catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 4 :: 2008.02.22 — 2008.03.07


Grant’s recommendations 2.22.08

BOOK: The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America by Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis’ newest book is full of good news.  Wallis’ claim that the era of the Christian Right is over certainly will bring joy to those of us who are tired of the left-right categories that have dominated and stifled the political conversation in the last several years.  Happily, the critical tone of Wallis’ last book, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left just Don’t Get It, is no longer necessary since many of the changes Wallis was calling for are coming to pass.  But it is not just the opening up of moral discussion in America that makes Wallis’ new book good news.  Wallis is reclaiming the original meaning of “good news,” evangelion in the Greek.  The good news is that the kingdom of God is upon us and is sure to come fully on earth.  This means a new world is breaking out, transforming the old one so that shalom—peace with justice, food, clothing and shelter for the widows and the poor and healing for the sick—is firmly established. 

The good news is what “evangelicals” are all about, so when Wallis says we are in the midst of a good news revival, he is preaching a message that should make many Christians (Republican, Democrat or not) across America glad.  But Wallis is not just trying to make Christians feel good about themselves.  A great awakening of American evangelicals (the bringers of good news) means the whole world, not just America, will be blessed.  When American Christians lend themselves to the common good, Wallis reminds us, we are acting like the believers of other great awakenings throughout American history that brought about the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage, the New Deal and the Civil Rights Movement.  Wallis’ book is full of insights into why we’re seeing this sea change in American politics (he claims young Christians—under thirty—are having a big influence because their faith is being challenged as many of them are traveling around the world more than ever before).  He also draws on years of experience sitting at the table with people of faith from various traditions and those who would call themselves secular a-religious people.  The Great Awakening is a hopeful document of a movement in politics and religious life in 2008 America.


TELEVISION: Flight of the Conchords 

New Zealand comedy songwriters Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement take their live act to television in this 2007 HBO series that is now on DVD.  The premise of the series is that these two New Zealanders are trying to make it big as a band in New York City with their sincerely silly indie folk songs that parody rap, 80s ballads and 70s funk.  They go to the New Zealand consulate to get some help and find Murray who offers to manage them and “get gigs.”  Mel makes an appearance every episode as the Conchords’ one and only fan who wants to be promoted to groupie, though she’s married and oozing a kind of desperation that is both disturbing and hilarious.  The New Zealand accent and deadpan delivery of the actors has you laughing before you know what you’re even laughing at.  I highly recommend you rent the first season on DVD, but don’t take my word for it.  Check out this scene from the first disc in which Bret and Jemaine display their true foreignness to American culture as they bemoan the suffering and strife of street life in a ridiculous Marvin Gaye sound-alike song called “Think About It.”

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