God's Politics

God's Politics


Jim Wallis: The Big Debate

posted by gp_intern

Last week, a letter from James Dobson and friends to the board of the National Association of Evangelicals challenged NAE vice president Rich Cizik’s efforts on global warming as “dividing and demoralizing,” and shifting “the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time.”

In response, I invited Dobson to a debate on the question, “What are the great moral issues of our time for evangelical Christians?” and suggested that a major evangelical Christian university should host it.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported on the debate invitation, and this response: “A Focus on the Family vice president, Tom Minnery, said he would be happy to take up that debate. Dobson himself, Minnery said, is busy writing a book on child rearing.”

I’m also busy writing a book, but I suggest that when we’re both finished, we hold that debate. My personal invitation to James Dobson still stands. And since he was the primary driving force behind the crucial letter, the conversation should be with him. But let’s change the tone of this from “a debate” to “a conversation.” This is, in fact, the big conversation going on among evangelicals (and Catholics, too) across the nation and around the world.

In his letter, Dobson named the “great moral issues” as “the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.” I said in my last blog that I believe the sanctity of life, the integrity and health of marriages, and the teaching of sexual morality to our children are, indeed, among the “great moral issues of our time. But I believe they are not the only great moral issues.” As many writers have been saying in this blog, the enormous challenges of global poverty, climate change, pandemics that wipe out generations and continents, the trafficking of human beings made in God’s image, and the grotesque violations of human rights, even to the point of genocide, are also among the great moral issues that people of faith must be – and already are – addressing.

Just in the last few days, we have already received invitations from six major Christian universities eager to host this conversation between James Dobson and me. But this is bigger than just two people: It’s the conversation we need to have on every Christian campus, in every church, and in public forums around the nation, especially as we approach another election season. So let’s do that together.

The board meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals also ended Saturday, and in the words of their own press release: NAE Leaders Advance Broad Agenda with Landmark Document on Human Rights and Torture. The release begins by noting:

The board of directors of the National Association of Evangelicals advanced a broad public agenda at its annual meeting this week, endorsing a landmark document on human rights and torture, and reaffirming its “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Public Engagement,” first adopted in 2003.

Specifically, the board noted it

…reaffirmed its support for the landmark “For the Health of the Nation” document unanimously adopted in 2003, commending its “principles of Christian political engagement to our entire community for action.”

These principles include: (1) We work to protect religious freedom and liberty of conscience; (2) We work to nurture family life and protect children; (3) We work to protect the sanctity of human life and to safeguard its nature; (4) We seek justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable; (5) We work to protect human rights; (6) We seek peace and work to restrain violence; (7) We labor to protect God’s creation.”

The only mention of Rich Cizik, whom the Dobson letter had singled out and called upon the NAE to fire, came with these words in the official NAE press release:

Speaking at the annual board banquet, Rev. Richard Cizik, NAE vice president for governmental affairs, quoted evangelical theologian Carl F. H. Henry in his wake up call to evangelicals sixty years ago: ‘The cries of suffering humanity today are many. No evangelicalism which ignores the totality of man’s condition dares respond in the name of Christianity.’

The NAE statement went on to say:

Speaking of a new generation of evangelicals that has responded to those cries, Cizik said: ‘We root our activism in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross and are giving it a proper temporal focus by emphasizing all of the principles that are found in the Bible. We come together in a positive way as a family bonded by the love of Christ, not as fractious relatives. We desire to be people known for our passionate commitment to justice and improving the world, and eager to reach across all barriers with love, civility, and care for our fellow human beings.’

I knew Carl F. H. Henry, during my seminary years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and through many conversations together during our early years of Sojourners. His biblical theology, social conscience, and political balance provided a younger generation with crucial moral guidance. We miss his voice today.

But the NAE Board, and its president Leith Anderson, know that a new generation of evangelicals wants that same sound theology and good balance, and believe that Christian moral concerns (and God’s concerns) go beyond only a few issues. Recognizing how their broader agenda is resonating with evangelicals around the world, the NAE announced that at its fall board meeting in Washington, D.C., October 11-12, “the association will host an ‘International Congress on Evangelical Public Engagement,’ drawing prestigious leaders from around the world to meet with American leadership around the principles of the Association’s ‘For the Health of the Nation’ document.” It seems the broader evangelical social agenda has solid support and is moving forward.

So, let’s have the big debate; and make it into the kind of deep and necessary conversation among the people of God that it needs to be. And to Jim Dobson I say, let’s finish our books (as a Dad with two young boys I look forward to reading yours on child rearing!), and then agree to a public conversation at the right place and the right time. I look forward to that.



