On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned about Serving the Common Good

On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned about Serving the Common Good

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by Jim Wallis

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"My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side."--Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln led America through one of the most tumultuous times in our nation's history. Reading his words today, it is clear we still have much to learn concerning what it means to be on God's side.

Bestselling author, public theologian, and


"My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side."--Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln led America through one of the most tumultuous times in our nation's history. Reading his words today, it is clear we still have much to learn concerning what it means to be on God's side.

Bestselling author, public theologian, and leading Christian activist Jim Wallis speaks directly into our current context, revealing the spiritual compass we need to effect lasting change in our society. He explains how the good news of Jesus transforms not only our individual lives but also our public lives. Jesus's gospel of the kingdom of God helps us recover a personal and social commitment to the common good and shows us--in concrete ways--how to be both personally responsible and socially just. Working together, we can reshape our churches, society, politics, and economy.

Releasing in the wake of the 2012 election cycle, this book seeks to move beyond the current media and political warfare and bring together a divided country. Wallis explores how Jesus's agenda can serve the common good, what it takes to sustain a lifelong commitment to social justice, and how reading the Bible as well as the culture can shape our lives for genuine transformation.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

 Everyone claims God is on their side. But who is on God's side?

New York Times best-selling author Jim Wallis thinks our life together can be better. In this timely and provocative book, he shows us how to reclaim Jesus's ancient and compelling vision of the common good--a vision that impacts and inspires not only our politics but also our personal lives, families, churches, neighborhoods, and world. "There are few people on the scene who can put together mature Christianity with mature politics without compromising either. Jim Wallis does it best--and does it again here."
--Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico

"No one cuts through the confusion of our times with clarity and compassion like Jim Wallis. He is at his best in this book--bridging a cosmic vision of what humankind could be with a concrete plan for how we get there."
--Eboo Patel, founder and president, Interfaith Youth Core; author of Sacred Ground

"This sweeping tour de force by America's most prominent religious social justice activist is at once deeply personal and powerfully universal. A must-read book for policy makers, religious leaders, and anyone looking for a moral basis to address America's urgent problems."
--Rabbi David Saperstein, director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

"Jim Wallis is asking a question whose time has come. Are we pursuing a national agenda that seeks the common good or are we seeking to baptize our political agendas with faith? Leaders both religious and political must take Wallis's challenge seriously when pondering the future of our life together."
--Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

 Finding Common Ground for the Common Good

"Personal/political, religion/politics, faith/power, ideology/pragmatism . . . Jim Wallis is a wrestler of values, ideas, and policies and how they interact to shape the world we live in. His deep, melodious voice is easy to listen to, but what he says takes a harder commitment to live by."
--Bono, lead singer of U2; cofounder of ONE.org

"Jim Wallis and I have a variety of differences on domestic and international policy, but there is no message more timely or urgent than his call to actively consider the common good."
--Michael Gerson, op-ed columnist, The Washington Post

"I love the work and books and existence of Jim Wallis. His is a profound and always-entertaining voice of reason, reconciliation, and passion for social justice and peace. Each of his books makes me wish I could get it into the hands of more politicians, right-wing Christians, left-wing Christians, secular humanists, economists, and regular people--everyone--so we could see how much we have in common and how much is at stake."
--Anne Lamott, author of Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

"This is the finest of all Jim Wallis's writings. Jim's comprehension of how Scripture and political issues relate to each other is surpassed only by the number of bridges he builds so that we can all solve problems together. Reading this book will help you be more like Jesus, especially in the public square."
--Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor, Northland--A Church Distributed

"I have read all of Jim Wallis's books, books that call evangelicals to full conversion and an ecclesial faith that works. On God's Side is Jim's best book; it is personal, pastoral, and prophetic--a summons to a deeper conversion, to bridge-building commitments to the common good, and to a family life that grounds active faith in a common, caring community."
--Scot McKnight, Northern Seminary

