I’ve liked the stuff that Sojourners has been putting out as long as I have known about them, they focus on many issues that face the church from a position that tries to bring together conservative and liberal Christianity.  This has been something Jim Wallis has focused on repeatedly, with his newest book, and in his other writings and conferences.  Now he is launching his own blog, called…God’s Politics.

I have added this blog to my blogroll, and subscribed to it because I anticipate that it will offer refreshing insights into politics and spirituality from people who are both strongly committed to following Jesus and who believe it’s important to live out what they believe in the public square.

Jim Wallis
It looks like God’s Politics the Blog will not be limited to Jim’s writing’s alone but will include other popular writers like, Brian McLaren, Amy Sullivan, Noel Castellanos, Robert Franklin, Diana Butler Bass, Obery Hendricks, Sister Helen Prejean, Ron Sider, Tony Campolo (and I hope they get Anne Lamott). 
The blog hopes to create real-live dialogue where people can work out the issues that have divided America for a really long time via comments and blog-related conversations. 

Wallis writes, “I find people across the political and religious spectrum who are looking for the ???moral center“ of our public life, for the moral choices and challenges below the surface of our political debates, for a true ???values politics“ that challenges the selective moralities of both the right and the left.???  And so he hopes this blog will provide a sounding board of sorts for what he feels called to do, time will tell if this will work internet-wide but I commend them for trying. 

This coming week Ralph Reed will be writing, Reed is former director for the Christian Coalition and I suspect what he has to say will be worth checking out. 

For more on the blog you can read the welcome here.

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

20 thoughts on “”

  1. Wallis’s blog seems a tad self-important — “The monologue of the Religious Right is over and a new conversation has begun!”, just as if there was never any such conversation before Wallis decided to start one.

    This does not sit well with me.

  2. Hi Marshall, I had the same thought about that statement – It’s been happening all along and his blog will be joining those of us who have been blogging for years now. All that to say I agree with you and I hope that’s them just trying to create a little stem or hype.

  3. I hope its not just another reaction against what they perceive to be the “evil” of the religious right. Hopefully it will be a place of meaningful dialogue with a Gospel centered purpose.

  4. Kevin,
    I agree it will be interesting to see how the picture gets painted and also how wide they carry the discussion. I mean I wonder what kinds of topics they will entertain?

    From what I’ve heard and read of Wallis I think he will be focused on the Gospel and will consider the implications that arise from it.

    But we will see in time whether this is true or not.

  5. As a non-Christian who has great respect for the Christian faith I have always been a bit leery of Wallis. I appreciate his emphasis on helping the poor and his attempts to turn the discussion away from the sexual culture war. Yet I get the feeling that his differences from people like Ralph Reed is one of emphasis instead of anything fundamental.

    Wallis can get people like Reed, Rick Santorum, and Sam Brownback to participate in his events because his viewpoints on homosexuality and abortion are strikingly similar. He is just kinder about it and places his emphasis on war and poverty.

    Frankly, I want no part of his “moral center” (a decidely Christian moral center at that) if getting support for the poor and against war means selling out gays and women’s bodily self-determination in the longer run.

    But then I have often felt like the battle between the “religious right” and the “religious left” has really been a battler between “lefty” and “righty” Jesus. All other faith perspectives get to root for whichever they think might treat them better.

  6. I have been frustrated with the recent “tour” Wallis has been doing, because it seems to be all talk with very little organization or collaboration for things to actually happen. We need to someone to lead us in action, not just tour the country signing books.

  7. @ Jason – I don’t really know enough about Ralph Reed to be able to compare the two guys – do you have any info that would help shed light on this question for me?

    I can understand your hesitations about the “moral center” I too get leary of that because I too ask “who’s moral center?” I feel better, as a Christian, about Wallis’ moral center than many other Christians in the spotlight currently but I too am cautious if “getting support for the poor and against war means selling out gays and women’s bodily self-determination in the longer run.”

    I for one don’t think we have to pick one or the other, and I am not sure that’s what Wallis is pushing for either, I may have missed something somewhere but I think he’s trying to say that the things Jesus focused on should be our main focus – i.e. poverty, peace, and justice. I can join Wallis on this – about the other stuff – I don’t really know where he stands.