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jesse

posted March 13, 2007 at 11:36 pm


I appreciate the tone of your post here, Jim. Keep in mind that if you want a conversation, or a debate even, it’s important to treat those with whom you disagree with respect. The moment terms like “the radical right” start to fly, the only thing you’ve got is a shouting match on your hands. I hope you will have the kind of debate where you will be able to disagree without attacking the integrity and faith of Dobson and other conservative Christians.As I and others have said here, people can disagree on the particulars of public policy, but that doesn’t mean they love God and the Bible any less. I hope you will acknowledge this in your treatment of conservatives.



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Paul

posted March 14, 2007 at 12:17 am


Jim, Your refusal to address the issues with Tom Minnery, speaks volumes about you, and non of it complimentary. Very very sad. cheers, Paul



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Carl Copas

posted March 14, 2007 at 12:29 am


Paul, please elaborate, if you care to. Blessings.



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Don

posted March 14, 2007 at 12:44 am


Paul: Why should Jim Wallis “debate” Tom Minnery? The letter has Dr. Dobson’s name on it and he is the one who has been spearheading this push to limit the evangelical dialogue to the issues he wants it limited to. I feel that the debate, or dialogue, or whatever one wishes to call it, should be with Dr. Dobson himself, not with a stand-in. In one way, you are right: FOF’s offer of sending Tom Minnery to debate Jim Wallis does speak volumes, but not about Jim Wallis. If Dobson feels so strongly about this, why wouldn’t he be willing to discuss it himself in a public forum with someone who disagrees with him? Why do you think it would be appropriate for Wallis to debate Minnery?Peace,



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Don

posted March 14, 2007 at 12:56 am


Another thought: Perhaps the debate ought really to be between Dr. Dobson and Richard Cizik. Maybe.



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ron

posted March 14, 2007 at 1:04 am


When Dr. Dobson put’s his name on a document, he needs to be prepared to stand behind his words.I believe he owes it to his consituency and to the greater evangelical community to stand up and tell us what he thinks should be the evangelical agenda for the 21st century. I am saving money to buy the DVD when it comes out.



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Doug7504

posted March 14, 2007 at 1:28 am


Well, let the debate begin! I’m sorry the Dr. Dobson is too busy writing a book to engage in this discourse, and chooses to send a proxy instead. Is this the same dismissive attitude Dr. Dobson displays towards others who dare to question his thoughts? Did he learn it at the White House, or was he taught it there? On another, equally serious subject: what will the good Dr. have to say about the NAE’s condemnation of the use of torture? Will he demonize Rev. Cizik for this break with the narrow-band FOF political platform? Dr. Dobson, you seem to have lost your way, and now seem to be losing your constituency as well. I pray that your feet will regain the path Christ set for all of us…your voice could do so much good!Shalom!



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Mike Hayes

posted March 14, 2007 at 3:06 am


“…So, let s have the big debate; and make it into the kind of deep and necessary conversation among the people of God that it needs to be…”. May you and other supporters of the values in “God’s Politics” succeed in bringing about that conversation, Jim!



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Mark P

posted March 14, 2007 at 3:45 am


Jim, I commend you and the tone of this letter. I sense none of the demonization and factionalism that has crept into your writing recently. I praise you for it, and ask you to continue.



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justintime

posted March 14, 2007 at 4:14 am


Trouble in the Family http://www.economist.com/world/na/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8776546 Has James Dobson s Legendary Power Begun to Wane? JAMES DOBSON is the Godzilla of the religious right. Other leaders have blazed for a while and then guttered out Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson because they were incapable of buttoning their lips, Ralph Reed and Bill Bennett because, in different ways, they fell prey to the temptations of casinos. But until now Mr Dobson has gone from strength to strength. snip Twilight of the evangelical pope But since stepping down as head of Focus on the Family in 2003, he has been spendthrift with the political capital he took so long accumulating. He stomped the country for social conservatives in 2004 and devoted a fearsome amount of effort to unseating Mr Daschle. He repeatedly threatened the Republican establishment with severe punishment if it failed to deliver for the people who put the party back in power in 2004. Why was George Bush spending so much time trying to reform Social Security, he thundered, when he should have been trying to repair the country’s morals? The problem is that Mr Dobson is not all that good at politics. He displays all the characteristic weaknesses of evangelical politicos overreaching hopelessly and then blaming failure on want of political courage. He was the prime force behind both the fight to keep Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube in place and the push for a gay-marriage ban. But a majority of evangelicals disapproved of the first and a large number of his fellow social conservatives warned, rightly, that the second was a waste of effort. There have been other miscalculations. He wasted political capital supporting Harriet Miers’s doomed nomination to the Supreme Court. He strongly opposed the 2006 Evangelical Climate Initiative. He accused SpongeBob SquarePants of participating in a pro-homosexual video . He argued that The Da Vinci Code has all the evidence of something cooked up in the fires of hell (wouldn’t it have been better written if it had been?). He compared Bill Frist’s call for increased federal funding for stem-cell research to Nazi experiments. The 70-year-old Mr Dobson (who has already suffered a heart attack and a stroke) is increasingly looking like a relic of an ancien r gime rather than a harbinger of a new order. The average age of people on Focus’s mailing list is 52. Mr Dobson and his acolytes are rapidly being displaced by what Mr Gilgoff calls a New New Right people who are concerned about international justice and climate change as well as abortion and gay marriage, and people who are willing to work with liberal pressure groups over issues such as Sudan and sex slavery. All this suggests that the battle for the values voters will be more complicated than it was in 2004 and certainly will involve a lot more than kissing Mr Dobson’s ring. In the Republican evangelical primary rising stars like Rick Warren, another reluctant politician, may count for as much as the old war horses. And Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama who both like to stress their religious credentials have a chance of picking up disillusioned evangelicals. The Jesus machine is changing fast. Someone needs to tell the Economist about Jim Wallis