"Jim Wallis is this country's major prophetic evangelical Christian voice. He has a sense of urgency and hope seldom seen in our cynical time. I hope and pray his voice resounds across this land--and that we pay heed to it."
--Cornel West, Union Theological Seminary

Publishers Weekly
Christian activist and writer Wallis (God’s Politics), president and CEO of Sojourners, a faith-based activist community headquartered in Washington D.C., which runs a magazine of the same name, draws on inspiration from Abraham Lincoln to reflect on the common good outside of political labels. Instead of money, power, and prestige, people of faith should be concerned about the biblical “least of these,” following the lead of the so-called Matthew 25 Christians, who focus on social justice. Wallis understands compassion as the doorway to justice for everyone around the world, and while he is poetic, a few notions—like postcandidate advocacy—lack the clear definition and conviction that defines much of the book. The volume is divided into two parts; the first delves into Wallis’s sources of inspiration for his thesis, which range from The Chronicles of Narnia to the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan. In the second part, Wallis writes about prioritizing his family life as an example of engaging in more intentional community at home to gradually improve current political and social ills. Agent: Kathryn Helmers, Creative Trust. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
A manifesto for the common good, long on sense, short on inspiration. Wallis (Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, 2011, etc.) presents a sober, common-sense argument that our political and religious institutions have lost their way in partisan infighting and ideological confusion and should return to first principles in the interest of serving the common good. In clearly reasoned, lucid prose and without rancor or dogma, Wallis traces the decline in civility in both the public and private sectors, the destructive effect of financial interests holding sway in politics, the importance of family to the development of individual and communal morality, and other such social issues. This even-tempered, mild, avuncular approach actually works to the book's detriment. Wallis' positions are so reasonable and obvious that some invective, zeal or sense of dramatic urgency is necessary to offset the essential banality of his arguments. As it stands, Wallis' plea for a kinder, deeper, more caring world has all of the revolutionary fervor of a speech from Mr. Rogers on the necessity of playing nicely together. Wallis can be charming, with his childlike devotion to the Narnia stories of C.S. Lewis and baseball, and the messages of tolerance and cooperation to be found within them (he is refreshingly progressive on such topics as same-sex marriage), and his friendly, conversational tone makes the book a relatively painless read. But the moral lessons presented here should be self-evident to any reasonably bright and engaged young teenager. That may in fact be Wallis' point, but the delivery of the message is simply too anodyne to make any kind of emotional or intellectual impact. An admirable, worthy message that could be contained on a bumper sticker.

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Meet the Author

Jim Wallis is president and founder of Sojourners and editor in chief of Sojourners magazine. He is a bestselling author, public theologian, national preacher, social activist, and international commentator on ethics and public life. Wallis has written ten books, including the New York Times bestsellers God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It and The Great Awakening, and is a frequent speaker in the United States and abroad. He has written for major newspapers and appears frequently on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, on shows such as Meet the Press, Morning Joe, Hardball, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The O'Reilly Factor, and on NPR. Wallis also teaches at Georgetown University and has taught at Harvard University. He is married to Joy Carroll, is the father of Luke and Jack, and is a Little League baseball coach.

