Rescuing Religion From the Right

The Rev. Jim Wallis says gay marriage and abortion aren't the only values-related issues religious people care about.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, when the role of religion in politics became a hot topic, one voice in particular represented the religious liberal point of view. The Rev. Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine and a founder of the faith-based antipoverty organization Call to Renewal, appeared on countless TV and radio shows to debate religion and politics with leaders of the religious right. His new best-selling book, "God's Politics," further considers the topics he debated during the campaign. Wallis recently spoke with Beliefnet about ways to incorporate liberal religious positions into politics, the values-based issues religious people should care most about, and his outlook on the role of faith in politics during the next four years.

There was a lot of discussion after the election about the moral values vote. What values did people vote on?

It's funny-a flawed exit poll has shaped a national conversation. I call it flawed because one choice was moral values. The others were about issues like Iraq and terrorism and then the economy, health care, jobs. But if I was a religious voter who cared about the war, I would have checked Iraq, and it would have been a moral value. If I were a Catholic coordinator of a food pantry, I would have checked the closest thing I could find to poverty, which would have been jobs or health care or the economy.


So if you take the issues like war and terrorism and group them as values, that was about 33% as opposed to 22% for moral values. If the economy, health care, and jobs are all values, it was about the same. A Zogby poll about a week later confirmed that intuition. It asked, What was the biggest moral issue in your voting? Forty-two percent said the war in Iraq. Then they said, what's the greatest moral crisis in America today? Something like 33% said greed and materialism. And 31% said poverty and economic jobs. So that's 64% saying that poverty, greed, materialism, and justice are the greatest moral crises in America today. I found that very encouraging. And abortion was less than 20%-16% in fact-and gay marriage about 12%. It showed there's a broader, deeper, richer conversation to be had here. It's not just one value or two values; there are a lot more fundamental moral values that need to shape our political direction.

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Interview by Rebecca Phillips
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