Review: On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good

5 Star, Religion & Politics of Religion
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Jim Wallis

5.0 out of 5 stars TImely — Relevant to 2014 and 2016, March 29, 2013

God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It is in my view the better book, here is the first sentence from my review of that book in 2005:

“Jim Wallis has my vote to be Chaplain to the Nation. This is an extraordinary book. Indeed, if the President has a Science advisor, I have to ask myself, why doesn't he have a Faith advisor?”

Along with Rabbi Michael Lerner, Michael Down, Howard Bloom, and yes, I love him so, Rev. Al Sharpton, I believe that Jim Wallis is one of the kindest wisest voices around, an essential contributor to what must inevitably be an era of truth & reconciliation if we are to avoid another war of secession, but this time breaking up into The Nine Nations of North America.

Some books I read from back to front, and this is one of those, so let me start by saying that at the very end he provides a list of ten decisions we can all make, and also points out that we are beginning the third battle of faith in US history. The first was the battle to bring faith into the public sphere and stop its being sidelined as a private matter between man and God; the second battle, still on-going, is the perversion of faith by the fundamentalists, making it all about sexuality instead of about community. This third battle picks up the banner for the powerless, and is about “what kind of society.” Of course this reminds me of What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States.

I have no quarrel with anything in this book, other than to lament the author appears to believe that politics is defined by two parties, and does not recognize that there are EIGHT accredited national political parties in the USA (Constitution, Green, Libertarian, Natural Law, Libertarian, and Socialist are the other six), and that the Independents are now the largest “party” in terms of voice, followed by the Libertarians. The Democrats and Republicans make up for lower numbers with outrageous corruption of the entire electoral process so as to retain their death grip on the public purse and the right to borrow one trillion a year “in our name.” Certainly I agree with the author when he observes that politics has lost its way and is no longer about the public interest, but instead has become a form of idolatry.

QUOTE (11): God's politics is most concerned with the powerless.

I agree, but the churches, like the labor unions, have sold out their flock and been co-conspirators with the looting of the commonwealth and the destruction of the Republic. No one running for office today–I may have been the exception for six weeks (We the People Reform Coalition)–actually stands up for the poor, which have doubled in number in the past decade. The churches, the non-profits, the international organizations are all 80% self-serving and 20% at best outreach and direct aid.

The entire book focuses on the urgency of bringing left and right together to focus on the common good, with conservatives lauded for their advocacy of individual responsibility, and liberals lauded for their championship for social responsibility. Never mind that both conservatives and liberals are totally corrupt and hypocritical, breaking the bank with a trillion year borrowed in our name so that they can have BOTH a massive and unwarranted entitlements program (that pays ten times more for health than the rest of the world) AND a massive national security complex that is the laughingstock of saner people world-wide, and unsuited to our needs in the 21st Century — our corrupt defense leaders are still fighting for budget share and retirement jobs, not for strategic threat-based interoperable capabilities that are affordable and sustainable.

The author praises, as Bonhoeffer has praised, the gospel and the community feeling of the black church, and I quite agree that this vision of faith in action and in deed is vastly more Christian than the pomp and circumstance and hypocrisy of the Protestant elites, all too glad to be on the margins of the 1% while sacrificing the 99% — as is the Catholic Church, which exorcised liberation theology, the one really good idea the Catholic Church has had in the last century.

I am educated as I read about the quiet revolution happening within the various Christian churches in America today, as the young seek to break away from dogma and address the truly important question of what to do about the poor and society. I am then immediately charmed as the author points out that the “tough choices” in Washington are fraudulent — they protect corporate welfare and cut anything having to do with the 99%.

QUOTE (82): Big things don't change in Washington first; they change in the nation's capital last.

Much of the book can be summed up with its sub-titles, one reason I prefer God's Politics to this book, but they are useful touch-points for conversation:

+ Ethics matters — seek the common ground
+ Tear down all boundaries
+ Turn every supply chain into a value chain
+ American exceptionalism is not a license to be evil
+ Inter-faith cooperation is a new movement
+ Christians must unit for political effect

Three short quotes for my memory (I donate all books to the Oakton Public Library now, am traveling light):

QUOTE (120): Do we love America enough to tell the truth about its bad behavior?

QUOTE (135): The world expected [after 9/11] and would have supported a focused and sustained effort to pursue and bring the murderous band of criminals to justice. But ten years of manipulated and corrupted intelligence, continual wars, practices and policies of torute, secret armies of assassins, global violations of human rights, indiscriminate violence with countless civilian casualties, and trillions of dollars spent have caused our nation to lose the high ground.