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 14, 2007 at 4:58 am


I think Dobson is afraid of Wallis. You see, if enough people see an evangelical “alternative,” that you can be a serious follower of Christ but not support his ideological positions, his career is effectively over. Of course that may already be the case, but he can’t seem to come to grips with that — that often happens when your focus is authority rather than ministry. To me, this was brought home by Dobson’s ineffective “Stand for the Family” rallies this fall, one of which was in my city and was in practice a campaign shill for Rick Santorum. That Santorum lost as badly as he did, especially in “red” areas of the state, spoke volumes. I wonder if Dobson understands that you have to support good overall governance instead of just hanging your hat on certain political positions.



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Sam Clark

posted March 14, 2007 at 5:10 am


I think Dr. Dobson is quite sincere in his motives and I don’t believe it is career-driven. He has shown integrity and I respect him. I don’t agree with him but I respect him. Personally I think we could do a great service to the cause of Christ by humbling ourselves to stick to one agenda and that is LOVE and leave the politics to Caesar. Truth is revealed in action not words. Draw near those who are outside the body and they will draw near the body, simple LOVE in action is the revolution that will restore humanity.



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jesse

posted March 14, 2007 at 5:58 am


I personally would like to challenge Wallis to a debate. If he sends the vice president of Sojourners to debate me, then it is obviously a sign of fear and cowardice. If he’s going to take public stands on issues, it’s the least he can do.Seriously guys…



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Mark P

posted March 14, 2007 at 6:35 am


I believe Dobson is sincere. That being said, conservative Christianity is going down in flames and will be replaced over the next 10-20 years by progressive Christianity. There is baby along with a substantial amount of bath water, and I hope that the one will be treasured and the other promptly discarded.



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kevin s.

posted March 14, 2007 at 7:02 am


Wallis tells Dobson here to finish his book and talk later. Dobson wants to finish his book as well. Where is the tension here?



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D4P

posted March 14, 2007 at 7:42 am


I have a hard time believing Dobson will add anything new or innovative to child-rearing theory… Let’s see: 1. Don’t let boys wear pink: it will make them gay. 2. Don’t let boys cook: it will make them gay. 3. Don’t let boys help with cleaning the house: it will make them gay. 4. Don’t teach your children about birth control: it will make them have sex. 5. Don’t let your children recycle: it will turn them into liberal hippie environmentalist wackos who hate God. Oh, and it will also make them gay. 6. Don’t let your children listen to “rock n’ roll”: it will turn them into Satan worshipers. 7. Don’t let your children learn about other countries: the US is God’s country, and all they need to know about. 8. Don’t let your children vote non-Republican: Republicanness is next to Godliness. 9. Don’t let your children go to public schools, where they’ll learn about “science” and other Satanic mythology. 10. Don’t let your children go to college: they’ll get brainwashed by liberal secularist professors. Oh, and they’ll probably turn gay.



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Mark P

posted March 14, 2007 at 2:37 pm


All of those are mischaracterizations, caracatures, or over-simplifications.



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Deryll

posted March 14, 2007 at 3:12 pm


Last ninht I went to see the movie “Amazing Grace”. The passion which, I believe, God gave to Wilberforce is humbling and convicting. His passionate refusal to accept the “redemptive violence” myth spoke to me. The arguments that “ending the slave trade will ruin our economy” and “slaves in Jamaca have it better than many of us” reminds me of today’s folks who claim “there’s no problem; and besides, our money is more important.”



