Billy Graham Meets Martin Luther King Jr.—Again
The Lamb's Agenda: Why Jesus Is Calling You to a Life of Righteousness and Justice (Thomas Nelson) is a "strange bedfellows" book—and that's a good thing. The book features two forewords—one by Focus on the Family president Jim Daley and one by Bernice A. King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and doyenne of the King legacy.
Pastor Rodriguez's goal is to create a movement that would change American society for good through the marriage of evangelism and social justice work—much in the way that evangelicals of an earlier era fought the evils of the gin industry and injustices of the slave trade by bringing a transforming gospel to those trapped by these forces while also working to eliminate these evils from society.
Historically speaking, there is little new in The Lamb's Agenda. John Wesley, Charles Finney, and William Wilberforce's Clapham Sect also married evangelism, moral reform, and social crusades. Rodriguez is certainly not the first to argue that Christians must not be captive to any political party and that we must not let them use us as their "useful idiots." Instead, we must let Jesus' prophetic call to justice and compassion judge both parties and render all ideologies relative.
Just before the 2004 election, Jim Wallis and Sojourners conducted a high-profile campaign to liberate Christian activism from enslavement to political parties. Their ad campaign cum petition headlined "God is not a Republican … or a Democrat" gained 40,000 signatures. Immediately after the election, Wallis attacked the media identification of Christians with the Republican Party in his book God's Politics.
Rodriguez, ever the preacher, reframes Wallis's slogan in zoological terms: "As followers of Christ, we stand committed to advancing not the agenda of the Donkey or the Elephant but only the Agenda of the Lamb." (If you haven't heard Rodriguez preach, you should start with his keynote address at the 2013 National Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at King's Ebenezer Baptist Church.)
The Lamb takes no cues from the Donkey or the Elephant. He judges both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement. The Lamb's agenda can only be discovered in the combined visions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Billy Graham. The Lamb's agenda is revealed at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical arms of the Cross. Thus Rodriguez says a firm no to the either-or forces that polarize our time and a resounding yes to prophetic biblical witness.
But is he successful in distancing himself from the political powerbrokers and polarizing political wannabes? Rodriguez and his wife Eva have both offered benedictions at Republican conventions. He has been known to associate with theocratic Christians and to speak at their events. People for the American Way lists 19 Rodriguez-related postings on their RightWingWatch.org website. They scratch their heads and wonder how he "has managed to somehow be both a radical Religious Right activist while enjoying a reputation as a moderate who is regularly invited to the White House and to presidential events."