The (Un)Common Good

How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided

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Jim Wallis thinks our life together can be better. In this timely and provocative book, he shows us how to reclaim Jesus's ancient and compelling vision of the common good--a vision that impacts and inspires not only our politics but also our personal lives, families, churches, neighborhoods, and world. Now available in paperback with a new preface.

"Personal/political, religion/politics, faith/power, ideology/pragmatism . . . Jim Wallis is a wrestler of values, ideas, and policies and how they interact to shape the world we live in. His deep, melodious voice is easy to listen to, but what he says takes a harder commitment to live by."--Bono, lead singer of U2; cofounder of

"Wallis persuades more powerfully here than ever before. . . . He lays out the theology of [Jesus's gospel of the kingdom] and then issues to all Christians a rallying cry to apply that theology both in private life and in the arena of public activity."--Phyllis Tickle, author of Emergence Christianity

"Jim Wallis has long been an influential voice on Christian ethics and public life. . . . A fresh take on the interplay of faith and politics in America."--Relevant

"Jim Wallis and I have a variety of differences on domestic and international policy, but there is no message more timely or urgent than his call to actively consider the common good."--Michael Gerson, op-ed columnist,
The Washington Post

"Reading this book will help you be more like Jesus, especially in the public square."--Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor, Northland--A Church Distributed


Part 1: Inspiring the Common Good
1. A Gospel for the Common Good
2. The Lion, the Word, and the Way
3. Who Jesus Is and Why It Matters
4. Lord, Help Us to Treat You Well
5. The Good Samaritan Goes Global
6. The Beloved Community Welcomes All Tribes
7. Surprising Our Enemies
Part 2: Practices for the Common Good
8. Conservatives, Liberals, and a Call to Civility
9. Redeeming Democracy
10. Economic Trust
11. A Servant Government
12. Making Things Right
13. Healthy Households
14. The World Is Our Parish
Epilogue: Ten Personal Decisions for the Common Good


"Personal/political, religion/politics, faith/power, ideology/pragmatism . . . Jim Wallis is a wrestler of values, ideas, and policies and how they interact to shape the world we live in. His deep, melodious voice is easy to listen to, but what he says takes a harder commitment to live by."

Bono, lead singer of U2; cofounder of

"Jim Wallis and I have a variety of differences on domestic and international policy, but there is no message more timely or urgent than his call to actively consider the common good."

Michael Gerson, op-ed columnist, The Washington Post

"I love the work and books and existence of Jim Wallis. His is a profound and always-entertaining voice of reason, reconciliation, and passion for social justice and peace. Each of his books makes me wish I could get it into the hands of more politicians, right-wing Christians, left-wing Christians, secular humanists, economists, and regular people--everyone--so we could see how much we have in common and how much is at stake. Jim Wallis and I do not share many of the same political views, but we share the same heart and soul and love for God and all of God's children. Plus, he's a marvelous storyteller."

Anne Lamott, author of Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

"In low-key, almost seductively quiet and unpretentious prose, Wallis persuades more powerfully here than ever before. Arguing that it was 'the world' that was missing in the theology of the church in which most contemporary Americans grew up and that a long-standing emphasis on a 'private-atonement gospel' has obscured Christian allegiance to Jesus's 'gospel of the kingdom,' he lays out the theology of the latter and then issues to all Christians a rallying cry to apply that theology both in private life and in the arena of public activity."

Phyllis Tickle, author of Emergence Christianity

"I have read all of Jim Wallis's books, books that call evangelicals to full conversion and an ecclesial faith that works. This is Jim's best book; it is personal, pastoral, and prophetic--a summons to a deeper conversion, to bridge-building commitments to the common good, and to a family life that grounds active faith in a common, caring community."

Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

"This is the finest of all Jim Wallis's writings. It reminded me that my actions as a citizen are a natural extension of my life as a Christian. Jim's comprehension of how Scripture and political issues relate to each other is surpassed only by the number of bridges he builds so that we can all solve problems together. Reading this book will help you be more like Jesus, especially in the public square."

Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor, Northland--A Church Distributed

"Jim Wallis is this country's major prophetic evangelical Christian voice. He has a sense of urgency and hope seldom seen in our cynical time. I hope and pray his voice resounds across this land--and that we pay heed to it."

Cornel West, professor of philosophy and Christian practice, Union Theological Seminary

"Jim Wallis is asking a question whose time has come. Are we pursuing a national agenda that seeks the common good or are we seeking to baptize our political agendas with faith? Leaders both religious and political must take Wallis's challenge seriously when pondering the future of our life together."

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

"For decades, Jim Wallis has been an instrumental voice in God's movement toward a better world. Here's his latest gift to the movement--a book that isn't just about where we went wrong, but about how we can join God in making things right again. And, thank God, it's not just another book about God blessing us . . . it's a book about us blessing God, by caring for God's people, especially the most vulnerable ones among us."

Shane Claiborne, author, activist, and recovering sinner,

"Jim Wallis's voice rings out on each page of this book, calling for a renewed global engagement in which the measure of 'success' is the well-being of all. Following his prescriptions would result in approaching the true common good: good news for the 100 percent!"

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of the Roman Catholic social justice organization NETWORK

"This sweeping tour de force by America's most prominent religious social justice activist is at once deeply personal and powerfully universal. Rooting its progressive vision of American social justice in religious ideas that transcend both its Christian aesthetic and America's vexing liberal-conservative divide, it is a must-read book for policy makers, religious leaders, and anyone looking for a moral basis to address America's urgent problems."

Rabbi David Saperstein, director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

"No one cuts through the confusion of our times with clarity and compassion like Jim Wallis. He is at his best in this book--bridging a cosmic vision of what humankind could be with a concrete plan for how we get there."

Eboo Patel, founder and president, Interfaith Youth Core; author of Sacred Ground

"Jim Wallis's new book elegantly summarizes key themes from his earlier work, but it also addresses with wisdom and clarity crucial issues that we must grapple with in the decade ahead: economics, ecology, polarization, peacemaking, the role of government, and more. And every page reflects the fact that this book was written during a sabbatical--emerging from a place of spiritual reflection and renewal, augmented by family, baseball, and fun. Arguably Jim's best book ever."

Brian D. McLaren, author/speaker (

"There are few people on the scene who can put together mature Christianity with mature politics without compromising either. Jim Wallis does it best--and does it again here."

Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico

"Jim Wallis has once again issued a passionate, stirring challenge to the church. In this hopeful, incisive book that pulls few punches, he challenges the church to engage in the 'next battle' to 'occupy the gospel' and thus to join in God's reclamation of God's cherished world. As always, Jim gives us a way of rethinking today's pressing social issues in a vibrantly Christian way, producing fresh insights on almost every page. He also gives Christians some specific personal decisions we can make to better align ourselves with God's continuing revolution in Jesus Christ."

William Willimon, professor of the practice of Christian ministry, Duke Divinity School; former bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church

"Let me be honest: I don't believe in 'must-read' books. But The (Un)Common Good is a very important book, especially in a time of increased polarization and lack of civility. As a pastor, I thank Jim Wallis for writing this book because it will be a vital resource for many--especially for the church, as we seek to invite, empower, and equip people for the work of the common good. In an increasingly cynical world, this is a fresh and hopeful word."

Rev. Eugene Cho, senior pastor, Quest Church; founder and visionary, One Day's Wages

"The Christian faith requires more than mere belief. It is a faith intended to change the world because it demands that Christians work with passion for the good of their neighbors. This is the good news of the kingdom of God that Jesus first proclaimed in Luke 4, and it's a message that Jim Wallis helps us better understand today."

Richard Stearns, president, World Vision US; author of The Hole in Our Gospel

"Without trust, no democratic society can survive. Trust is ultimately based on values. Jim Wallis's book provides us valuable insight for our private and public lives."

