God's Politics

God's Politics


Jim Wallis: Beyond Moderates and Extremists

posted by gp_intern

DAVOS, Switzerland – Only since Sept. 11 has the World Economic Forum invited religious leaders to its annual meeting. At first, the Forum leaders were most concerned with religious conflict as a destabilizing force in the world, in light of the threats of terrorism and religious fundamentalism, and began to convene a dialogue between religious leaders of many faiths. But since then, the discussion has gone much deeper. This year, not only have there been the best discussions yet between the religious leaders – Christian, Muslim, and Jewish – but the faith leaders have fanned out to penetrate many of the other sessions with spiritual, ethical, and moral perspectives on a broad range of economic and political topics. The engagement with both business and political leaders has been substantial – with all parties really listening to one another. For the first time, there was even a plenary on the subject of religion, pluralism, and multiculturalism in the global neighborhood (that session was posted on yesterday’s blog).

But the question that the session’s moderator, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, put to the panelists was still about religious conflict and its political impact. Indeed, that remains the big issue for most of the world. Most of the religious leaders here would be perceived to be in the “moderate” camp, as opposed to those thought to be religious “extremists.” Those two words have been lifted up again and again: How do we separate moderates from extremists? How do we up enhance the voice of the moderates, and how do we replace religious extremists with religious moderates? In a session today, even the meaning of those words were challenged. “Who decides what is moderate? What criteria will religion be judged by?”

But the problem may be the limits of dialogue itself. Today, many of the most publicly visible religious actors and actions in the world (or at least actions done in the name of religion) are of the extremist kind. And all the while, the moderates are dialoguing. As important as that is, dialogue, even good dialogue, will not be enough. It must be said that many of the religious moderates are also deeply involved in social service programs – although usually quietly. And, to be honest, some religious extremists, like Hamas, also do lots of service, often to the poorest in their communities.

What we need is nothing less than a whole new set of religious actors and new religious actions for the world to see – from those called “the moderates.” Specifically, the world needs to see faith leaders and communities from around the globe on the front lines of social movements seeking to change the planet – working on all the big issues that the people at Davos are here discussing, such as climate change, global poverty, pandemic diseases, basic education access (80 million children in the world don’t have it), and, crucially, helping to resolve our most pressing and violent conflicts.

The “religious moderates” must become the most passionate of all for social justice. If we did that, we would accomplish two things at the same time. First, we would provide a clear and compelling alternative to extremist religion. And, second, we would be helping to change the facts on the ground – the oppressive circumstances that often lead to and help recruit for extremist religion.

I just came out of an extraordinary panel on “The Promises to Africa,” with Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Bono, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and other political, business, and civil society leaders from Africa, Germany (the site of the 2007 G-8 Summit), and Japan (the site of the 2008 G-8).

The moderator’s opening comments were these: “I am the moderator, but I hope I am not ‘moderate’ about Africa. I hope, today, that I will be an accelerator, not just a moderator.” After hearing the panel, I was convinced that that’s just what we need – religion that doesn’t just moderate, but rather accelerates the struggle for social justice and peace.



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Wolverine

posted January 26, 2007 at 9:09 pm


Actually, I think Jim gets it all more or less exactly backwards. It is the extremists who are most desperate to change the world. Desperate enough to embrace radical ideologies and resort to terrorism. Those who represent the best of any religious tradition will tend to be less desperate to change the world, mainly because of their humility. They will be slower to condemn, more cautious to disrupt things, more willing to give people, including existing authorities, some benefit of the doubt. I’m not saying that the best of religious leaders are timid when they face clear injustices, or that they cannot act decisively when action is called for. But the best are not always out in front of some movement or another. Sometimes the best that the faith community can offer is to defend the status quo, at least until somebody comes up with something that is genuinely better. Wolverine



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Tim Kumfer

posted January 26, 2007 at 9:12 pm


“Moderate” is exactly what the world’s most powerful political and economic leaders want us to be. If we are moderate we will stick to doing things like charity in Africa and trying to meet the MDGs. And we will likely get nice pats on the head from free market prophet Thomas Friedman and the like. We’ll be the safe religious people who put Band-Aids on the human and ecological devastation of transglobal capital. Asking the larger questions of economic justice, and whether or not justice is achievable living under the globalized free market, would likely get us labeled as extremists. This is exactly what we would be, for pursuing God s kingdom, one marked by love and justice, requires us to call into question all preexisting arrangements of the world. Doing so would cause us to be scorned (or worse) by the powers that be. They might even take away our passes to the WEF, but we probably won t be crucified. The church needs to problematize Margaret Thatcher’s all-too-accepted notion that “There is no alternative,” and actively work towards these alternatives. Until then, we will keep shooting ourselves in the foot, seeking to alleviate poverty in a system that denies this possibility.