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 14, 2007 at 4:26 pm


I think Dr. Dobson is quite sincere in his motives and I don’t believe it is career-driven. He has shown integrity and I respect him. I don’t agree with him but I respect him. Personally I think we could do a great service to the cause of Christ by humbling ourselves to stick to one agenda and that is LOVE and leave the politics to Caesar. Truth is revealed in action not words. Draw near those who are outside the body and they will draw near the body, simple LOVE in action is the revolution that will restore humanity. Sounds good in theory, but to be a faithful follower of Christ these days we have to be involved — because if we believe He is the ultimate Sovereign over all creation we must do our part to redeem it. Our task is to return things to the way He intended them wherever possible. A co-worker of mine and seminary graduate laid it out for me a few years ago. The early Christians were powerless to change Roman law but lived their lives with a different mindset, essentially subverting such law to expose it as unjust, and as the Gospel went forth things began to change gradually. It is up to us to say to the world that “We have a better idea” instead of always agitating for cultural change through direct action a la Dobson/Falwell/Robertson. Ultimately, the sad reality is that evangelical Christians engage in adultery and fornication and abuse and divorce their spouses at the same rate as everyone else, plus we’re often more racist and materialistic (with our huge suburban houses that we work ourselves to death to have but still cannot afford). All of Dobson’s “pro-family” work won’t change that because in much evangelicalism the true creed is “can what you get and get what you can.” I think Wallis, who’s been in D. C. for over 30 years, is far better than Dobson at this juncture to speak to our nation, and while I do believe that spiritual revival is coming — and in fact may already be here — you won’t see or hear about it through “Christian” broacasting. Prophets simply don’t come from the establishment, which is why they’re often rejected.



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Blake

posted March 14, 2007 at 4:31 pm


Wallis knew that Dobson wouldn’t debate him. If Dobson accepted every debate/conversation invitation from the Wallis’ of the world, he would debate/converse endlessly. The same is true of Wallis. Additionally (and this is not meant to be a slight to Wallis), Dobson doesn’t have time for debates with groups like Sojourners. Again, this is not an attempt to insult, but Sojourners doesn’t hold enough weight or gravity within Evangelical circles. It may be changing, but it’s not there yet (similar to one of us inviting Wallis to a debate…he would politely decline). It’s a bit disappointing that Wallis won’t have a conversation with Minnery, however. This whole thing looks more like an attempt to make Dobson look like a coward than anything. And frankly, Dobson doesn’t need Wallis’ help on that (not a big fan of Dobson). However, I think Wallis comes out looking like the weaker brother here. Purely political move. Is Washington starting to resemble Sojourners, or is Sojourners starting to resemble Washington?



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Anon for reasons

posted March 14, 2007 at 4:37 pm


d4p – Best post – ever!



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Alien Drums

posted March 14, 2007 at 4:47 pm


Great post. Great info. Great tone. Thanks, Jim.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 14, 2007 at 4:58 pm


Again, this is not an attempt to insult, but Sojourners doesn’t hold enough weight or gravity within Evangelical circles. It could be that giving Sojourners or any “progressive” ministry legitimacy is the last thing that any conservative wants because, as I suggested earlier, it could lose its power. That’s why Gene Edward Veith slammed “God’s Politics” in World magazine when it came out.



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Wolverine

posted March 14, 2007 at 5:21 pm


D4P: Got a chuckle out of your post.Rick, I think your friend is on to something, but he understates what early Christians did: they didn’t subvert the Roman order so much as they transcended it. I think you’re right about the materialism. American society has always had a materialistic streak but it’s gotten crazy in recent years and American Christians have absorbed a lot of it. Your depiction of American Christians as “often more racist” strikes me as twenty years or so out-of-date though. It seems to me that a lot of the conservatives on this board have little regard for Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, but do have some respect for James Dobson. The deeper thinkers of the Christian Left really should consider whether there might be some distinctions to be drawn among them instead of constantly connecting them as if they constituted some wierd Trinity. True spiritual revival will ultimately come from neither Wallis nor Dobson, because while spirituality and politics do affect one another they are not the same. I suspect both of them will have their roles to play but if and when there is a revival it will be led by men and women who for the most part are above politics. Wolverine



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Wolverine

posted March 14, 2007 at 5:24 pm


Rick, Yes, and it could also be that progressives, both inside and outside of the church, want to give Sojourners more credibility than it otherwise warrants because they hope to use it to gain power. We aren’t necessarily the only ones playing the political game here, ya know… Wolverine



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Mark P

posted March 14, 2007 at 5:33 pm


Rick, “I think Wallis, who’s been in D. C. for over 30 years, is far better than Dobson at this juncture to speak to our nation” -Wouldn’t that make him far more politicized and more likely to engage in the old Religious Right politics game, except from the left? — blake “Is Washington starting to resemble Sojourners, or is Sojourners starting to resemble Washington?” -Great question, one which Jim et al should ask themselves every night before bed. This last post shows a less Washingtonian-spic-doctor feel and more love than Wallis’ recent ones. I’m encouraged. — It should be enough to note that progressive Christianity is on the rise and neo-conservative Christianity is dying. Refreshingly, I don’t believe (true) conservative Christianity will die because the true ones are still out there…. it’s just that they’re so mixed with postmodern conservatives (that is, individuals who think they’re conservative, but they’re really not… aka most of the Republican Christian establishment) it is hard to distinguish. But I think the false ones will die… and even though they will be few, the true ones will burn brighter. I take solace in the words of TS Eliot and GK Chesterton.



