Larry reflects on God’s Politics
When Christian faith gets too cozy with any culture, it is at risk of being diluted and losing its voice. Justice requires independence and integrity. All of this is to say that as I reflect on the need for the mainline church to find its voice, I believe Jim Wallis is pointing the way by pointing toward the Bible.
I think this is Wallis’ greatest gift during this time of political turmoil and enmity. The vision of the prophets for a world as God meant, and the announcement of a Kingdom bu Jesus. The “better way” as envisioned by the people of God, via Israel, and the church.
I have often defended Wallis lately , in spite of the use of some language that some find troubling, but yet I cannot help but feel that he has brought , in an accessible way, an awareness of the dangers of Constantinianism that is much more esoterically rendered by the adherents of Radical Orthodoxy. Even though I am delving ever more deeply into the writings and thought of Stanley Hauerwas, and have gained valuable illumination and insight from James K.A. Smith’s account of Radical Orthodoxy and the history of theology from that perspective, I cannot but wonder that it might not be such a distortion to speak as he does, if he is able to raise awareness to the extent that he has about the idolatries of nationalism that have set themselves up as rivals to the vision the Kingdom engenders.
I have serious doubts that the criticism is conducive to the accomplishment of a needed consciousness/spirituality centered in the church, and emanating from that center. I have often said lately that I owe a great deal of my “formation” that has allowed me to read and understand Radical Orthodoxy and what I like about it, to Wallis and Sojourners (and of course, in similar ways, to others such as Tony Campolo, Clarence Jordan, The Church of the Saviour, and others).
I would probably rank The Church of the Saviour as the most shaping of the list, but the length and breadth of the Sojourners conversation over these past 20+ years makes it difficult to pinpoint exact “credits” to the forming of this particular story of mine.
I think that all this would take would be some serious reflection (and conversation) on the goals of both these groups, and I would say that the visions each to that “City of God” are highly similar. I think Smith’s rhetoric obscures that more important aspect.
I just finished Hauerwas’ chapter on Rauschenbusch in A Better Hope, and it showed me that in spite of obvious differences between Hauerwas’ view of church and that of Rauschenbusch, Hauerwas was highly appreciative of the importance and eccesiology of Raschenbusch, and careful to make sure he paid due reverence to the depth and intent of Rauschenbusch’s “Social Gospel”. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of Radical Orthodoxy critics that the same dialogical and reconciliing stance be taken in regards to groups such as Sojourners, whose history of works of mercy are unmistakable and ongoing. The people who are actually doing such works, and collating forces aimed to enable the increase of such awareness; and yes, “build a movement”. We all know this phrase is often secularized, but Clarence Jordan liked to translate “The Kingdom of God” in his Cotton Patch Gospels” as “The God Movement”. Lets keep in mind that this is not “widdling down” the Kingdom of God to “secular levels” and “concepts”, but an attempt to connect the concept and reality of “The Kingdom of God” to something which is active, moving, indwelling, pervasive, hopeful, eschatalogical, and ever present.