It was a long drive in cold weather and when one is inordinately busy, it is usually prudent to wonder if a few days spent away from work and family with a very small group is, as they say, “worth it.”Â
I had been invited by a few friends in another state to meet with the leaders of a campus ministry organization similar to the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) that I often mention in these pages. My hosts increasingly desire to help their field staff mentor young students (or, in the university with graduate students, perhaps not so young) into a world and life vision which naturally compels them to relate their Christian faith to their academic work. Captured by the same animating Spirit as behind the CCO and their esteemed Jubilee conference (each year in Pittsburgh at the end of February) these strategically-placed campus pastors in a different organization want to equip their students to think and act like Christians in the sciences, the fine and performing arts, engineering and business. To use the phrase from Steve Garber’s Fabric of Faithfulness, they want to help students “weave together belief and behavior in the university years.”Â Soon enough, college students graduate to take up their culture-shaping roles, designing roads and designing curriculum for public schools, making policies and making houses, leading businesses and leading churches, running nursing homes and running television shows. They will become bio-researchers, cyber-journalists, middle school teachers, small town doctors, and big city pols. Increasingly, campus outreach workers–from InterVarsity to the Wesley Foundations, from Campus Crusade to the ecumenical United Campus Ministry, from RUF at secular schools to the Chaplain’s Offices at evangelical Christian college–are feeling the need to help students not just prepare for a career but to discern calling. And of course, as seen by the popularity of books such as the mega-seller Purpose Driven Life, everyone is searching for meaning and purpose. People want their lives to make a difference, to count, to be integrated, consistent, alive. As Parker J. Palmer’s new book puts it (with a nod to Thomas Merton), we seek an “undivided life.”Â (Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life published by Jossey-Bass; $22.95)
And so, fresh from my long winter drive and vibrant hours in rich conversation with my new friends, I am now developing a few book listings about higher education, the overall project of integrating faith and learning, and the calling of Christian scholarship. (I am speaking on this topic at the February Jubilee conference, in an address entitled, Taking Your Faith Into The Classroom (And Finding God There.) Learn more about this yearly celebration at http://www.ccojubilee.org/jubilee/index.html.) You see, here at Hearts & Minds we take special joy in our work with those in campus ministry and want to offer resources for them. We especially are happy to assist our student friends in growing into deeper fidelity in the classroom—or youth pastors or parents who care about young students. For now, recall our big, annotated, bibliography on integrating faith and various vocational arenas. Just click on “books by vocation”Â at www.heartsandmindsbooks.com/vocation.htm to see a helpful batch of introductory books on art, psychology, family studies, technology, science, film, special ed, history, business, computers, urban studies, etc. etc. I will share my newer list on books about higher education, Christian worldview thinking and, as one new title delightfully puts it, “God on the Quad”Â soon, but this month I have to describe a few new and very important releases. I doubt if there will be many books the rest of this year that are as important as these few.
So, now, with sounds of a big drum roll, let me tell you about two must-read new titles, and a look ahead to next month’s other top-drawer new release. Each is written by heroes of ours, men who have left their mark heavy on my life and whose new works deserve special accolades. Talk about “making a difference”Â? The call to meaning and purpose? Developing a Christian perspective, living out the implications of a Biblical worldview? Living out Christ’s call to care about our world? To quote the ever-mouthy Will Smith, That’s what I’m talkin’ about! I do not exaggerate to say that these releases are nearly publishing events!
Terrify No More by Gary Haugen with Gregg Hunter (Word, $21.99) was featured on a few national TV shows early in the new year and talking heads noted that Haugen’s International Justice Mission (IJM) had special and urgent work to do in the post-tsunami context. You see, IJM helps prosecute child sexual slavery and other such systemic, pervasive, evil, and literally rescues children caught in human trafficking. They have recently dispatched agents, human rights activists, and Godly rescuers into the hard-hit coastal towns, which are havens for some of the most wicked crime organizations on the face of the Earth. Too often with the complicity of local police and judges, third world organized crime steals and sells little children into brothels engaging in the most barbaric forms of sexual abuse imaginable. On a good day, these children are captured as working slaves–rolling cigarettes, say. The horror of the tsunami has given way this month, to the horrible kidnapping of orphaned and lost children. These pimps intend to “replace”Â the children they lost in the disaster, and IJM has monitored this in breath-taking and dangerous ways.
Terrify No More was written before this recent crisis, but the story, of rescuing children and adults from slave labor and sexual trafficking, is the same. Inspired by the Biblical call to do justice and make a difference, Gary Haugen quit his job with the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department—after a sickeningly gruesome experience helping to document the genocide in Rwanda–to form an international Christian rescue organization. (This is when we first talked to Gary, who had called to learn what we knew here in York about refugees, The Golden Vision Chinese asylum case, and our efforts that were notorious at the time.) We have stood in awe of him ever since.