That's not the half of it. See these two books for the other half:

Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA

QUOTE (145): The answer to bad religion is not secularization, as the “new atheists” like to say, rather it is better relition.

The author seriously over-states, in my view, the importance of civility, which is a common tactic by apologists for the two-party tyranny who want to avoid substantive discussion.

The author is diplomatically critical of how Congress sells laws to the 1% that harm the 99%, and he has throughout the book the one thing that I stand for (“the truth at any cost lowers all other costs”), with this last quote being me the absolute core of the author's message:

QUOTE (195): Every White House and Congress needs prophetic truth-telling and courageous witness–rather than just quiet advice–from people who believe in change and especially from faith leaders.

Today one of the contributing editors posted at Phi Beta Iota the now-documented fact that our incessant and illegal drone attacks inside of Pakistan have resulted in thousands of documented deaths, only 2% of which can be said to be warranted. So at great expense, in flagrant violation of most international laws and conventions, the USA has killed the other 98% as “collateral damage.” This is criminal insanity, but apart from Chuck Spinney, Winslow Wheeler, GI Wilson, and myself, I do not hear or read of anyone really making this an issue.

The author concludes the book by calling for all Christians to unite in shared faith to become politically relevant, to focus on poverty [which is by the way the #1 of 10 high-level threats to humanity] as the seminal issue of our time, to demand that politicians govern instead of campaign, and to focus on family and education.

In calling for a moral economy the author is nowhere near the detail and vitality of, to take just two examples, William Greider in The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy and John Bogle in The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism, nor does he even hint at the documented outrage one finds in Matt Taibbi's Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, but he does outline the basics:

+ Transparency and accountability
+ Protect consumers
+ Break up and reign in the banks
+ Address volatility of financial exchanges
+ Unite churches against predatory lending

His most radical concepts are vaguely worded but under the sub-title of jubilee, which is a traditional word associated with debt forgiveness. He also appears to favor land ownership changes. Personally I believe we not only need an individual debt jubilee, but we also need to accept the IMF Working Paper of August 2012, The Chicago Plan Revisited, and we need to both write off the entire fraudulently contrived national debt to the five major banks, end the Federal Reserve, make community banks central to our small business and individual finances, and end all absentee land ownership, returning the land to the community and beginning the French practice of 100 year leases renewable by direct descendants.

My bottom line on this book: it is priceless for two reasons: first, now is the time for all the churches, the Independents, and the six small parties to come together; and second, this is the first book that truly addresses the vacuum in America with respect to the truth. Although I wrote about Paradigms of Failure in my short book ELECTION 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (free online), no other book I have read in recent memory actually comes out and calls a pig a pig, a crook a crook. What is being in our name every day in Washington DC is treason by any standard.

I hope the author and I can meet for a conversation, as I believe he is on to something very important. The Churches United have the power to overturn Citizens United — an unconstitutional decision that was not overturned by Congress because Congress and the two parties are themselves corrupt to the bone — and the Churches United have the power to make We the People Reform Coalition and a nation-wide demand for the Electoral Reform Act of 2012 (now 2013) a reality. Occupy was bribed into oblivious, hacked into small pieces by a mix of foundation grants and local law enforcement pressures funded by the Department of Homeland Security. I will just say, before listing other books I recommend with this one, that We the People Reform Coalition was created to put all the good ideas from others in one place; and so that I could connect to all of the other small party candidates — Gsry Johnson, Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, Buddy Roemer, and also Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. Every single one of them failed my simple test: they were not willing to come together in a coalition cabinet that would put forth a TEAM, a BALANCED BUDGET, and an absolute commitment to ELECTORAL REFORM, all prior to the next election. Egos and partisan blinders made them all unworthy, at least in 2012.

This book is timely, and I hope that Rev Al Sharpton, among others, will pick it up and display it from his bully pulpit. In my own view, God is community done right — a prosperous world at peace, a world that works for all. What we have now is a cesspool created by ignorant arrogant elites floating on their luxury pontoon boat, forgetful of the lesson that the elite learned in NYC in the 1920's: infectious diseases cannot be bought off.

See Also:
Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik
The Left Hand of God

God is us. To create heaven on earth, we must go “all in” on all the opens, and create the world in God's image.

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

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