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Mark P

posted March 14, 2007 at 5:35 pm


Wolverine “I think your friend is on to something, but he understates what early Christians did: they didn’t subvert the Roman order so much as they transcended it.” Amen! The early Christians were absolutely a challenge to Roman order and strength because the served a far greater power than the emperor. They did not contend with the authority system because the battle was already won.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 14, 2007 at 6:05 pm


Your depiction of American Christians as “often more racist” strikes me as twenty years or so out-of-date though. Were that true. However, in the book “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience,” which I believe came out in 2005, Ron Sider quoted recent polls that showed that white evangelicals showed the most opposition to having black neighbors compared to Catholics, liberal Christians and other categories. On top of that, Bill McCartney, because of his background always sensitive to racism, took a strong stand against it at Promise Keepers rallies, and he has said he is convinced that the race issue cause a drop in involvement. The deeper thinkers of the Christian Left really should consider whether there might be some distinctions to be drawn among them instead of constantly connecting them as if they constituted some wierd Trinity. There aren’t that many, truth be told. Unlike Falwell or Robertson, Dobson was (as far as I know) always a layman and thus speaks for no church or denomination, which in a way made him more dangerous because in his position because he still thinks he speaks for God or so many million American Christians. Yes, and it could also be that progressives, both inside and outside of the church, want to give Sojourners more credibility than it otherwise warrants because they hope to use it to gain power. I sincerely doubt that. I’ve run in “progressive” evangelical circles for about two decades now, and progressives have rarely been as dismissive of the conservatives as conservatives have been of us. You’ll see the conservative perspective in a progressive publication before you see a progressive one in a conservative publication. Wouldn’t that make him far more politicized and more likely to engage in the old Religious Right politics game, except from the left? No. People don’t realize that the “religious right” was tied into the secular right from the very beginning of the conservative ascendancy in the late 1970s. On the other hand, the left, such as it is, has always been far too scattered, and as I mentioned before, Wallis has been at it since the 1970s, long before the “religious left” became fashionable. If things were to lurch right again Wallis would still soldier on; his work has never depended on outside interests.



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Will

posted March 14, 2007 at 6:17 pm


Man, I tell you Dobson is sure acting like a faggot.



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Wolverine

posted March 14, 2007 at 6:23 pm


Rick Nowlin wrote: No. People don’t realize that the “religious right” was tied into the secular right from the very beginning of the conservative ascendancy in the late 1970s. You forget the predicate of the question, which is that Wallis, unlike Dobson, has been in Washington DC for the last 20 years. You also forget that Wallis’ background is in public policy, while Dobson’s is in psychology. Finally, you forget that conservatism has always had a religious component. Bill Buckley, the founder of modern conservatism, was and remains a devout Catholic. The “traditionalist” wing is, almost by definition, a defender of religion in general and Christianity in particular. You don’t have to like Dobson, but Wallis is every bit the political creature that Dobson is. It’s just that you disagree with Dobson and agree with Wallis. And that’s okay. You’re allowed to prefer one side over the other, just please don’t pretend this isn’t political. Wolverine



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Blake

posted March 14, 2007 at 6:38 pm


“Yes, and it could also be that progressives, both inside and outside of the church, want to give Sojourners more credibility than it otherwise warrants because they hope to use it to gain power.” -Wolverine “I sincerely doubt that.” -Rick Nowlin Rick, which component do you doubt? The credibility part, or the power part? It’s tough to argue with power piece, because that’s exactly what every Evangelical group is aiming for (and every other group for that matter). Power equals influence, be it good or bad. Sojourners is mostly good, but it’s still engaged in a power struggle. It’s all about power. That’s one of the reasons it’s difficult to be a “Christian political group.” Politics require gaining influence and power among others. But Christ didn’t really have those same interests. Not saying that politics are bad. Just saying it’s tough to justify a phrase like “God’s politics.” It does help sell books though, and gain more power (influence).



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(the other) Brian

posted March 14, 2007 at 6:56 pm


I would like to see Jim Wallis debate the Rev. Jesse Jackson. That would rock!



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Austin

posted March 14, 2007 at 7:00 pm


“Man, I tell you Dobson is sure acting like a faggot.” You mean he’s acting like a wuss, right?