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dlw

posted January 27, 2007 at 1:27 am


I guess prioritizing the struggle for social justice is a little too vague in the context of the US political system for my tastes. What I’d like to see Christians and others push for are third-party-friendly reforms at the state level, voting strategically and helping to increase voter turnout in nat’l elections. I’d like to see more dialogue on the house church model for political activism, which puts the import of having our limited political activism complement our local ministry/activism that is the greater focus of our energies. dlw



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dlw

posted January 27, 2007 at 1:32 am


success breeds envy… I’m always glad for leaders like Wallis and somewhat resentful for them and the voice they have. At the end of the day, I’m glad he is there at Davos and not me. But it’d be nice if he did dialogue with me someday on the somewhat different ideas I’ve worked on during my time in seminary as a political-economist. As a non-name, I feel I can’t get them the serious attention they deserve and I fear somewhat my ability to get into a community where I can use my gifts as a Christian political-economist without a little help…



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John D. Sens

posted January 27, 2007 at 3:02 am


Over the years billions have been sent to Africa only to be stolen by corrupt goverments. Now we are preparing to do the same thing again. Africa should take a page from the book that Singapore followed after WWII and pull themselves out of their quagmire. Africa has plenty of natural resources (think Congo, think Zimbabwe) but they let their rulers steal everything.



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Anonymous

posted January 27, 2007 at 4:13 am

tblogger

posted January 27, 2007 at 4:32 am


DLW: I think you’ve hit on something. As many have said here, this is Jim’s party. The only problem with that trump is that he seems to invite all of us to the table. But, as you infer, it seems that Jim is now a celebrity, and I sense a hint of “gloating” in his writing lately. He now seems to do alot of name dropping–telling us who he rubs shoulders with all the time. But Jim seems to present an unbalanced equation: his solution to the world’s problems seem to rely heavily upon his political alliances. He seems to increasingly extract the distinctiveness of the cross from his articulations. He sounds more and more like a political activist (Democratic preference) that masquerades as neutral. I think he wants to do the right thing, but I fear that his penchant for more exposure and a microphone may cause Sojourners to appear desiring the “lights, cameras, and action” more than the true Light–the cross of Christ. Jim now considers himself a player in the Washington game of deep politics as he rubs shoulders with the political elite. And I don’t get any indication that he’s changing that course anytime soon., The only problem with that kind of approach is that the game relies upon “favors”. And I fear that as Sojourners continues to get favors from Washington politicians, they may lie down with dogs, and get up with fleas.



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Kris Weinschenker

posted January 27, 2007 at 5:38 am


The global capitalists that attend the World Economic conference are part of the problem, not the soultion.



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pondering

posted January 27, 2007 at 5:47 am


No, Mr. Wallis, we don’t need more “moderate” Christians like yourself. You clearly enjoy your access to the rich and powerful among the American liberal elite. Hobnobbing and namedropping are fun, to be sure. The transparency is almost embarrassing. But Jesus was anything but a moderate. He was a nonviolent radical. He didn’t associate with the reformist opposition party, any more than he stood with the violent revolutionaries. He wasn’t Ted Kennedy and he wasn’t Che Guevara. He inaugurated a new Kingdom, in which he himself was lord, and in which all injustice was banished and all domination was ended. To be a citizen of his Kingdom is to reject the principalities and powers of this world. It’s to risk crucifixion. You, on the other hand, seem content to cozy up to the principalities and powers, so long as you get to stay on CNN and rub shoulders with Bono and Tony Blair. Too bad. There’s so much work to be done.



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Joseph T

posted January 27, 2007 at 5:52 am


I also feel, as Tim Kumfer and theblogger that the words here are too moderate, too carefully safe. The inequities between rich and poor are too immense not to use this opportunity to call for some specific remedies. Jim recalls the the extremes of religion, but does not speak to the devastating and violent extremes of corporatism or its alliance to national armies, mercenaries, and spies, who serve far too often to reinforce economic injustice. He says “the world needs to see faith leaders and communities from around the globe on the front lines of social movements seeking to change the planet” and i think of Desmond TuTu, ML King, or Kathy Kelly I think of spiritually directed moral voices like Arundahti Roy, Muhammad Yunnus, Jimmy Carter, Wangari Maathai, and I see how little the entertainment saturated media world responds to their voices. Nevertheless I think Jim’s call for such leadership offers a valid challenge to the all too divisive role religious leaders can play. It is a challenge to fill the desperate need for those who will steadfastly and passionately work and speak for Ecological sanity, economic justice, and peacable self governing societies. In the end though, Jesus did not seem interested in building a community dependent on inspired leaders, but on communion with the living God speaking to anyone with ears to hear. I hope some of you will be on the streets tomorrow.



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jesse

posted January 27, 2007 at 6:11 am


The names do drop like rushing waterfalls… Come on, Jim!



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kevin s.

posted January 27, 2007 at 7:22 am


I pine for the Jim Wallis who excoriates the boat people for sating their capitalistic urges. I suspect he’s still in there, somewhere.But seriously, what could he say at Davos that would be any more bold or offensive? If he said the U.S. should give a trillion dollars instead of a billion, would anyone bat an eye?Of course, if he told people that Muslims (and the Swiss) go to hell if they do not embrace Christ as their savior, well, that would be getting him quite a bit closer to getting kicked out of the show. Not sure what Tony Blair would say to that, but I would be impressed.



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Payshun

posted January 27, 2007 at 7:29 am


Jim, what you are doing is beautiful and necessary. p



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Mike Hayes

posted January 27, 2007 at 1:59 pm


If those of us in the West could just think about what it might be like to live on less than $1 per person per day or talk to someone who has visited areas of the world that are in extreme poverty we might catch the passion that Bono and Jeffery Sachs (“The End of Poverty”) have for relieving suffering that we can’t even imagine. I can’t understand how Christians can’t see the suffering of these people in the light of the challenge to help those who are “thirsty, hungry, and naked”. Safe drinking water is available to every person in the US, perhaps with a few exceptions in some remote areas. We could do so much, with so little sacrifice… Perhaps seeing reports of the conditions in those parts of the world leave us all feeling helpless, but Oxfam and Heifer International and other similar organizations are set up to provide meaningful and effective relief.