An earlier book, The Good News About Injustice (IVP, $13.00) tells of IJM’s Biblically-grounded theology, its case for public service and the hope that can be seen when people of faith take up the cause of social concern. With international savvy and remarkable stories, that book is an essential part of any good library on public justice, global concerns, and wholistic mission. (The adult edition carries a good forward by the esteemed John Stott and a youth edition has a preface by the band Jars of Clay who have worked with Haugen to promote IJM.) That first book makes the apology for their work–half Amnesty International, half Underground Railroad, half Compassion International (yes, I know, but it is just that kind of miraculous mathematics that keeps them afloat.) I tell people that to get a bead on Haugen think of the well-mannered and well-educated Parliamentarian-abolitionist William Wilberforce and the feisty, gospel-courageous rebel Harriet Tubman. His is a powerful call to stop international abuse and to walk thick into the gruesome worlds of genocide, rape and torture and to promote Christianly conceived strategies for legal reform. As passionate as it is, the first book is just a tad reserved.
Terrify No More is a different sort of book: it reads like a full-tilt thriller. Little theory or theology, this is the drama of the action, complete with pictures that you will long remember. My eyes filled with tears within minutes of picking it up and within pages my heart pounded. It is a page-turner tale of a few specific rescue operations, planned within the utmost of secrecy and executed with prayer and strategic acumen. To re-capture and set free the young girls being abused, the daring undercover operation had to be planned with incredible detail, and this book draws you into the unfolding drama. It is a Christian mission story, a true crime thriller, an account of international espionage and an inspirational testimonial all rolled into one awesome read. It makes the TV fad of Cops look like kid’s stuff. I hope you consider ordering it for your church and public libraries; if you are a Christian, I would invite you to pray if God might want you to do so. We have ignored this perverse fact of contemporary culture long enough. Hearts & Minds has promoted The Good News About Injustice and the companion video curriculum (including the teen one jointly published by Zondervan and Y.S. which we have for rent or purchase) and we are proud to have followed IJM from it’s earliest days. But we have not done enough. Few of us have.
This new book will popularize this heroic and amazing work, taking this story to a much wider audience. Let’s help spread the word. Organized child abuse. Underground sexual trafficking. 21st century human slavery. Vile and illegal sweatshops. These perversities must stop. Terrify No More is a book for our time. And, as the title implies, it is a story of hope, of redemption, of goodness sought and won. Thank God.
Here are a few quotes from the back jacket:
If you’re tired of living an anemic life and you want to life courageously, get this book. Terrify No More is a suspenseful read that will introduce you to the new heroes of the faith–people who are willing to take risks to bring hope and freedom to those who need it most.
Rick Warren, author, Purpose Driven Life
Producer Richard Greenberg showed me some truly alarming videotape he’d obtained from a human rights group called the International Justice Mission”Â¦That tape would trigger one of the most extensive international searches I’ve ever been involved with as a Dateline Correspondent.
Chris Hansen, NBC Correspondent
God’s Politics: A New Vision for Faith and Politics in America by Jim Wallis (Harper SanFrancisco; $24.95.) Broader and more general than the IJM title, this new book may be even more influential. There are, of course, other vital issues besides the slave trade and sex abuse (although few as patently evil.) Here, Jim Wallis–an old acquaintance of ours and long-time editor of Sojourners (the only magazine we have consistently stocked since opening our doors and the first to publish my book reviews) insists that Christians ought not be uncritically aligned with ideologies of the right or left. On the cover, it shouts what is nearly another sub-title: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. Wallis makes a compelling case that Biblical faith cares about a wide range of issues and concerns and that neither political party adequately address them. For instance, those with Biblical vision would care, with conservatives, about the breakdown of the family and, with liberals, about the horrific and grueling poverty caused by the unjust, globalized economy. Breaking from ideological “party lines”Â, Wallis calls us to consistently resist what John Paul II calls “the culture of death”Â (whether it appears as a cavalier attitude to abortion or the death penalty, from eugenics or war.) Neither right nor left develop effective and profound answers to the concerns about disillusioned youth whose souls are corrupted by a toxic popular culture–toxic from extolling free sex and rampant materialism; Biblical Christians will surely care—even if the so-called religious right does not–about proper stewardship of the creation God has entrusted to us. It is hard to imagine, says Wallis, a Biblically-oriented Christian being fully content with either mainstream political party. Second-nature to some of us, this is truly ground-breaking news for many, and we look for this book to be very helpful in the aftermath of election 2004.
