Wednesday, January 19, 2005

God's Politics

One of the hallmarks of Jesus' ministry was how it impacted the world. I'm not here referring to the world as a planet or even all of humankind; I'm referring rather to the godless world system and those who are part of it who oppose the truth. Jesus was very candid about what we can expect from that system. He made statments like:

"The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil" (Jn 7:7)

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. . . . If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you" (Jn 15:18-19).

His disciples held the same view of course:

"Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you" (1 Jn 3:13)

Last night I watched the Daily Show as Jon Stewart interviewed Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. Wallis claimed on the show to be an "Evangelical Christian," and then proceded to spout some of the worst universalist, works-based religious nonsense I have ever heard. His "conversion," it seems, occurred when he finally took to heart a highly dubious interpretation of Matt 25:31-46. When Jon Stewart (who is Jewish) jokingly acknowledged that he knew he couldn't go to heaven as a Jew but asked whether there might be some place "in the neighborhood" of heaven where Jews could go, Wallis responded soberly that it doesn't matter whether you are Christian or Jew, as long as you're feeding the poor and visiting those in prison per Matthew 25. Of course, Wallis received round after round of applause from the audience when he said things like this (and he didn't seem to say anything the audience didn't like).

Here's a sure-fire way of knowing whether you've got the right view of Jesus and the right message of the gospel. Get yourself invited on the Daily Show (or some similar show), and during the interview proclaim your understanding of Jesus and the gospel. Then wait for the reaction. Does the audience cheer? If so, there's no doubt about it--you've got the wrong message.

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4).

Wallis is a member of Sojourners; an organization that originated at my Alma Mater, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. However, the fact that it was conceived at Trinity is really only incidental and does not reflect Trinity's mission or values. It is the timeframe of Sojourners' birth that is much more significant--the early 1970s, right in the heart of the Vietnam era and the reactionary "Jesus Movement" that resulted in the "peace and social justice" movement (there always seems to be some "hippy cause" associated with these things). In any case, Wallis and his cronies are Evangelical in name only. Unfortunately, being Evangelical in name only is much more the rule these days than the exception.