I began reading Jim Wallis when I was in seminary, and of all his books, my favorite is his book The Call to Conversion
, which I consider to be a classic moral text for American Christianity. I’ve also enjoyed the lesser known Faith Works, but I found two of his recent books to be too much about politics and not enough vintage Jim Wallis.
But his newest book, Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street
, is a return to the themes and to the fire of his classical period of fighting for American Christians to cut back and help the poor and to take stock of how we live. This is the most personal of his books — the stories about his two boys and baseball and their night time prayers are priceless. It is also the most generous and pastorally sensitive. (Never mind that one of my (our) North Park students, Tim King, got to write The Epilogue.)
This books calls America, and Christians in America, to ask not “How can we recover our economy?” or “How can we get back to way things were?”, but to ask “How can this economic crisis change us?” and “What can communities of faith do about it?” Wallis fears that we want to go back to the way things were, but the way things were got built on sandy foundations and reckless speculation and spending. Instead, in this book he calls us back to the values that can make a society strong and a church a witness to God’s justice and peace.
Like Tim Keller, Wallis thinks the decades leading up to our economic crisis were rooted in idolatry, where greed was good, where it was all about me, and where the idea of “I want it now” ruled the day. Instead, we need to begin to see when enough is enough, that we’re all in this together, and that we need to think of what life here will be like seven generations from now (as American Indians did).
So, Wallis probes ideas that can make a difference, like recommitting ourselves to family cultures and to the deeper meaning of work.
This book closes with twenty moral exercises, including the idea that calendars and family budgets are moral documents and that we need to measure our “screen” time over against our family time. The book returns to one of Jim’s earliest themes: the value of simplicity in life.
This is Jim Wallis at his best, now softened and measured by his family life. I’ve become a fan of Jim Wallis again.