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John

posted January 27, 2007 at 3:51 pm


There is no end to what can be seen as the “right” way. Maybe a little humility amongst everyone would help. I don’t think Jesus wanted us to be cookie cutter followers. In fact he also ate with tax collecters and such. So perhaps for some of us that is what we should be doing. For others of us, we should be somewhere else using the gifts that God has given us. At the end of the day, I like to think that the best way to change the world, is to change myself first. In our North American smugness though it is hard for me to wake up every morning and tell myself I need to change, before I begin to criticize everyone else. To quote Kevin– “Of course, if he told people that Muslims (and the Swiss) go to hell if they do not embrace Christ as their savior, well, that would be getting him quite a bit closer to getting kicked out of the show. Not sure what Tony Blair would say to that, but I would be impressed.” This is precisely the message I would NOT be impressed with. Do we really still believe that?



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kevin s.

posted January 27, 2007 at 6:46 pm


“This is precisely the message I would NOT be impressed with. Do we really still believe that?” I hope so. Do you think it is not necessary to embrace Christ as your savior? I don’t say this as a criticism. Christ was God. If you don’t embrace God, what would any afterlife entail but distance from that which you rejected? Christ doesn’t ask for cookie cutter followers (that’s a false choice you presented, by the way) but surely he asks for followers?I suspect, however, that Jim Wallis does not agree with me on this, and I think that this goes a long way toward explaining his popularity.



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kevin s.

posted January 27, 2007 at 6:50 pm


“I can’t understand how Christians can’t see the suffering of these people in the light of the challenge to help those who are “thirsty, hungry, and naked”.” Bono himself has said that he has a hard time criticizing conservative evangelicals because they are the ones donating to his charities. Of course, Christians in this country do not give nearly enough, but studies have shown that, as a percentage of income, conservative Christians lead the way in charitable giving, especially compared to east coast liberals. Yes, I used some shorthand there, but I think you can grasp my meaning.



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Mike Hayes

posted January 27, 2007 at 7:39 pm


As I think back over the “comments” on the series of blog topics that have been addressed here on “God’s Politics a blog with Jim Wallis and friends” I conclude that much of what has been written here has consisted primarily of just blasting away with personal insults at the writer of the original post. Or, changing the topic… On the other hand, several persons who disagree with the initial posts by Jim Wallis and friends have avoided personal attacks and have offered thoughtful insights to how the same issue can be viewed differently or from the opposite perspective. However, much of what we read through to find substantive comment is off topic. So, I’ll go off topic, here… Sr. Helen Prajean questioned the necessity of executions, even in the case of Sadam Hussein, on a topic that preceeded this one just a day or so ago. When I scan back over the posts in response to her I conclude that there were two reasons offered for why executions are preferable to life in prison: protecting persons who are imprisoned with extremely violent persons, and protecting society generally in case extremely violent persons might escape from prison. In Illinois alone, within the last 7 years or so, 13 persons who had been sentenced to death were subsequently found to have been innocent. I conclude that the risk of executing innocent persons is not balanced by the two benefits of executions that were identified by persons who oppose Sr. Helen Prajean’s viewpoint.



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Mike Hayes

posted January 27, 2007 at 8:11 pm


Kevin, I think it is probably true that persons in wealthy nations could do much more to relieve persons in extreme poverty, and I’m not thinking of conservatives when I say that.



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dlw

posted January 27, 2007 at 10:11 pm


my interp is that Wallis wants to counter the public exposure and influence of the religious right and change the wind politically so that the Dems will recommit themselves to a more Blair-like commitment to reducing poverty in the US and in the two-thirds world. It is a field of landmines he is trying to navigate and we shd pray for him and his organization for that reason and because they do help better represent US “Evangelical” Christianity to the World. My thoughts are more about how Wallis could help empower other movements. As I mentioned before, I’d like to get more dialogue about the “house church model for political activism“. I’ve also never heard any response on my pragmatic prolife manifesto(google these three words), which I believe is superior to Wallis’s frames. So I think there is a tension between Wallis’s commitment to dialogue and his commitment to changing the direction of the wind. I think the wind politically will get changed moreso if there are more of us out there, making the fallible calls on how we incarnate the self-sacrificial love of Jesus by how we discipline our political involvement. dlw



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dlw

posted January 27, 2007 at 10:14 pm


ps to John, my personal belief is that Islam emerged due to the failures of Constantinized Christianity and that having the right understanding of God is not critical to have a saving relationship with God. As such, I would not say that muslims go to hell. I would say that their and our witness to the world have been historically seriously tarnished by our wrong understandings of God. dlw



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wich young wulew

posted January 28, 2007 at 12:06 am


dlw: “As a non-name, I feel I can’t get them the serious attention they deserve and I fear somewhat my ability to get into a community where I can use my gifts as a Christian political-economist without a little help…” Then get off your ass, stop whining, and go out and make a name for yourself by doing the work of Christ.



