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4 Stars Out Of 5
Vertical and Horizontal Vision
July 4, 2013
I read The Lamb's Agenda by Samuel Rodriguez and caught the vision from the very beginning. The introduction describes a wonderful time and place where stores and golf courses are empty on a Sunday morning, and hospitals have only minor injuries to attend to rather than shootings and other crimes of terror. A state prison has been repurposed into classrooms. What a beautiful vision, I thought. Churches would be full and everyone would be living the dream of peace on earth. But it would take Christians seriously pursuing God and also reaching out to their fellow man in Christlikeness.
Many dark forces rise against this utopian idea. There are agendas everywhere, not just from political parties but also from denominations, false gospels, and spiritual apathy. Groups discriminate against other groups because of race, sexual orientation, income, and appearance. But instead we are to follow the crossÃ¢â¬âlook vertically to God and look horizontally to our neighbor. In the utopia described above, Christians would never neglect the needy, or their families. They would never sin. But since we are human, and have all fallen short of the glory of God, we do sin. Our humanity is no excuse. If we were truly seeking God with all our hearts, and really cared about His will, the world would be a better place. Rodriguez gives several examples of leaders who saw the need for this shift.
The Lamb's Agenda challenged me. We must pray for a revival, a third Great Awakening. Frightening things are happening all over the world in opposition to Christianity. We must develop a passion for God and the things of God. How often do we go to church and call it good? How often do we complain of not having time to read the Bible or go to church? Samuel Rodriguez calls us to a higher standard, a better agendaÃ¢â¬âThe Lamb's Agenda.
Reviewed by Mary DeKok Blowers. The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through BookSneezeÃÂ®.
Lamb's Agenda, Rev. Rodriguez' political manifesto
May 2, 2013
Daniel F Flores
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is perhaps the most recognizable personality of the Hispanic evangelical church in America. He has been interviewed and quoted by the media giants of print Washington Post and New York Times as well as electronic news services CNN, Fox News, and Univision. Rev. Rodriguez is a known entity on Capitol Hill in both legislative houses and well-acquainted with the President and First Lady. As President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, he is a commanding presence whether speaking to the National Association of Evangelicals, the Martin Luther King Center, T.D. Jakes' Potter's House, television news programs or elected government officials. It is no wonder there is for the high enthusiasm for publication of his latest book, The Lamb's Agenda.
Rodriguez describes himself as a Hispanic Evangelical pastor consisting of an amalgamation of Billy Graham and Martin Luther King "with salsa on top." An advocate of cultural assimilation, he does not flaunt his Latinidad without purpose. Rather, he successfully parlays his ethnic identity for speaking truth to power where may otherwise not be heard. Anyone who is familiar with his "donkey-elephant" rhetoric will quickly recognize this book as his personal manifesto for faith in politics. While maintaining party neutrality, he is a conservative critical both of big government and President Obama. Does that mean Rodriguez is a Republican? Maybe. If so, he is a self-critical of the failures of the Republican Party as being "too male, too old, and too white." However, he is openly appreciative of the grass-roots Tea Party Movement. His only negative, whimsical remark of them is that "a party without chips and salsa is not a party at all."
The book is not only about politics. It is also has a strong religious theme that is decidedly Pentecostal. He believes in the existence of the evil spirits in the world described using biblical allusions of Jezebel, Absalom, and Herod. These spirits influence society by inciting sexual perversion, division, abortion, and poverty. Although this is a departure from classical Pentecostalism, it does suggest his openness to Charismatic "Kingdom" teachings. Relying chiefly on secondary sources and commentary of popular writers, he captures sound bites from leaders of the Great Awakenings and reframes them as proof for the potential of a Third Great Awakening. How will this happen? His formula for awakening is a cruciform social reconciliation where the vertical (God-human relations) converge with the horizontal (human relations) using the teachings of Jesus as our guide. The resultant nexus will result in unprecedented spiritual revival and economic prosperity. But Rodriguez explains that this cannot occur until America returns to the biblical standards embraced by the Founding Fathers. He identifies as threats to his utopian vision same-sex marriages, abortion, human trafficking, racism, and the broken immigration system. He wisely distances himself from homophobia and xenophobia, citing the importance of civil rights for all citizens. In practice Rodriguez supports comprehensive immigration reform. It is therefore puzzling for read that he falls short of advocating political action. Rather, he enjoins compassionate ministries to undocumented immigrants. "Let Uncle Sam enforce immigration laws while we embrace a church that reaches the lost for Christ."