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman, World Economic Forum

"If Jim Wallis and I were to sit down and discuss every word he wrote in this book, we would undoubtedly find some points of disagreement. However, Jim's challenge to followers of Jesus to grapple with what it means to live out the kingdom of God here on earth is precisely the challenge I need today. Maybe it's precisely the challenge you need, too. Read this book and find out!"

Lynne Hybels, cofounder, Willow Creek Community Church

"Vintage Wallis--a challenging call to reclaim concern for the common good, which has fallen into political, cultural, and even religious neglect. To follow Jesus Christ, the Word who created the world and the Lamb who redeemed the world, means to love near and distant neighbors and work for the common good. Read it and roll up your sleeves!"

Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale Divinity School; founding director, Yale Center for Faith and Culture (; author of A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good

"A generation is rising that is committed to reconciling Billy Graham's message of salvation through Christ with Dr. King's march for justice. Jim Wallis presents a framework for prophetic activism, seeking a conciliatory platform for those wanting to go beyond the world of rhetoric and to reconcile covenant with community, all for the common good."

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (Hispanic Evangelical Association)

"At such a critical crossroads in our country's history, people are looking for commonsense voices on the right and left who are willing to ask difficult questions. Jim Wallis is one of those voices--winsome and reflective, yet forceful and unafraid. In this book, Wallis again challenges Christians to think deeply about our world's greatest problems. You might not always agree with his conclusions, but every chapter of the book will stretch your mind, challenge your thinking, and push you to consider the hope summed up in its opening words: 'Our life together can be better.'"

Jonathan Merritt, author of A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus beyond the Culture Wars

"Here is an alternative to the 'me-first' ethos that has infiltrated the American consciousness. Jim Wallis weaves together Scripture, theology, and personal reflection to call us to a deeper spirituality resulting in a lived spirituality. This book is a prophetic call to the Christian community to live into the hope that our life together can be better."

Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary; author of The Next Evangelicalism

The Author

  1. Jim Wallis

    Jim Wallis

    Jim Wallis is an author, activist, preacher, teacher, and pastor. He is a bestselling writer, convener of faith-inspired movements for justice and peace both outside and inside politics, public theologian in a secular culture, renowned speaker in the United...

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"Christian activist and writer Wallis . . . draws on inspiration from Abraham Lincoln to reflect on the common good outside of political labels. . . . Clear definition and conviction . . . defines much of the book."

Publishers Weekly

"Jim Wallis has long been an influential voice on Christian ethics and public life. But on a three-month sabbatical during the pinnacle of election season, Wallis stepped out of his sphere of influence to become, not a participator, but an observer. The result is a fresh take on the interplay of faith and politics in America."


"[This book] is [Wallis's] latest contribution to conversations regarding what religion might do to encourage a more just world. Wallis's rejection of partisanship is an early, and welcome, feature of the work. He makes it clear that his isn't a project about going right, or left, for Jesus's sake; rather, he says, the aim of integrating religion into political life should be to 'go deeper.'. . . [His] exigent examples help to engage the reader's sensibilities, and do much to illuminate Wallis's practical integrations of St. Paul's notion that 'the purpose of government is to protect its people from the chaos of evil and to promote a good society."

Michelle Anne Schingler,

ForeWord Reviews

"Grounded in practices that express Christian faith while making common purpose with people of all faiths or no faith, this book speaks a necessary rebuke to mindless soundbite politics. . . . As a community organizer nurtured in the antiwar and evangelical movements, Wallis makes a powerful case for reappropriating commitments to Jesus and justice so as to appeal to both the young and those alienated from old battles. He does so effectively. . . . [This book] points American Christians toward a quest that brings the symbolic and value resources of Christian community to shaping our common good. . . . In laboring for a common ground with the poor squarely before our eyes Wallis correctly bids us to seek God's side rather than our own choices--to that choice, Amen!"