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On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned about Serving the Common Good 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A helpful comprehensive review of life in America and how to bring health and wholeness to individual, community and national life. After reading I am ready to seek and pursue the common good.
Adonka More than 1 year ago
Very informative,reading a second time. A combination of C.S.Lewis and social justice.Take a moment to catch up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Symbol chat and laugh away
revlb More than 1 year ago
Very interesting and concise commentary our current cultural, religious and political values and suggestions for realigning our communities, nation and even the world beginning in the nurturing environment of our own homes. Even though I may not always agree 100% with him, I always find myself right at home in Wallis's books as his writing style is so genuinely conversational and honest. As a minister, I look forward to and appreciate his theological perspective on any subject he tackels. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for specific suggestions on how to transform the world around you one that flourishes for your good and the common good of all. This book is currently being taught in a class in my church using the ten suggestions Wallis lays out in the back.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great book by Jim Wallis. Building community is what it takes to pass God's "Final Exam" that is, Matthew 25.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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RBHolb More than 1 year ago
For all we know, Jesus was a raging lefty.
TerriKin More than 1 year ago
“Don’t go right; don’t go left; go deeper.” Wonderful advice, but the author doesn’t follow it himself. Wallis went left years before most of us were even born, but he continues to wear (awkwardly) the tag “evangelical,” probably the worst case of false advertising in Christendom. He also tries to pass himself off as the Wise One who sees the errors of both liberals and conservatives and (like every charlatan) claims he has found the More Excellent Way, so we can sigh with relief at him guiding us into the non-ideological REAL Christianity, the kind Jesus himself would practice if he walked the earth today. Wallis has been promising gullible readers his More Excellent Way for 50 years, and he never provides it, never. It’s pure liberalism, and nothing in the Wallis platform differs in the slightest from the Democratic party platform (except that he does claim to be pro-life, but generally avoids that ticklish issue). One of the other reviews states that “Wallis is neither liberal nor conservative.” Oh, please. He’s shamelessly liberal and bashes conservatives every time his mouth opens. We discover that (as in all Wallis’s books) Jesus’ agenda looks suspiciously like Jim Wallis’s agenda (pure coincidence, of course), and that Jesus has a knack for using the latest liberal buzzwords like “inclusivity” and (the core idea of this book) “fairness.” Liberalism is not, of course, a system of thought, it is a collection of slogans, just words or phrases that easily fit on a bumper sticker and can be spoken and shouted ad nauseam, meaning that the liberal pundits could just as easily be a chorus of mynah birds trained to repeat the usual: “Inclusivity!” “Equality!” “Fairness!” Don’t think, don’t explain, just repeat, and the dimwits in the culture will get sucked in. Who could object to “fairness”? No one. But the BIG question liberals never dream of asking is, fairness as defined by whom? (Well, THEM, of course.) In this book, “fairness” means accepting open borders, admitting illegal immigrants and accepting them, everything but people-movers to aid them in their illegal entry. Is that “fair” to the US citizens in Arizona and New Mexico who have their property trashed and who often live in fear? Or to US taxpayers coast to coast, who all pay for the massive cost of millions of people who should not be here, aided by a president who has made it clear that, for him, there is no border, and by a Congress in which both parties shy from the immigration issue because they are such craven cowards that they are cowed by fears of the media calling them “racist.” Jesus’s view of fairness (or, Wallis’s view, rather) is that US citizens don’t matter, “fair” only applies to people whose presence in the US begins with breaking the law. Ignoring the needs of US citizens and focusing all our compassion on illegals fits Wallis’s definition of the “common good,” one of his bumper-sticker clichés that shows up on every page. Keep saying the cliché, make the reader shut down his brain and just accept the pleasant-sounding phrase. Who would oppose “the common good”? I would – that is, I would define that far differently that Wallis would. As a Christian, I see myself under no divine mandate to encourage illegal immigration or any other crime. Wallis can tear down the walls of his home if he wishes to and put up a sign that signs “Homeless people welcome here.” He has no right to tell an entire country, or all the Christians in it, that they must do the same – and, incidentally, Wallis isn’t going to open up his home because he understands that being “welcoming” and “inclusive” doesn’t mean removing all boundaries. But remember, liberalism isn’t about being generous, it’s about forcing other people to be generous. Let me save you the trouble of wading through this mucky swamp of liberal clichés: Being “on God’s side” and being guided by Jesus means: be a liberal, support open borders, accept that the immigration situation will remain as it is, or worsen, but God wants you to accept it and abet it. If you want to contribute to the “common good,” check the names on the ballot that have a “D” (as in “Democrat”) next to them. And when you talk, use the right words – “compassion,” “common good,” “inclusive,” “equality,” the usual list. This is the Gospel, according to St. James.