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FAITH WORKS by Jim Wallis

FAITH WORKS

Lessons from the Life of an Activist Preacher

By Jim Wallis

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-50176-2
Publisher: Random House

The evangelical activist and writer (and editor of Sojourners), who has long defined the Christian Left, offers

autobiographical snapshots and a call to action.

Wallis believes that the US is about to witness the eruption of a new kind of activism—one motivated by "spiritual values"

rather than anger. Like so many in our 12-step age, Wallis is explicitly how-to, providing 15 easy-to-digest steps to activism.

Buried beneath the formulaic packaging, though, are some insightful nuggets. In Lesson 5 ("Recognize the Three Faces of

Poverty"), Wallis, long known for his work on behalf of the poor, urges readers to consider how material, spiritual, and civic

poverty—not just the widening gap between rich and poor but also the decline in voting and the degeneration of political

debate—are ruining the public life of the nation. In Lesson 6, he reminds would-be activists to "Listen to Those Closest to the

Problem"—the poor themselves. In Lesson 7 ("Get to the Heart of the Matter"), Wallis takes on welfare reform, the market

economy, and racism. Throughout, he reminds readers of just how much potential religion has to bring about social and political

change—although this discussion is not helped by tired calls for increased ecumenism and horizontal (instead of, you guessed

it, vertical) leadership. Wallis ends on an optimistic note: The transformation from disenchanted politics to spiritually infused

politics (and the transformation from indifferent churches to churches committed to economic and social justice) is, in his view,

well under way.

Nothing particularly fresh, but with so few voices expressing similar commitments to ending poverty, we can’t afford to

ignore Wallis—even if he is repeating many a lesson that those familiar with his work will already have learned.