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tblogger

posted January 28, 2007 at 3:43 am


wich: intentions to “make a name for yourself by doing the work of Christ” is exactly the problem. the two are inconsistent (the temptations of Christ rebut this celebrity-motivated construct of much ministry today) as i stated earlier, Jim seems to be rubbing shoulders with powerful people, and it’s easy to get lost in thinking that the “message” of Sojourners is equally effective with more exposure. and this is the great delusion of media hunger. I’ve met Jim and directed some adjuncts of my comments/questions to him in a very respectful, non-confrontative way. after acknowledging the importance of my inquiry, he tended to deflect from dealing with my questions, and never followed up with me, despite knowing how to contact me. this can make a “little guy” w/o political power seem unimportant to him, and the friends of Sojourners. it seems that there is an increasingly unilateral, monolithic punch that Sojourner’s adopts. Sj changes like the wind, but consistently fails to deal directly with the greed, avarice, power-hungry, elitist religious culture that dominates our churches, and cuts across all racial and cultural lines. I like Jim, but it seems that his desire for things to happen “NOW”, always places him in the position of nervously going around trying to save the world. that’s not Christianity, but bleeding heart fatalism that makes the servants of God impulsive and in the long run, less effective in spiritual matters. Is Darfur important and are people dying? Indeed. It’s a major tragedy of enormous proportions. are american churches cultivating worship environments and proof-texting bible verses to support personal greed and elitism that guides us into places like Iraq? Of course! But addressing these issues requires us to do theology, and that’s what Sj and friends really don’t focus on. It’s too much work, and is more difficult than saving the seals and the environment. It’s much easier to latch onto a political/social cause for the immediate attention and gratification. that’s why dlw is frustrated–because he/she expects brother Jim to at least give a response to their small voice. instead, Jim seems to indicate that he mostly listens to celebrities and political elites.



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butch

posted January 28, 2007 at 3:46 am


kevin s. | Homepage | 01.27.07 “Of course, Christians in this country do not give nearly enough, but studies have shown that, as a percentage of income, conservative Christians lead the way in charitable giving, especially compared to east coast liberals. Yes, I used some shorthand there, but I think you can grasp my meaning.” Kevin uses his unusual writing skills to mask his only intent, to say that the answer is the same old Republi-nazi lament; the rest of the world needs to pull itself up by its boot straps. No shorthand for me.



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butch

posted January 28, 2007 at 4:14 am


Notice how Kevin cloaks himself with pious cloth dripping with crosses, his head bent down slightly. “I hope so. Do you think it is not necessary to embrace Christ as your savior? I don’t say this as a criticism. Christ was God. If you don’t embrace God, what would any afterlife entail but distance from that which you rejected?” But wait now he raises his head to look us in the eye and attack Wallis from his slightly sainted heights. “I suspect, however, that Jim Wallis does not agree with me on this, and I think that this goes a long way toward explaining his popularity.” Notice that Wallis’s popularity is because he doesn’t agree with saint Kevin.



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Joseph T

posted January 28, 2007 at 4:46 am


tblogger said “Is Darfur important and are people dying? Indeed. It’s a major tragedy of enormous proportions. are american churches cultivating worship environments and proof-texting bible verses to support personal greed and elitism that guides us into places like Iraq? Of course! But addressing these issues requires us to do theology, and that’s what Sj and friends really don’t focus on. It’s too much work, and is more difficult than saving the seals and the environment. It’s much easier to latch onto a political/social cause for the immediate attention and gratification.” tb, this statement is truly horse manure. Jesus didn’t say to start theological seminaries. He did, however,tell his servants to visit those in prison, feed the poor, heal the sick,and care for the least. Not blessed are the theologians , but blessed are the peacemakers.If it is so easy to save the environment, why are are we turning the planet into a hothouse and spewing toxics and filling the earth with baby shit wrapped in plastic?



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butch

posted January 28, 2007 at 4:59 am


My sermon on volunteerism; Anything a volunteer volunteers to do is enough. So if someone volunteers to work or do something about global warming and another works on Darfur it is enough for each.



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robstur

posted January 28, 2007 at 6:11 am


I am all for people doing what they feel God has called them to do here or around the world. They can work on Global Warming – Alternative Fuels – Protecting the Unborn or the Elderly – education – Marriage – poverty – hunger – Civil Rights – Voters Rights – Working for their favorite candidate.I believe God calls us to do so much but he puts the passion in our hearts. This is way so much can be done because of the various people and projects they want to work with – let us celebrate all that we can do. Have a great night. .



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Esther

posted January 28, 2007 at 6:24 am


“Christianity has indeed done a great service for this world, but what is now most needed is Jesus. The world needs to see Jesus living again on earth in the experience of spirit-born mortals who effectively reveal the Master to all men. It is futile to talk about a revival of primitive Christianity; you must go forward from where you find yourselves. Modern culture must become spiritually baptized with a new revelation of Jesus’ life and illuminated with a new understanding of his gospel of eternal salvation. And when Jesus becomes thus lifted up, he will draw all men to himself. Jesus’ disciples should be more than conquerors, even overflowing sources of inspiration and enhanced living to all men. Religion is only an exalted humanism until it is made divine by the discovery of the reality of the presence of God in personal experience.” ~a revelation When will we sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father finally realize that WE are the windows through which the unbeliever gets to view God?