    And Finally – you’re last statement is really sad, but true (for the most part). Again I think that there is a middle group of Christians (and I trully think Wallis and others are trying for some kind of middle ground – thought I don’t know if he will succeed) but for the most part the powers in the media and politics are battling from one side or the other.

    But isn’t it much easier to pick a one extreme or the other than to live in nuance and the grays of life?

    @ Kevin L. – What signing books can’t save the world? I agree, let’s teach and mobilize people enough already with celebrity BS! God knows we have plenty of that. This is something Rob Bell really impressed me by last time he was here, he didn’t bring any of his stuff, and charged no money to speak – he wanted nothing for his work here. Kind of reminded me of keith green a bit – except he didn’t give out his nooma’s for free!

  8. You know I got to thinking about all this a bit more and I have to say I am a bit surprised by the amount of negativity towards Jim Wallis. Haven’t we as Christians got enough people to complain about? I mean really, we’ve got men like Pastor John Hagee who are trying to get congress to have pre-emptive strikes on Muslim nations, and Falwell, and Robertson who wants to assasinate world leaders, and…and…I think you get my point.

    I confess I too can be very cynical – and this is something I don’t really like about myself. But here’s a guy, quirks and all, who is at least trying to work toward something many of us can cheer on.

    Now I understand the points Jason brought up and all I can say is I respect what he said and what he gave us to consider but at the same time when it comes to Christians in the media we don’t have a ton of great candidates. Wallis is among the best we have, in my opinion.

    Now I am not settling for Wallis, I actually think he’s trying to accomplish some really good things – things I believe in. But we can always do better, we can always be less self important and he is no different. We must continue to call people to humility, especially our leaders who are most public.

    But in the mean time let’s no be so cynical that no one can ever meet up to our own expectations. So I am going to root for this guy, and also challenge some of his things along the way.

  9. Wess, I’m sorry to clutter up your comments with this long post. I’ll try to keep it brief from now on.

    “Now I understand the points Jason brought up and all I can say is I respect what he said and what he gave us to consider but at the same time when it comes to Christians in the media we don’t have a ton of great candidates. Wallis is among the best we have, in my opinion.”

    Wallis is difficult. Wallis is difficult not because he is a Christian, but because he is the compromise choice. To me it says that the more radical visions of people like Rabbi Michael Lerner are out of bounds in this “conversation”.

    Reading the first entry in the discussion with Reed, it is clear that the Wallis arguement is all about emphasis. Wallis (the Democratic evangelical) has no great theological divide between himself and the conservative Bush-voting evangelicals. He simply wants his compatriots to shift their voting habits to the party he personally feels better manifests the values of Jesus (and more power to him).

    The problem is that moderate and conservative evangelicals won’t shift away from abortion or homosexuality. As Reed points out, these issues are seen as equal to poverty and peace. They don’t see the imbalance that Wallis sees.

    The end goal when you have a “compromise” leader of the “moderates” (Wallis has taken great pains to point out he is “moderate” while the media still paints him as part of the “left”) dealing with people he simply feels need to shift their emphasis is that talk of “compromise” soon appears.

    That compromise says: we will pay more attention to the poor if you “compromise” on abortion. We will “go green” so long as you drop this whole “gay marriage” thing. We can say that isn’t what is happening. But when the “religious left” gives its media leadership over to Wallis (I have yet to hear a peep of discontent), a man who already has the ear of several prominent Democrats (Obama, Clinton) those of us who don’t work in a Christian context can see the writing on the walls.

    Is Wallis better than the rabid theocrats and hate-mongers? Of course he is, far better. But the problem with “he isn’t nearly as bad as” arguements is that it implies its own kind of cynicism. The cynicism that says that this is the best the popular media will allow. That anyone from the “religious left” who is theologically or politically to the left of Wallis could never ascend to his heights in our current climate.

    I want a Buddhist debating Ralph Reed! I want a Hindu, a Reconstructionist Jew, a Native American, a Quaker, a Unitarian-Universalist, and yes, I want a Pagan debating Ralph Reed. I want the terms of the coalition and the debate to move beyond two flavors of evangelical.

    I dislike Wallis as spokesman not because I’m cynical, but because I want so much more.

  10. Hi all, I’m very grateful for everyone’s thoughtful comments about Wallis and his persona. Apologies in advance for using this comment to suggest how Sojourners should reform.

