“Our Life Together Can Be Better”

Rev. Jim Wallis was on The Stephanie Miller Show today. I just caught the last few minutes of the interview but someone pointed me to it over here on Soundcloud.

I recommend giving it a listen. Wallis is so refreshing. He’s a much-needed counter to the frothy-mouthed “gays and feminists caused x, y, z disaster” we usually get from religious circles. He’s promoting a new book about bringing back the old ethos of social responsibility and the common good; in fact, he told Miller the first line of the book is, “our life together can be better.” I really like that. I think we forget sometimes that we really do have a part to play in all of this. If we want everything to be better for more people, we can actually make it happen. We can, you know.

Wallis is supposedly of the evangelical persuasion, but he seems to spend all of his time and energy preaching about caring for the poor and marginalized and building a just society. Most evangelicals who cross my path seem to spend 99% of their energy trying to lead people to Jesus and little time worrying about them beyond that. If that’s all you get out of the Bible then I have no time for you.

Also, something I’ve noticed lately — and maybe it’s just because I’m somewhat disconnected from that world — but it seems like there’s been a real lack of Jesus-y stories in the aftermath of the Boston; West, Texas; and Newtown tragedies. You know how whenever there’s a horrible tragedy we always hear stories about how God stepped in and performed some kind of miracle? And then all the parties involved appear on The 700 Club and such to talk about it? And Christian musicians write songs about it? Martyrs pulled from the rubble and all that?

I’m thinking of Columbine shooting victim Cassie Bernall, who supposedly was asked if she believed in God with a gun to her head. The story was that Cassie responded yes (later versions of the story in Christian media had her being told to deny her religion and be spared, and Cassie refusing). Michael W. Smith wrote a hit song about it. Other witnesses disputed these accounts, but it didn’t matter, the story was trotted out as an evangelism tool. We got a similar story after the Heath High School shootings in Kentucky and the Aurora theater shooting.

Anyway, I haven’t heard any stories like this after any of our recent tragedies. Maybe I’ve missed them, or maybe this brand of religion is truly dying. It certainly doesn’t seem to be doing much for the people it’s supposedly trying to help — and yes, glossy multimedia marketing campaign, I’m looking at you. Those annoying “I Am Second” billboards have started popping up all over Nashville and people, they are everywhere.

I’m just trying to figure out how an artsy black and white photograph of Scott Hamilton or Darrell Waltrip topped by the words “I Am Second” is supposed to help someone working at the local multiplex who’s just had their hours cut because Regal Entertainment would rather give their CEO a 31% pay raise than pay for their employees’ health insurance.

This is the kind of stuff that worries people like Jim Wallis, and it should worry more church people. This is the kind of issue that makes the church “relevant,” not the production values on a multimedia marketing campaign. Just sayin’, guys.

14 Comments

Filed under Christianity, religion, Sojourners

14 responses to ““Our Life Together Can Be Better”

  1. Many years ago, probably in the late 70s or early 80s, listening to a discussion about Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, I heard a woman point out, “It’s a lot easier to praise the Lord than it is to follow him”. I never knew her name but I’ve remembered that point ever since.

  2. democommie

    It’s a lot easier to pretend that you believe while letting or causing others to suffer. I can’t imagine what level of cognitive dissonance it requires to be able to pray in public and spend the rest of one’s time fucking people over–without having one’s head explode. Then again, I have a hard time imagining a nation that has approximately 30% of its electorate maintaining a level of indignorance that is breathtaking.

  3. Mary Wilson

    THANK YOU, SB. Your comments and others here today resound with me and my newly found faith. And I am sharing this one with several who get so discouraged trying to be a true believer when all around them are negative, hate filled and lack compassion. One of my dear friends looked up references in the ‘Good Book’ about what God the Father or his Son Jesus said about how we should treat the poor….and he found over 3,000 quotes about love, non-judgment and compassion!

    • Flying Junior

      Blessings to you, Mary. New-found faith is a gift. All of my life I have been mentored and influenced by very holy people. One day, I just decided that I wanted to be one of the brothers and sisters. No one can tell you what faith in God means in your life. God will help you understand.

  4. Flying

    Wow, SB. I hadn’t really noticed how the healing music has sort of all but disappeared. Granted, I am no longer in the Christian music mainstream as I once was. But in the information age, I should probably be seeing something in my email box from Worship Together if it was still happening. Michael Smith has written some beautiful music and seems to be a sincere and compassionate Christian.

    Of course, the ultimate coup was Alan Jackson’s million-selling “Where were You when the World Stopped Turning?” written after the September 11th terrorist attacks. He fulfilled a very deep need in the hearts of the faithful while at the same time making deep piles of U.S. currency. That whole thing is gone. I suspect that republican-dominated churches have become more cynical since the Obama presidency and are having a tough time preaching the gospel of peace and love when their hearts are filled with hatred. Mostly killing the once-thriving and vital Christian contemporary music industry. Just an observation.

    Years ago at my now perverted, once American Baptist, church in the golden age of peace and love, my friend sang “Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood. OT, granted. I used to get laughs singing it in the person of Osama Bin Laden.

    If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life:
    And I had to leave Kabul with just my children and my wives…

  5. Mike G

    Most evangelicals who cross my path seem to spend 99% of their energy trying to lead people to Jesus

    The ones of my acquaintance spend maybe 20% on Sales Pitching for Jesus, and 80% on who they hate today and why they are morally superior to everyone not in their tribe.

  6. democommie

    Regarding Christian music:

    Most of it that I suffer is deeply derivative and not in the least “uplifting” (ymmv). Back when I still had some sort of belief in the Christian concept of GOD (concepts, actually, LOTS of them) I liked some of the stuff that I heard or sang in the choir, but most of it? nah.

    ANY Christian who makes “deep piles of U.S. currency” filling a deep need in others’ hearts is not ‘zackly what JESUS ordered.

  7. Min

    The difference is that Wallis actually read that part in the Gospels about loving your neighbor as yourself.

  8. C B

    How fortunate for you that you missed all the execrable Facebook memes after Newtown, featuring a white-skinned Jesus poignantly telling a little dead child that this horrible thing happened because He wasn’t allowed in school. I blew my gasket at more than one well-meaning friend over that one.

  9. Anonymous

    Uplifting post — and while I’m not Catholic, it reminds me some of the new Pope. I think it’s a positive lesson for our times – that Christianity is about loving and helping everyone, especially the afflicted and downtrodden. That is how Christ lived.

    Also, the thing that always bothered me about “I am second”, is that it missed the point of Christianity. True, you shouldn’t put yourself first, but rather God first. But, Christianity teaches that you should put yourself last — put all others ahead of you. The true Christian theme should be, “I am last.”, not “I am second.” Of course, then why would you need billboards?

  10. democommie

    If you need GOD to be good, you’ve got a bigger problem than you you’re aware of.

    I was born into a cath-o-lic family, baptized, confessed, communioned and confirmed–all before I had much time to reflect on things or read the unwritten contract that had been signed for me by my well-intentioned parents. After about age seven I was pretty much fed up with the bullshit and, at the same time, scared that I would die and burn in hell, FOREVER. Yep, that’s some lovin’ GOD, the Christians have.

    Being an atheist for at least the last five years has made me aware that whether I do good or not I will be going nowhere except back to the earth (scattered ashes) at the end of my time on this earth. Oddly enough that makes me much more aware of the need to not harm others and to help when and where I’m able.