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kevin s.

posted January 28, 2007 at 6:31 am


“Kevin uses his unusual writing skills to mask his only intent, to say that the answer is the same old Republi-nazi lament; the rest of the world needs to pull itself up by its boot straps.” I think you use some unusual reading skills. I wasn’t even addressing this issue, or anything close to it.”tb, this statement is truly horse manure. Jesus didn’t say to start theological seminaries. He did, however,tell his servants to visit those in prison, feed the poor, heal the sick,and care for the least. Not blessed are the theologians , but blessed are the peacemakers.” He also said to not sin again, and to embrace him as the way the truth and the life, and quite a bit more. Theologians play a valuable role in grounding our faith in the reality put forth by the Bible. Otherwise, we run the risk of having our faith exploited for personal gain (that the Religious Right does this is one of the thesis of the sojo movement). I agree that Christ didn’t ask us to start seminaries. I think the attribution of wisdom on the basis of education level is a mistake. But I have learned that theology is important and valuable in our understanding of God.



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Mike Hayes

posted January 28, 2007 at 7:27 am


Execution is not even safe for members of our society generally if persons can be wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, which is what occurred repeatedly in Illinois.



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tblogger

posted January 28, 2007 at 3:11 pm


Joseph T: You miss the point. I didn’t say that the solution was to start seminaries, but to “do theology”. More specifically–local churches will have to rethink and think deeper about Jesus and his original message. This requires a closer reading of the Gospels and epistles within their original context. The debates that you read across this blog testify to the need for greater clarity/study of the mission of Christ. This does not mean that everyone must go to seminary; it means that pastors and teachers must pay close attention to the Gospels and their original meanings. That’s hard work, because we’ve been so conditioned to think we know everything about Jesus–and therefore there are assumptions made about his calling and mission. The hard work of Sojourners should be to transform thinking in our congregations, but not at the cost of the Gospel–and that means having to rethink Jesus, otherwise doctrine will be in conflict with the extreme social gospel push of SJ. I’ll stop here. Note: Please don’t slander my thoughts my calling them horse manure–you lower the dialogue to another level. Thought I disagree with you, I haven’t done this to you. Put your thoughts out there, and be respectful. Let your strength of argument make the jab, not the ease of insulting another.



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Anonymous

posted January 28, 2007 at 3:20 pm


Mike Hayes, Abolition has resulted in far more innocent people being killed than than the supposedly “innocent” executed. Every time a convicted murderor kills again, the blood of that victim is on the abolitionists hands. I find it facinating that people are willing to make deliberate decisions that victimize thousands in order to try to avoid unintentionally victimize one. When abolitionists say “I don’t want to be responsible for one innocent person being executed” they are responsible for thousands of other innocents deaths.



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wayne

posted January 28, 2007 at 4:05 pm


One person cries that he has no voice and asks for Jim W to help him, many other’s say Jim has become a name dropper drunk on his own popularity. In the meantime none of us would have any voice here except that Sojouners has provided the space for it, (I know many of you have created your own space on the net but still, here we are. Much of what can be done to better this world is just hands on stuff and very practical. It is accomplished when we look at others around us, rich and poor, and try to see them the way the Gospel tells us to and then do something. In my 30 plus years of trying to do this I have seen the greatest changes are in fact the ones that occur inside myself but I have also seen how the world tries to make something of me, (very unknown though I may be) that fits into their paradigm of power and stereotyping. I am either an unreal hero riding out like a Knight to save the poor, or a bad guy who guilts them for what I do and what I believe is the responibiity of the church to do. I am neither. Jim W is also no hero, but he is also no goat. He is just one man who has garnered a voice. We can listen and try to do those things we think Jesus is using him to talk to us about, or not. If our action make us goats to everyone around us, so be it. If our inaction and criticism of those who try to act makes us heroes well, I doubt it. But keep on criticising Jim. It won’t help you do the right thing but it will help to keep him humble. Personally I would like to say thanks to the guy and pray for him. Maybe I can do as well with the things God has put in front of me.



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Mike Hayes

posted January 28, 2007 at 7:19 pm


Jim Wallis, The attacks on you the messenger may have distracted many of us from your message on this blog topic, but I think your point was: “… What we need is nothing less than a whole new set of religious actors and new religious actions for the world to see from those called “the moderates.” Specifically, the world needs to see faith leaders and communities from around the globe on the front lines of social movements seeking to change the planet working on all the big issues that the people at Davos are here discussing, such as climate change, global poverty, pandemic diseases, basic education access (80 million children in the world don’t have it), and, crucially, helping to resolve our most pressing and violent conflicts…”. The priest here this weekend began his homily by asking whether any of the parishoners were prophets and found none willing to say yes, but ended his homily by informing us that we all are “minor prophets” and encouraged us to speak out on social issues. Between the beginning and the end he mentioned that he has heard the complaint that leaders of congregations should refrain from speaking out on social issues. He said that the scriptures are replete with prophetic messages that are nothing but commentary on social issues. Blessings to you, Jim Wallis, on your continuing efforts to focus religious leaders on addressing poverty, war, and the environment!



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kevin s.

posted January 28, 2007 at 9:53 pm


So should pastors speak out against economic redistribution that has been a proven failure in other nations? I doubt you would agree.If prophecy is tied to social (read; political) perspectives, how do you explain the fact that we “minor prophets” disagree on major issues of policy?Believe it or not, I care quite a bit about the plight of the poor in this country. Growing up, I was, alternately, lower middle class and poor. I support economic policies that are conducive to the kind of growth that allows people to break the poverty cycle (to use a talking point). Of course, you and I have differing opinions as to how to accomplish this, from a policy perspective. Are we both prophets, are we both just opinionated, or is one of us a prophet while the other is not?