    I tend to agree with Kevin Lewis regarding Jim touring the country, but not offering people concrete ways to plug in. Sojourners overestimates the power of their email list, Jim Wallis’ book and their magazine. If you truly want lasting change, you start at the local level. Wendell Berry says there is no such thing as the global community. Berry’s opinion tends to be true when you consider the work of Sojourners. Tons of people receive the emails and/or magazine, but the organization lacks a personal connection with the local church. Ultimately, people will not respond to your message without a local community to encourage them.

    I also have concerns about Sojourners commitment to young people and emerging leaders. I’ve heard Jim Wallis speak at multiple events including an event in 2005 for emerging leaders. There, he expressed his excitement for the next generation of leaders – but there has been little follow-up at the organizational level. If you are truly committed to raising up new leaders, hire full-time staff to direct this aspect of your work. It’s encouraging that they are starting a blog, but they need to invest in staff to develop new leaders. Additionally, stop charging tons of money for your conferences. It prevents young people, students, the working class and many others from participating in the dialogue.

  11. Jason thanks again for you comments – and no worries about cluttering this place up – you’re pushing this conversation in a good direction.

    I understand better what you are getting at and agree with what you’ve offered up, I also see the flaw in my “better than” position. I feel as though you’ve nicely slapped me back into reality a bit.

    Though I must say I am not really sure where to turn. This is part of my problem with our discussion on this post. We do want more, and we all realize that even though Wallis and co. really want to be moderates they are really gathering the conservative votes. And that much of what we are looking for is still not being represented.

    When I was at the conference this past week – I knew it was full of like-minded people, everyone who already agreed with those positions, and I am not sure it’s ever really any different either, is it?

    I guess I partly agree with Wallis then simply on emphasis but not fundamentally. In fact, my position has been closer to Yoder and Hauerwas’ than anything – that is the church’s political involvement begins with the church embodying the kingdom not trying to vote it in. I feel like this aspect alone makes me fundamentally different than his position.

    And you are right – we’re not going to be able to get conservatives, at least anytime soon, to shift away from their key issues.

    I am not sure where this leaves us – though I do like your idea of getting more people involved in voicing their concerns. Getting it out of the Evangelical hands may be the best way forward but how long will that take? And maybe we even need an Evangelical to help us get beyond the Evangelical-flavor.

    Anyways – I am left with that basic questioned we’ve all voiced – how do we move forward? Take the good with the bad, rally around the stuff we believe in and toss out all that other junk?

  12. Interesting conversation!

    Wess, Jason, your last exchange of comments makes it sound a bit as if you are debating whether Wallis or Rabbi Lerner is the better choice to head the liberal movement in the church. But why do you feel you need a human head? The alternative position is the one that says: no mere human is good enough to be trusted with that sort of headship; we will therefore follow no leader but Christ. That is an honorable alternative which goes all the way back to the Psalmist’s “put not thy trust in princes”.

    My leader, Christ, is present wherever two or more are gathered in his name. And he is already challenging leaders like Ralph Reed — and leaders like Jim Wallis, too. Given the high quality, and the constant availability, of his leadership, I fail to understand what I am supposed to need lesser leaders like Wallis for.

  13. “we will therefore follow no leader but Christ”

    No disrespect intended, but Christ isn’t my leader. I’m not a Christian.

    But, I do see your point that the divine (however one’s tradition manifests it) should be the ultimate guide in matters of faith. I also agree with you in that in many things a human leader isn’t necessary. But there are times when someone to speak truth to power is needed. Who should speak that truth for those of us opposed to the agenda of certain conservatice Christian groups?

    In the end, I want someone who is prophetic, speaks truth to power, and accepts that anything resembling a “religious left” or “spiritual progressives” must be inclusive of all willing faiths.

  14. No, Jason, it’s fine: I feel no disrespect coming from you!

    You write, “…There are times when someone to speak truth to power is needed. Who should speak that truth for those of us opposed to the agenda of certain conservative Christian groups?

    My answer is that this is an obligation we cannot delegate to leaders — we have to do it ourselves.

    That prophetic power is already in us both, waiting to be allowed to express itself. If we don’t allow it to speak through us when the time requires, but instead look for someone else to do it in our place, we fail in our obligations to one another and to God, and we become dead souls.

  15. Marshall I appreciate your comment because it does reach into a missed point of this larger discussion and a very (good) Quaker point to bring up.