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 14, 2007 at 7:02 pm


You forget the predicate of the question, which is that Wallis, unlike Dobson, has been in Washington DC for the last 20 years. You also forget that Wallis’ background is in public policy, while Dobson’s is in psychology. Wallis has been in Washington a lot longer than that. I first heard of Sojourners in the mid-1980s, and it had been in publication before then — in fact, in “God’s Politics” he mentioned the feud he had had with the late Bill Bright, which went back to 1976. Finally, you forget that conservatism has always had a religious component. Bill Buckley, the founder of modern conservatism, was and remains a devout Catholic. The “traditionalist” wing is, almost by definition, a defender of religion in general and Christianity in particular. Not entirely true, and even if that were the case it’s irrelevant — religion was always subservient to ideology. Need I remind you that the civil rights movement came out of the black church but also that few “conservatives” were fans of Martin Luther King Jr.; because of Federal government involvement even Buckley opposed it (but later admitted he was wrong). And the fight against apartheid in South Africa also had a strong religious component, both here and there, but as I mentioned in another thread, many “traditionalists” ignored or opposed that movement as well. (It’s why so few African-Americans, a large percentage of which are “born-again Christians,” subscribe to the conservative political agenda.) It’s just that you disagree with Dobson and agree with Wallis. And that’s okay. You’re allowed to prefer one side over the other, just please don’t pretend this isn’t political. It’s not that simple. You see, the likes of Dobson has no room for people like me who believe that the ramifications of Gospel extend far beyond “traditional morality” because issues beyond abortion and gay marriage don’t raise funds very well. Some people are starting to understand that; you may remember that the erstwhile president of the Christian Coalition stepped down even before his term began because it wouldn’t promise him that it would expand its focus on his watch.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 14, 2007 at 7:08 pm


Blake — If Sojourners were all about power it would have never been about social justice all there years; it would have focused on streamlining its message to raise visibility (not to mention funds) the way the right wing has. But its message has been consistent for the last three decades; only the the issues relevant to 2007 make any difference. As I said, we’ll see what happens should Wallis have the spotlight removed; I would say that he would just keep doing what he’s been doing.



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Antonym

posted March 14, 2007 at 7:17 pm


This kind of “Wild, Wild West” posturing speaks volumes of you, Jim. You are looking for another spotlight to replace the current one that is dimming; your celebrity posturing has become frustrating. Let Czik, Dobson, and the NAE “debate”. Step out of the way, and stop instigating issues. It’s funny that after calling for a “debate”, you now want to have a “conversation”, as if you’re gaining some degree of civility. You pick fights when there is much more to be focused on. But wherever a camera lens and a microphone are–Jim Wallis always wants more of it. Just when I think you’ve gotten beyond yourself, you go right back to the trough of narcissism. I really can’t read this blog anymore. bye



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Wolverine

posted March 14, 2007 at 7:39 pm


Rick Nowlin wrote: It’s not that simple. You see, the likes of Dobson has no room for people like me who believe that the ramifications of Gospel extend far beyond “traditional morality” because issues beyond abortion and gay marriage don’t raise funds very well. Unlike Sojourners, which dedicates half of its pages to conservative articles, and splits its staff between Democrats and Republicans 50-50. Yes, Sojourners truly is a model of bipartisanship and inclusiveness across ideological lines. Well actually, to their credit, Sojourners does have this comment board where we conservatives are allowed to add our two cents worth. But there’s no question where Sojo comes down, and it’s hardly ever on our side. And that’s okay too. What I find amusing is the fact that you are so put off by the fact that “the likes of Dobson” dare to differ with you. Wolverine



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 14, 2007 at 7:54 pm


Unlike Sojourners, which dedicates half of its pages to conservative articles, and splits its staff between Democrats and Republicans 50-50. Yes, Sojourners truly is a model of bipartisanship and inclusiveness across ideological lines. Sarcasm duly noted — but did you ever try to pitch an article to it? I know that PRISM, which comes from Evangelicals for Social Action (and which I have written for myself), at least does acknowledge there is a legitimate conservative perspective. How many “conservative” publications, which have far higher circulation runs, even notice the “progressives” except to slam them? (It’s happened to me in print.) What I find amusing is the fact that you are so put off by the fact that “the likes of Dobson” dare to differ with you. You know that’s not what it’s about — if anything it’s just the opposite, that I disagree with him. The colleague I mentioned earlier, a strong evangelical Christian who covers religion for our paper, has told me Dobson is the kind that accepts no criticism, and he’s even taken to task other conservatives who have questioned his focus. (Wallis interviewed two of them, Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, no relation, who wrote a book, “Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America?” — you can find the interview right on this website.)



