Book Review: On God’s Side By Jim Wallis

From The Catalyst Summer 2014

On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good
By Jim Wallis
Brazos Press, 2013

Reviewed by Brad Wassink

In On God’s Side, Jim Wallis delivers a thorough reproach of religious leaders across the political spectrum.

Wallis uses the common good to show that in order to solve the crises of our time, we need people of faith to get more, not less, involved in the political process.

In fact, Wallis is at his best when he is pointing to what he calls the “best big ideas” from both the Christian left and Christian right: those of social and personal responsibility respectively. It is especially important that his path towards the common good requires finding common ground between liberal and conservative Christians. Yet given the amount of criticism Wallis continues to receive from the Christian right, it’s clear that this is much easier said than done.

On God’s Side includes explorations of many public policy issues, including poverty, homelessness, the environment, campaign finance, criminal justice, guns, gay rights, human trafficking, immigration, food and health, war and peace, the financial crisis, and education. While this can lead Wallis’ discussions to seem a mile wide and an inch deep, it also shows us how the common good relates to every aspect of our public life.

In addressing all of these issues, Wallis retells some of the big political news stories from the past few years. For some, he offers deeper analysis and insights. For others, he merely glazes over the issue while pointing to his personal friendships with the key political and religious players involved.

Yet while his focus is almost entirely on the American political system, Canadians should be mindful of his diagnosis as we see American-style politics creeping in here.

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