Review: 'Me and We: God's New Social Gospel'

March 9th, 2015

Leonard Sweet tackles a topic dear to the hearts of many church leaders when he addresses the foils and follies, as well as the gifts and graces, of the “social gospel” movement that emerged a hundred years ago and then faded.

Through systems thinking and an expert knowledge of church history, Sweet takes us down the road we have travelled with the social gospel and reminds us that our love of an idea does not preclude our love of the Savior. Instead he shows us how a new and improved social gospel is emerging as he calls us to form a “Me/We” identity as Christ-followers. This identity is not about social constructs to bring heaven on earth but about living a relational faith that is concerned with mercy as much as justice, giving even more than getting, and grace over judgment and condemnation. The “Me/We” way of Christian living is based on the understanding that God created a world for us so that we can live in interdependence and love.

As we look deeper into this new kind of relational identity, Sweet focuses on three great human failures: individualism, racism, and consumerism. Each of these “isms” errs in forgetting the “We” by favoring the “Me.”

Sweet’s analysis of racism is particularly poignant today as we see unrest in our cities over unfair treatment of people of color. Sweet calls us to change our images around color, especially around darkness and light. He states:

“Racism will never be erased, but its deepest roots and most sturdily resistant strains, which run through a whole range of human behavior, can be severed when the identification of black with evil and white with good is pulled up and not replanted.” (p. 49)

Instead, Sweet calls for a social gospel that is “equinoctial,” where the lengths of day and night, and the darkness and light of both, are given equal value.

The book is hard to put down. It is relevant, challenging, and timely. And it will remold our commitments to a new social gospel.

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