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Kristopher

posted March 14, 2007 at 9:20 pm


I find it off putting that some individuals that are spear heading the progressive faith movement would look at their ministry as a power struggle for converts. Until now, after reading the above posts, I, being a conservative Christian, was unaware that “progressives” looked It seems to me that the “progressives” are more invested in trying to fight the “vast right wing conspiracy”, rather then focusing on a ministry. If you and “the likes of” Wallis would focus half as much of your attention, and energy on bringing sinners to Christ, rather then writing articles and posts about your disdain for James Dobson, the world would be a better place.I know that a lot of you would say that everything that I just wrote can be said about the letter that was written by Dobson and friends about Cizik, and I don’t think that I would disagree with you. Though, the situation is a little different. Cizik has taken some pretty controversial positions, and since he represents the NAE, it gives the impression that the NAE holds those same positions. Calling for his resignation may have been a little harsh, but I don’t have a problem with voicing concerns about the leadership to the rest of the leadership, and then letting the organization decide on what to do. If the NAE decides to take the same controversial positions that Cizik has decided to take, then that is their prerogative.



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Kristopher

posted March 14, 2007 at 9:21 pm


I didn’t finish the thought above: I find it off putting that some individuals that are spear heading the progressive faith movement would look at their ministry as a power struggle for converts. Until now, after reading the above posts, I, being a conservative Christian, was unaware that “progressives” looked at it as a power struggle, and thought that we were all just trying to make a case for Christ.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 14, 2007 at 9:29 pm


It seems to me that the “progressives” are more invested in trying to fight the “vast right wing conspiracy”, rather then focusing on a ministry. If you and “the likes of” Wallis would focus half as much of your attention, and energy on bringing sinners to Christ, rather then writing articles and posts about your disdain for James Dobson, the world would be a better place. We would love to do that. It’s just that, in our experience, conservatives don’t respect us “progressives” as fellow members of the household of faith because we don’t agree ideologically. Besides that, there is far more to the Gospel of Jesus Christ than just “saving souls” — it’s about building a whole new, holy community to demonstrate God’s purposes and foreshadowing His Kingdom. This is an issue of theology rather than “political correctness,” and we believe that Dobson is actually sabotaging the Gospel with his pronouncements. Woe to us if we do not say so; after all, prophecy is a legitimate ministry.



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Steven Riggs

posted March 14, 2007 at 9:51 pm


I keep track of Dr. Dobson’s group and it seems since he hired Tony Perkins they have become strictly a political organazation and no longer a religious organization. They promote Republicans to no end and the Republicans haven’t changed a thing about the one or two issues that consume them.



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Rachel

posted March 14, 2007 at 9:59 pm


Thank you for the gracious tone of this post, Jim.



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Bob

posted March 14, 2007 at 10:29 pm


As a graduate of Nazarene Theological Seminary (Dobson’s denomination), it should be held at a Nazarene school. Then he’ll realize Nazarene’s are also talking about the real values of global warming, poverty, healthcare, etc. His old cantankerous ways are slim to none today.



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genie

posted March 14, 2007 at 10:31 pm


Great comments, Jim. If some of the bloggers could get past being defensive about everything you and others who disagree with them, and just pay attention to what you are actually saying, they would see that you, like many of the rest of us, keep trying to have respectful dialogue or conversation on these issues, yet those we invite to the table refuse to come, and seem to prefer making snide remarks, sweeping statements with half-truths in them, and managing to keep their blinders on. What is it they fear? Keep up the wonderful work!



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Kristopher

posted March 14, 2007 at 10:34 pm


“This is an issue of theology rather than “political correctness,” and we believe that Dobson is actually sabotaging the Gospel with his pronouncements. Woe to us if we do not say so; after all, prophecy is a legitimate ministry.” I think that the same could be said in defense of the letter that Dobson wrote. He was merely pointing out the fact that a person in leadership of a major evangelical organization has taken controversial positions that seem to contradict a position taken by the organization itself previously. The arguement can be made that Cizik is “sabotaging the Gospel” by using his status as the Vice President of Governmental Affairs of the NAE to almost champion(at least among the evangelicals) such a political issue. Of course I know that there is far more to the Gospel then just “saving souls”, but instead of focusing on gaining respect from conservatives, find focus in your cause, and let God do the rest.



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Scott

posted March 14, 2007 at 10:38 pm


You are da MAN! Hold Jimmy’s feet to the fire! It is just not right for these guys to throw the verbal firebombs and then walk away from the mess it creates. It is high time the evangelical community begin to hold guys like Jimmy, Pat and Jerry accountable for the things they say. Keep up the great work! I look forward to the debate. Don’t do it with one of their underlings!



