Christ in Crisis
Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus
by Jim Wallis
A Review by Dwight A. Moody
This book addresses the political and spiritual situation brought on by the Trump presidency and the support for him among the Christian community in the United States. Author Jim Wallis boldly states: “Donald Trump alarmingly exemplifies the ultimate and consummate worshipper of money, sex, and power. American Christians have not yet reckoned with the climate he has created in our country and the spiritual obligation we have to repair it. As a result, the soul of our nation and the integrity of the Christian faith … are at risk” (131).
In 2018, as Wallis describes, a group of “elders” from Christian groups located generally on the left or progressive wing of the Protestant world (and thus neither Pentecostal, Orthodox, Evangelical, nor Roman Catholic) gathered in New York City to ponder the political climate in the country. Out of that came three things: this book, a movement known as “Matthew 25”, and a document called the “Reclaiming Jesus” declaration (which is printed in the back of the book and also linked here).
This is an approach to the current situation very similar to what I expressed in my recent commentary, “Where’s Jesus?”—which illustrates that by osmosis their leadership on these matters in the national centers of power (New York and Washington DC) trickled down to coastal Georgia and shaped my understanding of the crisis facing us.
These three things (the book, the movement, and the document) take inspiration from the influential words and work of German Lutheran theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer who, in the midst of Nazi power, called the German church to resist the leadership of Hitler and rise to a higher, more costly discipleship to Jesus as Lord and Savior. “I now believe that this is a Bonhoeffer moment, and I decided after reading Acts early many mornings to try to write a book that would help answer his question “Who is Jesus Christ for us today?” for me and right now” (186, italics in the original).
To answer this question, Wallis addresses eight others that arise out of the reading of the gospels:
• Who is a neighbor?
• Who is created in the image of God?
• What is truth?
• Who are the powerful?
• Whom shall we fear?
• How shall we respond to the state?
• Who is a peacemaker?
• Who is a disciple?
Each of these questions frames a chapter in the book, complete with exegesis of Holy Scripture (sometimes at length greater than needed!), examples of how and by whom the question is being properly answered, and invitations to all of us to follow their examples.
This structure of the book—thirteen sections inclusive of prologue, conclusion and epilogue—make it perfect for church-based study groups. I recommend it highly as it is throughout most accessible to literate and engaged people.
Among the best features of the book are the stories Wallis includes, all of which will be useful to teachers and preachers inspired to take these themes, these questions, as texts of the hour. Here are three of the best stories in the book.
The late Mary Glover assisted with the weekly grocery bag food line at the Sojourners Neighborhood Center, just twenty blocks from the White House. Here is the prayer she prayed each morning before the hundreds of people came through her line: “Lord, we know you will be coming through this line today, so help us to treat you well!” (214).
College president (then of Bethany in Kansas, now of Georgetown in Kentucky) Will Jones signaled his servanthood spirit when he included (in his inaugural activities at the inter-racial institution in Kansas) the washing of the feet of a student, encouraging the entire college community to move immediately to the fountain outside the assembly hall and wash the feet of others around them (120ff).
Pastor Steve Stone and his congregation in Cordova, Tennessee, were profiled on a CNN story one Sunday morning (2010) with a piece describing their hospitality to a mosque that had moved into their neighborhood prompting a middle-of-the-night call from a group of Muslim men in Kashmir, Pakistan, with this message: “We saw the CNN segment. We were all silent for a long time afterwards …. Then one of us said, ‘I think God is speaking to us through that pastor’…. Please tell your congregation that we don’t hate them, we love them. And from now on we will protect that little Christian church near us because of what you did” (40ff).
From beginning to end, this book is full of such inspirational stories and action ideas. Reading this book and implementing its strategies will make all of us better disciples of Jesus and will make our world a more peaceful and righteous place. Thanks be to God.