The (Un)Common Good

Jim Wallis’ book The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel brings hope to a world dividedis a reissue of his 2013 book On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good.  The book is a call to move beyond personal and partisan concerns and to consider what is best for everyone. Wallis’ claim is that Christians have something important to contribute to our national discussion. In fact it is because we are commanded to love our neighbor and our enemy, that we must participate in the common good.

Sometimes Wallis is dismissed as too political or too liberal and if you think that, I encourage you to read this book. His discussion of the common good surpasses simplistic liberal/conservative and political/religious divides. He is not simply calling for more government programs but rather for changed lives.

Wallis writes, “But the public discussion we must have about the common good concerns not just politics but all the decisions we make in our personal, familial, vocational, financial, congregational, communal, and yes, public lives. It is those individual and communal choices that will ultimately create the cultural shifts and social movements than can change the world and turn history in different directions (kindle loc 178)

The book is divided into two parts. Part One is “Inspiring the Common Good” and here Wallis lays out his deeply Christian reasons for believing the common good matters.  Briefly stated, being Christian involves more than just where you spend life after death. Being Christian involves how we live in this world. Faith is more than politics. There is more to faith than right wing issues, but we also need more than a religious left to balance out the religious right. And faith needs to be lived out in our life together for the common good.  “Don’t go right, don’t go left; go deeper” (kindle loc 282)

The second part of the book explores practices for the common good – civility, democracy (for Wallis democracy finds its warrant in the biblical idea that all persons are created in the image of God), economics, service, justice, strong healthy households and how we care for others.

Wallis ends the book with 10 personal decisions he encourages his readers to make for the common good. My conservative friends might be surprised that the first item is ” … make your children the most important priority in your life.” and the second “If you are married, be faithful to your spouse.” I’ll let you read the book for the other 8.

Wallis wants Christians to think seriously about what following Jesus demands of us. We may not agree on all the details but if we step back and talk to each other- about family and neighborhood, and jobs and what makes for a good life we might discover we have much more in common that we have been led to believe. We have nothing to loose but our divisions.

Note: I received a free e copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review.

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