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butch

posted January 29, 2007 at 12:16 am


Kevin “Of course, you and I have differing opinions as to how to accomplish this” What did you disagree with?



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HASH(0x1173f850)

posted January 29, 2007 at 1:42 am


kevin, We see “facts” differently, through the different lenses we have.



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Mike Hayes

posted January 29, 2007 at 1:42 am


That last post was me.



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Esther

posted January 29, 2007 at 1:50 am


It seems that a lot of Christians forget that spiritual beings are observing our planet. They want to see how well we humans pay attention to the guidance the Spirit of Truth provides us.We are but itty bitty children in the big picture of Heaven. And it’s quite evident in how we treat each other.



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Mike Hayes

posted January 29, 2007 at 1:53 am


Esther, We saw “Letters from Iwo Jima” last evening and it was quite a moving story from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers and their families.



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butch

posted January 29, 2007 at 3:10 am


The only way to wage any war is to demonize the other side and of course proclaim that God is on our side. How can we blowup innocents in Iraq unless we have a “War on Terror” or some other excuse. We needed to blow up that wedding party in Afghanistan because we thought an Al-Quada leader was there, sorry a little collateral damage, oops he wasn t there but we had to do it.



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watsy

posted January 29, 2007 at 3:27 pm


Jim Wallis says, What we need is nothing less than a whole new set of religious actors and new religious actions for the world to see from those called “the moderates.” Specifically, the world needs to see faith leaders and communities from around the globe on the front lines of social movements seeking to change the planet working on all the big issues that the people at Davos are here discussing, such as climate change, global poverty, pandemic diseases, basic education access (80 million children in the world don’t have it), and, crucially, helping to resolve our most pressing and violent conflicts. My church is active in addressing some of these issues on a local and global scale. We aren’t unique. Throughout the world, Christians are helping to change the world for the better. I know that my minister is very proud of the work that our church does. I, also, know that he would be horribly embarrassed to call attention to it.Christians, especially in America, have a horrible image problem that doesn’t really reflect what is happening in most church communities in America. It’s hard to change that image when Jesus has instructed us to be humble and to give in private. What I hear Jim saying is that it would be good if Christians who manifest a compassionate and loving spirit were given the microphone, the image of Christianity would more closely reflect reality.The same goes with Islam. Many in the west see Islam as being a religion of hate and extremism. What I hear Jim saying is that we could accomplish more if we saw and heard the conversations like he’s having with Muslims.



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Daniel

posted January 29, 2007 at 3:40 pm


Kevin, I have not been following this dicussion but your last post is a really good one. I find that this is very often the case with proper conservatives and liberals – different similar goals with philosophies on how we ought to and can achieve them. I think Mike’s reply is correct but I think the other part of the story has to be evaluating which lens is more correct. I do not assume only one lens can be the correct one, but I do think we can argue about truth when it comes to human nature, natural rights, and the role of the government.Liberals are people whose life experiences have shaped an understanding of human relationships in a certain way. It is described in the phrase: “that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights….” These rights we are endowed with are curious things. They mean nothing when we speak of individuals. I have a “right” to Life but I can be killed, etc. Liberals see this in the frame of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, etc – a right is a contract into which we are born. The moral order of things means that each of us is brought directly into a relationship to all other people. I must guarantee your rights – it is ethical for me to ensure your right to Liberty, for example – and I am also owed my rights from you. We have this relationship with all other people as well. Very often, when conservatives speak fo freedom I get the distinct impression that they are suggesting that these relationships in which we owe someone else are oppressive and man-made: income redistribution is immoral because it infringes on my rights and I owe nothing to the one whom it helps. My autonomy and freedom are of the utmost importance. In contrast, a liberal who speaks of freedom is normally referring to a structured idea of it – Liberty withink the confines of obligations to society. (With the exception of euthanasia, embryonic stem cells, and abortion where they jettison these ideas). So they are oncerned with freedom from want, freedom from the trap of poverty. With the provision of Opportunity. A child born poor should be able to work hard and get ahead. If they can’t we are not providing them the rights to Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. When we look to how we can guarantee this right it is capitalism itself that dictates we have to reconcile the fact that poor kids are born without means – they have done nothing to lose the competition and therefore the only way to guarantee these rights is to give them capital. Where does the capital come from? Who owes most to the society? Liberals believe the ones who owe most are the ones who have benefitted the most. So, we get income redistribution. Right away the conservative objects – we are punishing the winner and rewarding someone who has done nothing, or even lost in the case of many adults who have fallen into poverty after birth. We are violating the freedom of the wealthy person and establishing dependence and entitlement in the poor person, on both counts creating disincentives to work hard, innovate, etc. It’s an all-round immoral failure. Rather, we should not intervene – the invisible hand will reward winners and punish losers (aka natural selection), leaving incentives in the right order. Everyone participates and so no freedoms are being trampled. It’s a win-win. But whither the child in this scenario? It works only in the case of the adult and only for one time period. A child born into a poor family starts out at a disadvantage and a child born into a wealthy family starts out at an advantage. They are being punished for the assumed sins of the parent or rewarded for the valor of the parent before they are even conceived – malnutrition, lack of health care, long work schedules, and financial stress already lead to a less healthy pregnancy. We punish or reward the fetus. We guarantee the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness only in proportion to their parent’s wealth level. To adopt this policy as proscriptive and ethical we have to affirm the statement: All men are NOT created equal. If we can do so, then we can be conservative. If not, then the New deal looks less like a Nanny State than it does like a moral obligation.