    My only disconnect is when you say, “My answer is that this is an obligation we cannot delegate to leaders — we have to do it ourselves.” It seems like when we follow Christ (as we should) and do it ourselves (which I am all for) we become leaders. Now of course maybe there will be more leaders than we have now, but the point still remains that in following the Spirit don’t we become leaders and subject to the same things said about Wallis and others?

    I mean as I follow the Spirit and do whatever is necessary I am bound to be subjected to criticism by someone and you know I have had a taste of it here on other posts. I am suggesting that maybe these men (we need more women leading in these areas for one thing) are doing what they believe the Spirit to be telling them to do, just like Pat Robertson and others do.

    And doesn’t this bring us back to the beginning, of looking for people who we believe are actually hearing the right voice!?

    Now granted, some people do hear better than others and maybe one of us fit that mold (I am pretty sure it’s not me) and those who listen better always make the best leaders, and that’s what I am hoping for. Someone who is really listening too and following the Spirit of Christ, a spokesperson and a mobilizer of the church, and other faith groups.

    So I agree with your point but I think it’s very similiar to mine, unless I’ve missed something important?

  16. …as long as we’re not continually living by the assumption that the “best hearer” is the one that always lines up with my view of how the Gospels and Christ look.

  17. Hi, Wess!

    You write, “It seems like when we follow Christ (as we should) and do it ourselves (which I am all for) we become leaders.” I don’t think that’s so. When we follow Christ, we become followers, not leaders — followers of Christ. And the “it” that I was saying we should do ourselves is (in Jason’s words) “speaking truth to power”. We speak truth as echoes of Christ, from whom truth comes. What we want for other people to do is to follow that truth, and follow Christ themselves, not follow us.

    So if we are faithful in this, we are not setting ourselves up as leaders. At most, we are becoming good examples. But we are not even setting ourselves up as good examples — we are merely doing the right thing as best we can, which makes us examples but not because we seek that rôle.

    You write, “I am suggesting that maybe these men (we need more women leading in these areas for one thing) are doing what they believe the Spirit to be telling them to do….” Maybe they are, but the criticisms that have been leveled against Wallis in this string of comments all relate to ways in which what he is doing is different from what the Spirit calls us all to do. So there is a definite gap between what he believes the Spirit is telling him to do, and what the Spirit is actually saying.

    You ask, “And doesn’t this bring us back to the beginning, of looking for people who we believe are actually hearing the right voice!?” But why shouldn’t it, instead, bring us back to listening to the right voice ourselves? Isn’t that much better than looking for someone else who will listen to the right voice? Should thou not thyself be a Child of the Light, and thyself have walked in the Light; and what thou speakest, should it not be inwardly from God?

    You write, “Now granted, some people do hear better than others … and those who listen better always make the best leaders….”

    Well, training and practice will help anyone learn to hear better. That privilege is not limited to some favored upper class. Training includes study of the scriptures, where the message of the Spirit of love and righteousness is recorded, so that we can begin to recognize the Spirit’s Voice; it also involves face-to-face interaction with a community of the faithful who’ve been listening to that Voice themselves and can help us see better how it’s done. Practice means attentiveness to that Voice in the place of conscience: attentiveness and readiness to obey.

    If people do such training and practice as a continuing, never-ending discipline, then the fact that certain others hear better than they do becomes, not a rationale for them to be followers of those other people, but rather, an inspiration to them to train and practice even more assiduously, so that they, too, can hear at that same fine level.

    I’m hearing several quite promising prophets speaking in the comments here. I wouldn’t have them follow Wallis; I’d have them follow Christ who is quite evidently teaching them directly.

  18. Age 45.

    For at least as longa s I’ve been old enough to watch TV the televsion evangelists have been claiming to speak for all Christianity (and the religious conservatives in particular).

    It is getting far past time for us to take back the church. It will require — among other things — for the conservative church to state clearly when these False Lamb’s of the airwaves don’t speak for them. It will also require liberal Christaisn to stand up to both the religious right AND the blow-dry hair set from TV-land and say WE are servants of Christ and by denying us you divide the body.

    This has already been slowly happening in pockets for some time now. The secular media ignores it. Christain still means Swaggart for CNN/ABC/CBS etc. Perhaps God will use Jim Wallis despite his claims to be a vanguard.

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