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Sep 29, 2006

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John Lunt

Michael,

Thanks for an excellent post. While I haven't read this book, I've read enough of Jim Wallis' writings in Sojourn magazine that I have some of the same concerns. You addressed many of the issues fairly.

I have to say there are things we've done in Iraq and in other ways I'm not totally comfortable with. But to try to demonize President Bush is unreasonable. First of all, Once Sadam was captured he could have declared victory and pulled us out. That would have been the easy course of action. He's taking a much harder road.

There's a lot of talk about the detentions without trial. While I tend to be very wary of our government doing this, let's remember that in World War II, thousands of Japanese Americans were held in detention centers,guilty of no crimes.

Sometimes when we are in the fog of war, we may make mistakes or over-react, but it's sometimes hard to know if that is happening. I believe President Bush is doing about as well as can be expected in light of 9-11 and I haven't heard his critics offer any real workable alternatives including Wallis.

The idea of being subject to Koffi Annan, the UN (a body populated by representatives of a number of despot nations) really doesn't apeal to me at all and I would argue will be completely unworkable. Why did Israel want a NATO instead of a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. The UN generally fails terribly in such missions.

Again, well said.

John

Michael Kruse

Thanks for the comment John.

There is difficult problem here it seems to me. On the one hand, when corupt and evil things are done, leaders need to be held accountable. So I think their is a danger of giving leaders too much of a free ride. On the other hand, leaders are falible human beings who sometimes make boneheaded decisions. The attempt to ascribe nefarious and sinster motives to every decision a leader makes goes too far the other direction. "The fog of war" as you mentioned no longer happens on distant far away battlefields but is under 24/7 scrutiny. I wonder how well Roosevelt or Ike would have looked with such scrutiny during WWII.

I find Wallis' anatagonism toward's Bush as a mirror Image of James Dobson's view of Bill Clinton. I get just as weary of it from one as I do the other.

Ted Gossard

Michael,

I believe I read the entire book. Coming out of my conservative (strong Republican county in Ohio) background, I found it to be refreshing to me in many ways- and true, since I have not read Sojourners much at all over the years- and thus am not that well acquainted with the religious left.

But I have to say, after hearing Jim Wallis here in our city, I was not that impressed with his message really filling in what is needed, and being the gospel of the kingdom in Jesus. I think there is so much more. And just too much politicking in a general liberal way, that is not nearly nuanced enough.

Thanks for working through that. Especially good for those who haven't read the book.

Michael Kruse

"But I have to say, after hearing Jim Wallis here in our city, I was not that impressed with his message really filling in what is needed, and being the gospel of the kingdom in Jesus. I think there is so much more. And just too much politicking in a general liberal way, that is not nearly nuanced enough."

I think Wallis has tapped into the frustrations of many people with the current state of politics and the conservative leadership. However, when I look closely, despite his protestations to the contrary, his agenda is overwhelming a collection of political left ideas.

For those who have grown up in conservative Evangelical circles I am sure what he says sounds very refreshing and innovative. If you are from a mainline tradition like the PCUSA where I come from, his ideas are what mainlines have been saying for decades. I just returned from the General Assembly Council meetings of the PCUSA and I heard more than one conversation by left leaning folks who were singing his praises. The National Council of Churches, probably the last greatest bastion of the modernist liberal thinking is also a big fan. I see Wallis and company as only a slightly nuanced reincarnation of the some old modernist political and theological liberalism.

Scot McKnight

Michael,
I think I've read all of Wallis' books; I have subscribed to his stuff over the years; I check his blog and I check his online newsletter.

But, I think this last book is little more than a scrapbook of where I've been and what I've said. For me it fell flat -- and worse. It bored me.

But, his books A Call to Conversion and Faith Works are his two best books, and they are at the heart of what he has to say.

Wallis is cribbing from others on the Jubilee theme of Luke 4:18-19, and I don't think he is as far off as you suggest. I think here of Sharon Ringe and RB Sloan's work. (Not fair, I know, just to refer to literature, but we're about to leave the home.)

Michael Kruse

"But, his books A Call to Conversion and Faith Works are his two best books, and they are at the heart of what he has to say."

I haven't read either and it is helpful to get you perspective. I am responding largely to his "God's Politics," sojo e-mails and observations over the past three or four years. I hope to become a more regular reader of his blog which I now have linked.

I think what frustrates me about Wallis is the same frustration I had taking classes with Campolo; or for that matter with most Evangelical leaders of any stripe. It is too often long on populist fervor and short on critically thought through solutions. Thus, when our theological reflections correctly reveal injustice or shortcomings of the present ethos we have knee-jerk conservative populist reactions to liberals who run the show and just the opposite if conservatives are in control. Evangelicals do not seem to me to have to have a strong theology of political engagement and that vacuum seems to lead to easy cooption by existing political ideologies. I greatly fear that Wallis’ work is just the latest in a string of cooption I was hoping for something more "fresh" I guess. I am still watching and listening, but wary. Hopefully I am wrong.

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