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robstur

posted January 29, 2007 at 4:40 pm


Just my take… After watching the video clip and talking with friends that deal everyday with issues and ministries in the Mideast – this is where I stand. Yes – we should do all we can in Africa to help them on any number of issues. I personally am not concerned that we coordinate with the Islamic leaders in the area – I would be happy if they would just stay out of our way. I wonder if Mr. Wallis knows that the Islamic Cleric sitting just two chairs away from him is only interested in ‘using’ him until he can dominate him. His (the cleric’s) comments where lame in content and committed him to doing nothing with the rest of the panel. Radical Islam is interested in world domination only. Moderate Islam is interested in working together with everyone in the world until the Radicals have taken over. Islamic people that have denounced the Radicals have come to a realization that they need to respect other religions of the world and therefore have had an epiphany in their faith. They are also in the cross-hairs of the Radicals as several Muslims that have spoken against Radicals end up murdered by people of their own faith. May the Trinity guide and direct us in the years ahead as to what we need to do. Have a great day. .



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kevin s.

posted January 29, 2007 at 4:56 pm


Daniel, The lens you ascribe to conservatives may resonate with libertarians, but it is not my perspective. I don’t see, for example, Section 8 housing as unfair. I am sypmathetic to the argument that it is, but I am of the persuasion that it just doesn’t work. In my view, Section 8 principally benefits landlords (like me), while driving up the overall cost of rent. To me, it is an example of government trying to intervene, and failing at its intended purpose.Now, that is aa owefully insufficient argument against the merits of Section 8, but that isn’t my point. My point is that the lens you ascribe, while it might be convenient to your worldview, is largely inaccurate.Further, I think many liberals agree that it is unfair to take from one paycheck in order to support another. They balance this sense of fairness with what is, in their view, the pragmatic idea that people who have houses are off the streets, making less trouble etc…There are liberals I know who viscerally hate the poor, but are happy to fork over money to keep them in school, prisons, rehab etc…I think it is a mistake to ascribe moral values to an ideology, which isn’t to say that God does not have an opinion about what goes on in the world.



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Daniel

posted January 29, 2007 at 6:15 pm


Kevin, I hope you don’t really believe I have created a fictitious worldview out of convenience! I hear your concern. If you created a straw man liberal who is morally relativist (which is completely antithetical to liberalism) I’d have to pretty much see it as a construction that misses the mark. But I believe my grasp of proper conservatism is pretty accurate; free markets and freedom from government control are core tenets. But my intention was not at all to tell you what you believe. My intention was to provide an answer to the question of why we can see the same problems and share similar values and disagree so widely on actions and such. I believe this is why – our views of the world are just different.For example, and to my knowledge, I have never a liberal who hates the poor. In fact that’s a new one on me – I’m quite accustomed to hearing liberals accused of hating the wealthy. I believe a proper liberal sees income redistribution as morally good. Could be wrong about that, but it certainly describes the liberals I know….



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Joseph T

posted January 29, 2007 at 6:22 pm


tblogger Your notion that theology is “harder” than serving real needs through God’s love is silly and has a dark history. So called churches have been been disputing theology, killing heretics and claiming to have the perfect orthodoxy for 2 thousand years, the results are less than impressive.Somehow at the same time the country that is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church became a supportive home for Fascism and the countries that gave birth to the protestant revolution gave birth to colonialism and slavery on a grand scale. The methods you argue for suck. There is enough theology in the sermon on the mount to keep the church busy for a thousand years, just straightening out the mess from the last “theological” enlightenment. I apologize for my crude language but choosing to contrast the need to confront an ongoing genocide to the need to establish a theological framework that suits you (or whoever is going to decide that this theology has achieved “clarity”) is upsetting to me. To me the willingness to sacrifice our God shaped conscience and shared humanity to the cringing servility demanded by some third hand account of “correct” theology is the very cause of most religiously justified violence in the world.



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kevin s.

posted January 29, 2007 at 6:34 pm


Joseph, While I’m sympathetic to the idea that we should focus less on theology, and more on doing the will of God, correlating Biblical study with the stoning of heretics is unfair.i could just as easily point to people who are doing good without a single care for the cause of Christ as a cautionary example of what happens when we throw the baby with the bathwater. In fact, understanding theology can help you in your cause. We should be praying for God’s will in these situations, and understanding the Bible helps us understand what God is doing.



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kevin s.

posted January 29, 2007 at 6:41 pm


Daniel, Go to a consulting firm or an ad agency (or a public affairs shop). You’ll find some Dems who are not so bloody-hearted when it comes to our nation’s poor.That said, I understand that our perspectives affect our policy stances. My question was how we can claim to be prophets via the political realm when we stand in stark disagreement on major issues of our time. If prophecy leaves room to misinterpret God, then the term loses all meaning.



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butch

posted January 29, 2007 at 6:54 pm


“I think it is a mistake to ascribe moral values to an ideology, which isn’t to say that God does not have an opinion about what goes on in the world.” Ideology drives action which can be ascribed a moral value. Man is a social animal, God’s will or we would not be a social animal. We must act in concert to survive, we are connected in many, many symbiotic ways.



