GOD'S POLITICS: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get it
Jim Wallis
416 pp., $24.95

The Wallis Way

Did you feel conflicted while voting in last November's election? Jim Wallis, activist and founder of Sojourners magazine, makes a compelling case for why Republicans and Democrats are both off course, and urges a return to a "moral center."

"The real question is not whether religious faith should influence a society and its politics, but how." It's time to take back our faith, he believes—from politicians who love to say how religious they are but who ignore the poor, and from liberal secularists who want to banish faith from public life.

With the image of God in every person as his litmus test, Wallis tackles myriad issues: the poor ("pushed … off the agenda"), war (in Iraq, "wrong from the start"), AIDS/HIV (treatment and prevention are a "moral imperative"), homosexuality ("gay civil and human rights must also be … defended"), and abortion (Democrats need to take a more respectful approach to the issue). A personal God, he writes, demands public justice as an act of worship.

Wallis supplements his chapters with his sermon texts, letters, speeches, and columns.

IN SEARCH OF SACRED PLACES: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands
Daniel Taylor
Bog Walk Press,
171 pp., $19.95

Holy Iona

Daniel Taylor, a Bethel University professor and author (The Myth of Certainty), describes himself as a tough sell when it comes to shrines and sacred places. Nevertheless, he sets off on a spiritual pilgrimage to the island of Iona in Scotland and other nearby places, believing that "the journey itself is as important as the place."

Unlike the early pilgrims, however, his pilgrimage involves a lot of luggage, seven family members, and a decrepit rental van that "has to be experienced to be understood"—like everything that is holy, he says with characteristically dry humor.

Taylor intersperses interesting snippets of historical pilgrimages with his own narrative. Pilgrimage raises intriguing questions: Do we experience the sacredness of a place, or do we experience merely our desire that a place be sacred? How do we take the pilgrimage experience back home with us? Taylor's takeaways are still, small voices: "Simplify," "Risk," "Focus," "Release."

He discovers two truths: "Those unprepared for the sacred are unlikely to experience it," and "any experience of the holy enlarges one's capacity to experience it again."

Although Taylor believes that if you haven't ever been in the vicinity of the sacred, "no description of the experience will ever be satisfactory," he makes delightful attempts.

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THE NAKED SOUL: God's Amazing, Everyday Solution to Loneliness
Dr. Tim Alan Gardner
WaterBrook Press,
224 pp., $13.99

Risking More, Loving More

In a world of cell phones, instant messaging, and chat rooms, "Doesn't it seem bizarre that while we're fully connected with the world we're also more alone?" asks Dr. Tim Gardner (Sacred Sex), counselor and co-director of Marriage Makers.

God designed us to find satisfaction in "naked soul" or authentic relationships, Gardner believes. Yet this requires trust and risk. The road away from loneliness can be "confusing, uncomfortable, even painful."

Gardner unpacks what God-honoring relationships look like, and how to avoid those that are not. We fail because we are afraid; we fail because we are innately selfish; most importantly, we fail because we are sinners. To succeed in relationships, he says, we must confront our true selves, let go of our need for security, and truly learn to love God.

"By knowing who we are in God and by investing in authentic relationships with others, we demonstrate the love of God to the world."

Frank Peretti
WestBow Press,
500 pp., $24.99

Issue-Driven Fiction

In his first adult novel in six years, Christian fiction pioneer Frank Peretti attempts to combine suspense and horror with the ethical problems of genetic engineering and a debunking of evolutionary theory.

Twenty-eight-year-old Rebecca ("Beck") Shelton's husband, Reed, "a six-foot hunk and very aware of it," takes her out on a survivalist backpacking trip to help her overcome her fears. They both get more than they bargained for when a mysterious "Bigfoot" family captures Beck. Several violent killings (think heads torn off) surround the kidnapping.

Beck survives her ordeal by befriending the large ape-like creatures and living (rather improbably) in their world—smearing herself with excrement and mud, and grooming them with her hairbrush. But what, exactly, are these whistling, warbling monsters, and where did they come from? A hidden laboratory contains the answer.

What's missing here is the genuine keep-you-up-all-night suspense and fast pacing that made Peretti's earlier books, such as This Present Darkness, such page-turners. Peretti relies on passages like these—"Screams! Savage screeches! Howls!"—to frighten the reader, rather than creating an atmosphere of terror. The sheer volume of pages, improbable storyline, and prose troubles will disappoint readers of Peretti's earlier books.

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Cindy Crosby is the author of By Willoway Brook: Exploring the Landscape of Prayer (Paraclete, 2003).

Related Elsewhere:

God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It is available from Christianbook.com and other book retailers. Other articles about Wallis from CT and our sister publications include:

The Revolution Begins in the Pews | Trotsky and St. Benedict (Books & Culture, May/June 2005)
Jim Wallis: 'I See Genuine Soul-Searching Among Democrats' | Evangelical activist says it's time to find common ground on abortion and other issues. (Feb. 11, 2005)
Mr. Wallis Goes to Washington | The transformation of an evangelical activist. (June 14, 1999)
More about Jim Wallis is available from his magazine Sojourners.

In Search of Sacred Places: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands is available from Christianbook.com and other book retailers.

An excerpt is available from our sister publication, Books & Culture.

The Naked Soul: God's Amazing, Everday Solution to Loneliness is available from Christianbook.com and other book retailers.

More information, including an excerpt, is available from the publisher.
More about the author, Tim Alan Gardner, is available from his website.

Monster is available from Christianbook.com and other book retailers. Previous CT coverage of Frank Peretti includes:

Peretti's Past Darkness | The best-selling novelist describes the tormented childhood that shaped his imagination. (March 13, 2001)
Peretti Out-Grishams Grisham | God and the Devil in the summer blockbusters. (Aug. 9, 1999)

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