As the above brief list of conerns illustrates, Wallis affirms some of what typically could be seen as the cares of conservatives, and yet other times he sounds like a liberal or even radical. And this is as it should be. (An important aside: for a serious-minded study of how the ideologies of standard-bred conservatives and liberals are both rooted in the same Enlightenment secularism, see my remarks last August about the very important Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies by the very brilliant David Koyzis. Kudos to IVP for publishing such an insightful text. It is a book that, I think, Wallis himself could benefit from. It sells for $18.00.)
As a life-long Christian with evangelical roots, Jim Wallis is doing some radical evangelizing here. He is inviting readers to a new way of seeing the role of faith in public life. As he and his colleagues like Tony Campolo at the Call to Renewal (www.calltorenewal.org) often say, we don’t need more polarization caused by insistence upon conservative hot-button issues (prayer in schools, homosexuality, expanded militarism) but rather should develop a renewed care for the very issues that the Bible speaks most about—social justice, economic equity, urban renewal, racial reconciliation. We should transcend the too often secular assumptions of the Democratic and Republican parties and promote a “third way.”Â While Wallis and the Call To Renewal’s version of the “third way”Â seem to tilt more often to the left, they insist that they have the Bible as their guide. God’s Politics, like Wallis’ many other books, makes that pretty clear. With chapters like “Amos and Enron”Â and “Micah’s Vision for National and Global Security”Â and a powerful piece on budgets called “Isaiah’s Platform”Â, there is an engagement with the Biblical prophets here that just isn’t there from the members of the religious right, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, et al. With all their talk about the Bible, American fundamentalists just don’t walk that talk, or they are reading a very different Bible than the one Wallis carries.
(This point is made very clear in a riveting, brief, and powerhouse of a book, the brand new title by another hero in my cloud of witnesses, Ron Sider. In The Scandal of the Evangelical Social Conscience, Baker, $12.99) Sider documents (using a bit of George Barna research) that evangelical Christians—those that have historically resisted worldly involvement and faddish cultural trends–are in fact no more committed to Biblical ways than anyone else. From sexual purity to environmental concern, from honesty on the job to chasing materialism, Sider shows the tragedy of an accommodated evangelicalism and a stained Bride of Christ. His passionate plea is to renew holiness, develop a Christian mindset based on genuine Biblical values, and put our hearts to the task of seeking repentance, purification, and renewal. That Sider means this in a wholistic way—caring about sexual ethics and poverty, about peacemaking in families and between nations, in doing politics and doing evangelism–is itself part of the story. Who among us routinely holds out this kind of multi-faceted, whole-life vision? Sider’s little volume is a potent and pious reminder of just what is at stake in this discussion of Christ and culture.)
God’s Politics by Jim Wallis, is getting tons of media coverage; Sojourners is excited, thinking that our society is ripe for a new conversation about faith, values, morals and the responsible contribution of progressive Christian faith for the common good. Civic life surely needs this fresh voice and the question remains if this book will enable just such a contribution. With hearty endorsements from global luminaries such as Bill Moyers, Desmond Tutu and Cornel West, and a media blitz that got Jim on everything from The Carson Daly show to NPR, it is now a New York Times bestseller. Still, it may not be taken seriously amongst conservatives, those who perhaps need it most. But hear U2’s Bono, in this back-jacket blurb; “The Left mocks the Right. The Right knows it’s right. Two ugly traits. How far should we go to try to understand each other’s point of view? Maybe the distance grace covered on the cross is a clue.”Â How’s that for a vision of what a book can do?? Let us pray that it gets into the hands of those who need it.
Not all of us can fight front line international injustices like Gary Haugen so vividly describes in Terrify No More. But we are all citizens; all have responsibilities in our communities, at work, in our neighborhoods and within various kinds of civic organizations. God’s Politics is a powerful call to explore a politics where God is, as Wallis puts it, “always personal but never private.”Â This is a book for all of us.
Wallis intends to be one who casts a new vision (Habakkuk 2:2-3 is a favorite passage he has returned to often in recent years.) He hopes for a non-partisan yet engaged citizenry, inspired by historic faith. He is convinced that both of the mainstream parties have failed to offer sustainable and healing policies and both have failed to understand the vibrant and prophetic role religion can play. “Spiritual values”Â—by which Wallis means peacemaking, working against poverty and racism, fidelity in personal and public concerns, caring for the Earth, civic humility and cooperation–could enhance and drive an alternative “third way”Â vision. Sadly, he shows how neither party deeply respects faith (the right seems to co-opt it for its own ideological purposes while the left tends to ignore it. A few poignant stories make his case powerfully.)
