I had earlier expressed a bit of disappointment over my initial impressions of Jim Wallis’ new book , The Great Awakening. I had just gotten the Audible.com audio version, which is read by Jim and unabridged (a full 14 hours of audio).
We just made a quick trip up to Cincinnati yesterday and came back this morning. My wife and daughter went with my wife’s sister, her 2 kids, and my wife’s mother. So, on the 5 hour trip up and on the way back, I listened to just over half of it, and it gets much better than the intro, which seemed to re-has a lot of the same stuff , and use a lot of questionable sounding things like “Religion must be disciplined by democracy”, which seems to get it completely backwards from a theological perspective.
But on into the meat of the book, Jim’s church base comes clearer and he refers to the Kingdom of God more and does it in a way that I remember from Jim’s earlier stuff. It’s not that I thought that Jim had forsaken any of that. It’s just that he had begun to veer too much in the direction of “public language” to the extent that he sounded much more secular….and I had often argued during his God’s Politics tour that he was offering TO a secular audience an apologetic for deeper understanding of the spiritual movements that ended up invigorating some progressive politics amongst church folk.
It’s still an iffy proposition to me how much “cross-over” language use we can do without adopting a mind set that ends up depending too much on a political process derived from the secular world vs a political “result” inspired by a church living out the alternative they have been called to represent.
Wallis covers a lot of Yoder-inspired sense of politics as well. All in all , once you get past the intro and first part of the book, I find myself less suspicious and more engaged with the thrust of the book. He starts sounding a lot more like Charles Marsh’s The Beloved Community and his own earlier stuff like Call To Conversion, which is a good thing.
I wish he would talk about more of this in his interviews on the book in the coming months.
(Later: a few minutes after this post, I also remembered that I am irritated by the use of the term “religion”, especially since I know Wallis’ sense of church is much more elaborate and complicated than what the term “religion” connotes for most who use it to describe what they see as the church. “Bad religion” and “good religion” is not quite as good of a descriptor as “bad theology” vs “good theology” (as in Wallis’ statement “the answer to bad theology is not NO theology, but good theology. Early on in this book, Wallis uses “bad/good religion”, which is irksome to me. On an alternative /argument side, however, the issue still remains about how to “talk theology” in public where all is not expressed or heard in the same manner; and orthodoxy is “verbalized” via different terminology, depending upon how these theological terms have been used in forming us and our sense of the terms via our ecclesia/communal experience.)