Jess O. Hale Jr.,

Englewood Review of Books

"Wallis is a good writer, makes tons of sense, and is more balanced and careful than many who mostly traffic in slogans and clichés on the far left or right. So, I really, really think we should read and engage his contributions to our on-going efforts to discern a Biblically-faithful public witness in our post-Christian, pluralistic, and woefully polarized culture. . . . This is not the first time Wallis has introduced the phrase 'the common good' but it is, perhaps surprisingly, the first time he has made it the central organizing theme of a whole book, and it makes it certainly one of his very best. . . . Very enjoyable and very inspiring!"

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds BookNotes blog

"What if the best idea of American conservative thinkers, 'personal responsibility,' married the best idea of liberal thinkers, 'social responsibility?'. . . In his powerful, compelling, and deeply Scripture-based new book, Wallis argues that this is just what the United States need s to end the spiritual and political divisiveness that has polarized American life. In thoughtful and hopeful prose, Wallis encourages readers to reclaim the 'common good' rooted in the Beatitudes (Mt 5) and the parable of the Good Samaritan."

James Percoco,

St. Anthony Messenger

"[This book] is Wallis' two-part primer for the movements of the 'Matthew 25 Christians' he believes will make real, substantive change in American politics. . . . Though not necessarily aimed at Catholics, the book emphasizes for evangelical Protestants an important aspect of Catholic social teaching, one forgotten even by many 'evangelical' Catholics."

Heidi Schlumpf,

U. S. Catholic

"[Wallis] is one of the leading figures at the crossroads of religion and politics in America today. . . . Speaking from his role as an evangelical leader, Wallis asks Americans to move from satisfying their appetites to living their values day-by-day. . . . Wallis prophetically criticizes the damaging role money is playing in politics, and he is upset about the growing inequality between the rich and the poor. He ends with praise for the old fashioned values of marriage and parenting, noting with pride his love of being a Little League coach."

Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat,

Spirituality & Practice

"A splendid example of a third voice between the so called religious right and secular left. But it isn't exactly the Christian left, either--with endorsements by prudent, sophisticated conservative pundits such as Michael Gerson, this is a huge step for Wallis. Here he has given us his best book in years, and an important set of considerations for citizens who have long worked for the common good, and a great starter book for anyone beginning to read for the first time about evangelical faith and public life. I really love much about this, and very sincerely want to honor it."

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Books blog

"[Wallis] shows how a renewed commitment to the concept of the 'common good' and religious belief can change the face of partisan political approaches. He's long been a Christian activist advocating for the common ground theory. . . . A strong pick for political and social science holdings alike."

Midwest Book Review

"[Wallis] raises up a concept that desperately needs more attention--the common good. . . . Wallis reveals more deeply the forces that have shaped his thinking from early adulthood, and no doubt they will resonate with many readers."

Bill Tammeus,

Faith Matters blog

"[Wallis's] arguments make sense and I hope Christians on left and right will read this book and adjust their words and actions, as I have done and intend to do yet further. . . . There is a great deal of value in this provocative, insightful and much-needed book by Jim Wallis."

Steven Baker, MP,

Wycombe; cofounder, The Cobden Centre (

"[This] is the rare book capable of calling for real reform in the realms of politics and religion by leveraging the strengths of the right and left while frankly naming and challenging the exclusivistic and consumeristic claims of each. . . . Wallis clearly loves his country and seeks to live out his faith. His approach blends the best of the conservative political philosophy with the best of liberal political philosophy by uniting personal responsibility and social responsibility. Rather than offering a detailed map leading to the common good, he delivers a more helpful tool designed to spark conversation and action. . . . Wallis' book is the ideal sort for beginning conversation within a faith community or among people from differing religious bodies. It is powerful enough that it will likely push many book study group participants beyond conversation to action."

Greg Smith,

So What Faith blog

"The book could well serve as a moral compass for politicians of all stripes. . . . [It] continues [Wallis's] fine tradition of badgering political and religious establishments."

Bob Coccaro,

The Left Bank Café blog