Over and again the book draws on the significant ways Christian faith has nurtured movements of social change in places like El Salvador, South Africa, Eastern Europe and the Philippines (remember the images two decades ago of Catholic nuns staring down the dictators troops?) Evangelicals, charismatics, mainline denominational churches and Roman Catholic folk have joined in common cause along with progressive leaders not rooted in any religion, to speak truth to power and bring down Empires. The historic civil rights movement in the 1960’s United States serves as a remarkable example of effective faith-based action. Wallis regularly uses that movement as a hallmark example, drawing on how it found inspiration in the black church, especially, but translated the uniquely Biblical and spiritual language of faith into public proposals in rhetoric of the common good (Martin Luther King, of course, was a master of such dual language.) According to Wallis, the civil rights movement also shows us how to move beyond the “politics of complaint.”Â As one chapter puts it, “Protest is Good; Alternatives Are Better.”Â Over the years, some have (myself included, on rainy, grumpy days) criticized Sojourners for being quick to express condemnation of injustice without offering detailed proposals for actual policy solutions. Still, I’ve learned from them the significance of saying “no”Â even if we don’t always have realistic plans all figured out. Shaping the moral imagination to consider an alternative way may be the most urgent matter.
I want to say, though, that Wallis and company have often held out very good alternatives—the 1980’s nuclear freeze campaign shines out as one historic example of a concrete and realizable plan for international peacemaking. Radical Biblical pacifists thought it didn’t go far enough, of course, and even moderate politicos felt it went too far, illustrating their progressive but balanced effort. From inner-city gang-summits to common ground discussion about abortion to proposals for conservation through land trusts, Sojourners has indeed floated a myriad of Biblically-rooted, specific proposals. Perhaps they’ve not always offered enough policy detail or realpolitik clout, but it is simply inaccurate to suggest that they’ve only offered grandiose rhetoric. This new book, true to form, offers good rhetoric—Wallis is a preacher, after all– and plenty of stories and proposals showing the move to practical application. God’s Politics is a great step further in the right direction. It gives vigorous and inspiring arguments for why people of faith should care more about a balanced engagement with social issues and how to embody this grand vision. We highly recommend it.
A final note: in our “Review Articles”Â column in November we raved about two books which we have been calling “the books of the year.”Â Brian McLaren’s Generous Orthodoxy (Zondervan, $19.99) could serve as a fine bit of theological underpinning for the kind of ecumenical activism that Wallis calls for. Mr. McLaren’s soon-to-be-released third volume in the fictional New Kind of Christian trilogy, The Last Word and the Word After That (Jossey-Bass; $21.95) will also deal with issues of peace and justice from the view of a missional church and surely will be valuable to this effort. More so, its creative style will make it a joy to read and a good discussion-starter.
The other book we recommended was Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat’s spectacularly interesting and exceptionally provocative Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (IVP; $22.00). This offers the Biblical, exegetical and hermeneutical moves needed to fund this broad and audacious hope of God’s political reign. As more join the movement of those frustrated with the secular left and the religious right and mobilize around ministries such as Call to Renewal, Evangelicals for Social Action, Sojourners, Bread for the World, International Justice Mission, or the Center for Public Justice, Biblical study of the sort done by Walsh & Keesmaat should be a major centerpiece for further conversation and clarification of thought. Even Wallis’ grand stories–and there are some great ones here in God’s Politics—need deepened by serious reflection on the Biblical text. Old preacher that he is, I am sure that Jim Wallis would agree.
I mentioned that I was going to note yet another book which, I am already predicting (in February!) will be one of the most important books of the entire year. It fits, thematically, with this call to address social evil, to think deeply, to care about the fallen world in which we live. Just out, even as I now write, we look forward to soon reviewing one of Os Guinness’ most important books, Unspeakable: Facing Up To Evil In An Age of Genocide and Terror (Harper SanFrancisco; $21.95.)
Hearts & Minds will host Dr. Guinness in a public lecture on April 8th 2005 (please join us if you can), so you may imagine how we shall be paying close attention to this erudite reflection on one of the most important topics for anyone who desires to live the examined life. Guinness shares some of his own tragic upbringing–he saw his own brothers die in the brutal march across the Himalayas mountains as Mao brought his evil reign to Os’s boyhood home. From Nazi death camps to Hiroshima, to the tragedy of 9-11, from personal illness to interpersonal hurt, suffering is a fact of life. To understand it, in our modern age, especially, is essential. Dallas Willard calls Unspeakable “a great accomplishment.”Â I hope to tell you more about it next month.