint. I would highly value your reaction to those posts!

Thanks for stopping by.

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