Yesterday I went downtown to the Free Library of Philadelphia to hear Jim Wallis speak about his new book called The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America. To be honest, I actually wasn’t looking forward to it all that much. I didn’t know anything about Wallis or the books he’d written. But after hearing him, an evangelical Christian who teaches on faith and politics at Harvard on occasion, speak in politically neutral but passionately religious language about how it is up to us to bring revolution in the areas of poverty and other social justice issues, I was hooked.
He told a story about he a conversation he had had with Bono of U2 about the text of Luke 4:18, the first public appearance of Jesus in the synagogue. The text says this:
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Wallis didn’t mention this but it is interesting that where Matthew has in his Beatitudes “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Luke simply has, “Blessed are the poor.”
Wallis’s point? If it’s not good news to the poor (the oppressed, the forgotten), then it’s not the good news of Jesus Christ. I think evangelicals are finally grasping the significance of that statement. It seems like “those liberals” were onto something after all.