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.