The Lamb's Agenda is not intended to be an academic book. The bibliography does not reflect serious research but closely resemble Google sources. It is evident that this book was written in the idiom of the common church-going person to provoke engagement in the political arena. The sermonic style is as engaging and provocative in print as Rev. Rodriguez is in person. It definitely carries his prophetic voice and the wisdom of a Washington insider. It invites the reader to probe deeper into critical social issues facing Americans. Although much of the content rehearses Rodriguez' public discourses on societal sins, this is not a true jeremiad. His tone remains hopeful and positive. He avoids pronouncing doom, but offers God's blessing to those who will heed his message. What may be difficult for his non-evangelical readership to embrace is his pervasive belief that Hispanic evangelical leaders are destined to transform American Christianity by permeating the evangelical, mainline, and historic churches. Presumably, those outside the Christian faith will also benefit from the nation's return to biblical Kingdom principles.
Okay, most of it. And the remainder isn't bad; you just don't need it. Anyway you'll find yourself wanting to hand people this book and say those first four words of this review. Especially those people - you know who they are - who confront you over matters of the Faith. And this book is as friendly to Catholics as if a Catholic had written it. Really. Don't be deterred if you don't fancy yourself an activist or a wonk. This is book is still plenty palatable and finishable.
Rodriguez touches (albeit lightly) on the infamous contraception mandate, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, things I readily admit I don't fully understand. My brainy acquaintance "Nick" (remember him?), who, don't get me wrong, I love to talk to because he challenges me in a non-confrontational manner, knows a lot about such things. And I need as much help as I can get with that never-ending quest. I've shown Nick this book. He flipped through it and wants to look at it when I'm done. I don't know how deeply he'll get into it, as he said Catholicism for Dummies has been slow-going for him. But like with my acquaintance who borrowed gods at war, Nick can keep that and The Lamb's Agenda as long as he wants!
I regret that while Rodriguez is unapologetically pro-life in terms of abortion, there is no mention of the death penalty, that I saw. I have to wonder Rodriguez's stance on the issue but I can't imagine he'd support it. This stands out to me, from Rodriguez, although he's not really talking about abortion here: "[N]onbelievers tend to become so focused on their own lifestyles that they cannot be bothered to have children. The demographics of faith are worth a book of their own, but suffice it to say that committed Christians in the United States have at least twice as many children per couple as nonbelievers."
Another "Yes!" moment comes in the chapter "An HD or Analog Movement." Says Rodriguez:
"For too many people today of all age groups, even those who are affiliated with a church, Sunday morning is little more than a social occasion, an opportunity to dress up, visit with friends, listen to an idle hour of feel-good preaching and singing, and go to brunch afterward, utterly unmoved about changing one's life...Without a doubt, a fresh holiness movement needs to take place, with a commitment to addressing a sin-tolerant culture but without the vestiges of legalism." Hello!
Another happy effect of Rodriguez's book, for me, is that I've developed an interest in two more stories: those of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Louis Zamperini. The first time I saw Bonhoeffer's name it was in Persecuted. See that the author of that book's foreword wrote a book about him. I was very surprised to see that when I searched in the public library, no fewer than 13 books appeared, including the one Metaxas wrote. I said "Nah" to that one, but I've checked out another. Anyone care to enlighten me a little more about Bonhoeffer before I tuck into the library book? Apparently he was quite the hero; why haven't I heard of this guy before? Something tells me I should learn about him.
As for Zamperini, I'd heard of him thanks to Laura Hillenbrand's runaway bestseller Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. (And that is in fact the book I've checked out of the library.) But I didn't know Zamperini had anything to do with Billy Graham, who Rodriguez seems to consider something of a hero in his own right. I'll cut to the chase: Rodriguez says, "Zamperini is one of more than three million people who found their way to Jesus through Billy Graham." I've heard enough good things about Hillenbrand's book that I look forward to reading it.
So if you're Catholic who could use a resource to help you defend the Christian perspective on current issues, The Lamb's Agenda does the trick. As for what you don't need? You don't need "A Kingdom Culture Movement," the out-of-nowhere chapter on immigration, and you definitely don't need "John the Baptist Leadership," a chapter about, surprise, leadership. (Aren't you glad you have me around?)
Happy Holy Week, everyone.
I received this book for free from the publisher through the BookSneezeÃÂ®.com (http://BookSneezeÃÂ®.com> book review bloggers program.