“The World Is Not Ours To Save” by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is a Must Read for Activist-Types

Note: I requested a review copy of The World Is Not Ours to Save – Finding the Freedom to Do Good from Inter Varsity Press.  I am not obligated to write a favorable review but an honest one. But if I’m being really honest, it was really easy to write this  – the book is great.

Many would agree the activist label is used quite liberally. While I am unable to determine how many hours a week you must labor in activism to qualify you for the title, it’s certainly overused. So to intentionally overstate, this book should be handed out just before every short-term mission trip, along with every Invisible Children dvd and box of TOMS shoes. Further, it should required in seminaries, film schools, and military training academies. Oh and every celebrity who sets up a charity foundation should get one too, especially the Christian celebrities.

Now I know just listed a bunch of things that are easy to pick on. But if you know me, I actually think short-term mission trips can be incredible life-changing moments, I think the work of Invisible Children is good, so are TOMS and all the things I mentioned (yes, even seminary ;).  What I think Tyler does a phenomenal job with is addressing the shortcomings of many Christian activists and pointing to a better picture of God and therefore a healthier Christian activism. Personally I found this helpful, convicting in not only how I live but also how I teach/preach/communicate.

Oh No – Not Another Book from the Nuclear Disarmament Guy!
It’s true – Tyler is the the Founder of the Two Futures Project which is an organization dedicated to the “abolishing of all nuclear weapons.” Had Tyler consulted me prior to jumping into this crazy notion of nuclear disarmament I would have advised him to do something more reasonable like bringing an end to boy-bands or eradicating “the southern drawl” or something truly sustainable, like bringing the DH to the National League. But he missed the boat. I remain available for consulting however.

But not only did he never seek my advice but soon after his Q presentation in Austin a few years ago, I became quite convinced of his argument (I believe his schedule is full of speaking engagements and consultations but if you can get him to your town, I’d do it).  It also helped that just about so much of what he was saying is verified by Jack Bauer in 24 (who I understand is not available for … ;)

I ended up seeing Countdown to Zero with my wife and friends and while there’s a part of me that feels it’s impossible to rid the world of nuclear weapons, there’s another part of me that is discontent with this notion of it begin a “necessary evil.” I’m telling you, Tyler is a convincing fella.

I admit I was slightly encouraged to learn that his latest book was not focused on nuclear disarmament. Further, the title The World Is Not Ours To Save:  Finding the Freeom to Do Good  took a lot of pressure off of me so and I looked forward to the “easy read.”

It’s Not An Easy Read
It’s not that its nerdy or technical, it’s challenging. It desires to call you to something deeper.  You cannot cruise control through this, particularly Part 2.  The first 75 pages flow pretty fast and you keep nodding your head to the shortcomings of the Christian social justice scene.  If you stop at the end of Part 1 and are able to point out the flaws of this movement with better accuracy, you will only become a better Pharisee.  Fortunately, there’s Part 2, where Tyler articulates a fuller vision of God, the world and our community which gives us fuller vision of our involvement which gives us a fuller vision of our potential activism.

How It Compares With Pursuing Justice
So I ran into this with as I was reading Pursuing Justice by Ken Wystma which I also thought was required reading. I know some might be thinking, “Hey, Tim likes everything he gets to read from a publisher!” Untrue. What is true is that I rarely blog about the stuff I dislike. I do this for free so I’d like to avoid taking the time to read/post and invite you to read a review that says, “Don’t read this book.” I’m sure there might be an exception or two but let’s not waste time.

In terms of how it ranks with Pursuing Justice, one it’s considerably shorter and is written for the Christian activist, for the insider. Two, Pursuing Justice intentionally has a larger scope to it.  Honesty, if you are seriously investing your life in serving the common good, I’d read both (and many more) because they demonstrate how the Christian justice conversation is maturing for the X’ers and Millennials.  Frankly, I would love to see Tyler present at next year’s Justice Conference.

My Favorite Features of the Book
Critiquing the Christian activist movement in Part 1.  As mentioned, you need to read the book in its entirety but the first 75 pages are so needed for all of us Christians who believe/practice social justice.  Now we know people have critiquing that for a while but Tyler is a real activist. In fact, as you will read, he comes from a family of activists. There are few things more annoying that an self-unaware do-gooder (It’s why we prefer Christopher Nolan’s Batman to any version of Superman. Although Superman would be more helpful in the process of nuclear disarmament especially given his resume that includes Superman IV – The Quest for Peace but I digress). Bottom line though – It really mattered to me that the founder of a nuclear disarmament organization was so rooted in the call of gospel and viewed activism more as part of our faithful response than the “We are God’s only secret weapon” mentality.

His treatment of the complicated Old Testament issues in Ch. 4 “Fear God” (Just fair warning, it’s not an apologetic so if you’re looking for that, you should consider God Behaving Badly by David Lamb. Order via Amazon here, my review here).

His very non-sexy titles like”Broken Beyond Our Repair” and “Don’t Be a Hero.” Clearly he’s not a fan of the Foo-Fighters. This book is not cool. Nor is it hipster-cool, or post-hipster-cool or counter-whatever cool. It has a cautionary quality to it and we all know caution is not cool. Instead, it calls for a humble posture for the believer yet it reminds the reader there is a God who is powerful and already at work.   For us, we get to celebrate and join Him.

A sharp sense of humor. Which helps move the book along given its “world-saving that does not revolve around you” quality.

Loved his stories about:
How he realized the world wasn’t his to save.
His experience on a bridge in Japan while observing the anniversary of the dropping of the bomb in Hiroshima. He met an older gentleman that night who was orphaned that fateful day – beautiful story.
His time in the Middle East. I’m Egyptian so anytime you talk about bringing hope, peace and redemption to the Middle East, you’re going to win me.
His parents.
He and his wife, Natalie going back to South Africa to learn more about her grandparents

It’s the Next Book In Our Reading Circle
For those GC@Niters who read this blog, this is our next conversation as I believe it will do us well after reading/discussing our earlier books like A Faith of Our Own by Jonathan Merritt and The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons. Yes, Tyler is part of that Q Conversation I keep talking about and for us inter-denominational types, it’s a worthy discussion to take part in. We’ll be starting in June, more info coming.

More Links

Check out Tyler Wiggs Stevenson
Follow him on Twitter Here
Read an excellent interview with Tyler and Jonathan Merritt here
Read More About The Two Futures Project and watch Countdown to Zero tonight on Netflix.


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