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Daniel

posted January 29, 2007 at 6:54 pm


Kevin, If prophecy leaves room to misinterpret God, then the term loses all meaning. Ah, our definitions of “prophet” are different, it seems. Given your understanding, I think it’s highly unlikely that anyone who calls themselves a prophet actually is one….



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Kris Weinschenker

posted January 29, 2007 at 7:59 pm


Gee, what happened to the postings for Monday? Anyway, Pastor Melisa Scott had an interesting message last night concerning how Christians can not afford to comprise their values for the sake of “business”. It makes an interesting contrast to “religious” leaders who suck up to the business community.



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Conrad Steinhoff

posted January 29, 2007 at 8:15 pm


It is noteworthy that Jim’s report from Davos is on the same blog list as the report from Nairobi where The World Social Forum took place simultaneously. My thought is that perhaps Jim should have been in Nairobi. However, to the extent he is in a position to “speak truth to power” in Davos, his presence there is important. The concerns expressed about his getting celebrity happy are important. Jim, what I admire about you is that you have not been a moderate. Don’t become one. Moderates don’t speak truth to power.



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timks

posted January 30, 2007 at 12:11 am


Mike Hayes, In Illinois alone, within the last 7 years or so, 13 persons who had been sentenced to death were subsequently found to have been innocent. I conclude that the risk of executing innocent persons is not balanced by the two benefits of executions that were identified by persons who oppose Sr. Helen Prajean’s viewpoint. Is that a call for reform of our capital punishment laws? If so, let me join you. I’m not as sure it is conclusive proof that capital punishment is inherently and always wrong and should never be carried out.



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wayne

posted January 30, 2007 at 4:35 pm


Daniel I like your post but you missed something. I am a conservative. I have been one since I was old enough to vote which was many years ago. I voted for every conservative candidate in recent history, including this President. I am also a person dedicated to the poor. I have worked in the inner city for over thirty years now. I moved my family into the ghetto and have always held my home open to those in need. I do not do this for any political reason, (if that is possible), but out of obedience to God and because I have fallen in love with the people and the place. I do not seek to redistribute your money to others but I do seek to redistribute the means of making money, ie. jobs, education and character values that allow for a person to support themselves. This is not done out of a desire for equality which is a human invention that almost hits the mark of truth, but not quite. I do this because all people are created in God’s image and it is the image of God that I respect and revere, even if it is found in the face of a homeless drunk or an undocumented immigrant. In this way I escape much of what you refer to in your definition of liberal. I would never match up to your description of the conservative as that is in reality just a follower of Ayn Rand or perhaps Rush Limbaugh. If you love someone you will want more for them than you can give and that will lead you to prayer, (and works) not to your wallet first, but to your heart, then you will pull out your wallet on your own.



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Daniel

posted January 30, 2007 at 5:37 pm


Wayne, I love it. I’m immediately stunned by how Franciscan your vision is. Absolutely wonderful. This kind of conservatism, in the tradition of Herbert Hoover, truly is compassionate. We disagree over whether this will ultimately work or not – I believe in a core lesson of the New Deal, that collective action is necessary to resolve systemic problems. Yes, that sometimes makes it abstract and impersonal, can easily substitute for my own responsibilities to charity, and so on. But the alternative is the temptation to be selfish and do nothing at all, and to leave people isolated and without a materially supporting fabric to their lives. I choose the former over the latter.You’re right on – I very much believe conservatism is largely expressive of Ayn Rand ideas. Rugged individualism is the Reagan mantra. And neo-conservatives are basically just objectivists without the willingness to self-reflect. The view you’ve expressed is more like Classical Liberalism than it is like Conservatism.But, whatever we call it, I have the utmost respect and approval for your way. It recalls to mind the relationship between Goldwater and JFK – great friends, mutually respectful, joined in values and goals, but with starkly different ideas about the natures and roles of individuals and governments. Sidebaer: Hillary Clinton was Goldwater girl, by the way and has said that The Conscience of Conservative was one of the books that most influenced her political development.



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wayne

posted January 30, 2007 at 9:40 pm


You have “spotted” me correctly it seems. Francis has been a hero of mine since I came to believe in the 70′s. I even have an old movie poster on my office wall from Zeffirelli’s “Brother Sun Sister Moon” I suppose the names we use to define each other are often just socially accepted ways to express our disrespect. If we love we have to try to change systems but in the end I suspect that the only real change will be what happens inside of us as we struggle. Maria Ranier Rilke’s poem “The Watcher” pretty much says it all for me. By the way I must admit I think Ayn Rand was just bitter.



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wayne

posted January 30, 2007 at 9:44 pm


I forgot to add that I am also conservative enough to not like talking about Hilary, though I view that statement as a confession of sorts.



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Daniel

posted January 31, 2007 at 8:54 pm


I love Francis. I can hardly say enough good about his way of being in the world. Last month I read a book called Franciscan Prayer by Ilia Delio that I would highly recommend if you have time for something like that.You said, “If we love we have to try to change systems but in the end I suspect that the only real change will be what happens inside of us as we struggle.” I hope it’s both. There’s an interesting paradox at work in practical mystics such as yourself – the world is perfect as it is and part of that perfection is that we are always here working to improve it! Oh, and I agree with your impressions of both Rand and Hillary.



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