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God’s Politics: why the American right gets It wrong and the left doesn’t get it

God’s Politics: why the American right gets It wrong and the left doesn’t get it
By Jim Wallis
A Lion Book, 2005
RRP $24.95

As a leader of Sojourners, a radical Christian community based in Washington DC, Jim Wallis has been a challenging prophetic figure for decades. God’s Politics, written against the backdrop of the American Presidential election of 2004, presents the critique of a biblically informed evangelical aimed at both the religious right and the secular left.

His complaint is that the religious right is perpetrating ‘an enormous public misrepresentation of Christianity effectively distorting the way of Jesus as pro-war, pro-rich and selectively moralist. Wallis appeals for commitment to a God who is as focused on the public sphere as well as on personal salvation.

He pleads not for the removal of religious faith from the political arena, but for a faith consistent with prophetic and gospel values. According to the author, while religious conservatives focus on homosexuality and abstinence, Jesus, Isaiah and Micah had much more to say about poverty and economic justice than sexual impropriety.

Disturbed at the failure of what he calls ‘secular fundamentalists’, those on the left who carry the banner for social reform measures; he reminds them of the resources faith and spirituality provide in maintaining their vision. The impact of the civil rights movement, which was inspired by visionary faith, is cited.

The book predominantly attacks the policies of the Bush regime. In a deeply religious America where 70 per cent say that the President should have strong religious beliefs, Jim Wallis’ argument is potent because it is engaging with the dominant discourse.

But what does all this mean for Christians in Australia where religious affiliation is not the fashion?

Tim Costello writes a foreword to this edition which opens up that question. He points to the signs of a growing community debate about values and to the emergence of political groupings explicitly espousing their faith foundations.

God’s Politics provides both sound warnings and advice for Australians who wish to translate a prophetic faith into political reality.

Noel Preston
Ethicist, author and
Uniting Church minister