On Tuesday evening I drove over to the Wheaton College campus to hear Jim Wallis of Sojourners speak on some themes from his new book, The Great Awakening. Given that Wallis has at times been a lightening rod for some Christians, and that he was once banned from speaking at Wheaton (for opposing the Vietnam war…!), I was curious about what the tenor of the evening would be. I wasn’t the only one. The room the event organizers chose seats about 300. To say it was standing-room only would be an understatement. By the time Wallis got up to speak there were people sitting on the floor within a few feet of the podium and an overflow room had been opened. Lucky for me a friend had an open seat on the front row. Thanks Brian!
After the last presidential election Wallis was often a guest on different talk shows. Some of his language made me nervous that he was reacting too strongly against the Religious Right. Was Wallis saying we needed a similar institution/movement/ideology on the Left? I hoped this wasn’t the case and was curious about what he’d say at Wheaton.
By the end of his speech (or was it a sermon?) Wallis had made it clear that we don’t need a Religious Left (or Right). A quote: Left and Right are not Christian categories. Exactly! I had to leave shortly into the Q& A time, but it seemed that most folks in the audience were connecting with his vision about the need for and source of change in America. From my notes…
- The Good News takes the bad news seriously. In other words, the Gospel takes seriously the tragedies and injustices in the world. Good News people demonstrate a concern for these things as well as a desire to see them changed.
- There are two great hungers in our culture today: a hunger for spirituality and for social justice.
- The big choice facing this generation is between hope and cynicism.
- According to Wallis, the great movements in America’s history (abolition, women’s suffrage, civil rights, etc) have all been instigated by people of faith. Faith leads to hope leads to action leads to change.