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 14, 2007 at 10:43 pm


I think that the same could be said in defense of the letter that Dobson wrote. He was merely pointing out the fact that a person in leadership of a major evangelical organization has taken controversial positions that seem to contradict a position taken by the organization itself previously. The arguement can be made that Cizik is “sabotaging the Gospel” by using his status as the Vice President of Governmental Affairs of the NAE to almost champion(at least among the evangelicals) such a political issue. That is likely because the organization may simply have changed its position to reflect better information and a deeper understanding of God’s will. This is not unheard of; about two generations ago many churches and denominations supported racial segregation but not today. Of course I know that there is far more to the Gospel then just “saving souls”, but instead of focusing on gaining respect from conservatives, find focus in your cause, and let God do the rest. It doesn’t work like that. Whether we like it or not, the conservatives also are members of the household of faith and we are thus obliged to challenge then when we think they’re wrong because they will affect our “witness” down the road.



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Kristopher

posted March 14, 2007 at 11:10 pm


“That is likely because the organization may simply have changed its position to reflect better information and a deeper understanding of God’s will. This is not unheard of; about two generations ago many churches and denominations supported racial segregation but not today.” I am not sure how you interpret God’s will, out of an unproven scientific consensus. In fact, it was the NAE that released a letter back in Jan. 2006 stating that “global warming is not a consensus issue.”"It doesn’t work like that. Whether we like it or not, the conservatives also are members of the household of faith and we are thus obliged to challenge then when we think they’re wrong because they will affect our “witness” down the road.” I can understand challenging, and having “healthy dialogue”, but it seems to me that instead of respectfully disagreeing with James Dobson, it appears that a lot of the sojourner’s readers actually hate him. It is a little weird that someone in a ministry doesn’t think that God is bigger then his/her adversaries, and that the message of truth ultimately won’t be seen. It is almost as if you think God has no part in it anymore. I am not judging, this is simply an observation.



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KathyG

posted March 14, 2007 at 11:17 pm


I knew as soon as I read the first paragraph someone was going to say “Well why don’t you debate the guy I want you to debate?” Maybe I’m psychic (LOL) just a joke. If Mr. Wallis debated the stand in that would be like a presidential candidate (1) asking to debate the other candidate (2) and number 2 saying “Well I can’t debate you right now I’m busy campaigning so why don’t you debate Senator Such and Such instead?” Nothing of any substance would be accomplished as Senator Such and Such has nothing to do with the whole idea of the debate between candidate 1 and candidate 2. By the way Mr. Wallis as soon as his book and yours are published ask him again but somehow I think you will get the same reply “I’m busy so debate my stand in while I’m busy”. Which translates to me “I’m too scared to debate you on this and I don’t want to make a fool of myself by debating you in public”. Yes this sounds harsh but hey what the hey Dobson is one of the least “harsh” people I have ever heard. (said with sarcasm laden voice). To the person who wrote the list, sorry I forgot your nom de plume, you forgot “Don’t let your little kids watch Spongebob Squarepants they will turn out gay”.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 14, 2007 at 11:34 pm


I am not sure how you interpret God’s will, out of an unproven scientific consensus. In fact, it was the NAE that released a letter back in Jan. 2006 stating that “global warming is not a consensus issue.” As I said, people change when they receive better information. Thing is, as I alluded to in a previous post, Christians have become so materialistic that anything that threatens their acquistion of goods and maintenance of convenience needs to be “dealt with” severely. It is a little weird that someone in a ministry doesn’t think that God is bigger then his/her adversaries, and that the message of truth ultimately won’t be seen. It is almost as if you think God has no part in it anymore. I am not judging, this is simply an observation. Except that the Christian’s secondary responsibility is to his/her brothers/sisters in the faith. A long-standing American heresy is that we believers have no responsibility to each other, just to God, and that has caused the church no end of harm not only to itself but also the world.



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Wolverine

posted March 15, 2007 at 1:21 am


I think that the same could be said in defense of the letter that Dobson wrote. He was merely pointing out the fact that a person in leadership of a major evangelical organization has taken controversial positions that seem to contradict a position taken by the organization itself previously. The arguement can be made that Cizik is “sabotaging the Gospel” by using his status as the Vice President of Governmental Affairs of the NAE to almost champion(at least among the evangelicals) such a political issue. Here’s the point where I am reminded of St. Paul’s injunctions against busybodies. I’m not sure either James Dobson or Jim Wallis comes out of this folderol looking better, and the sooner they both dropped it, the better off we all might be. Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but my understanding is that Dobson’s group is not affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals and neither is Sojourners. So what we have is two guys getting mixed up in an internal dispute with an organization that neither is a member of. It would be different if Global Warming were a matter with clear moral or theological status, but much as I doubt the theory it is not clearly contrary to scripture So if Christians are involved I may roll my eyes but I’m not going to excommunicate you. And — to really bake your noodle — even if you accept the theory of Global Warming, it seems to me that Christian groups are allowed to work on other things beside creation care, so if NAE decided to focus on other priorities, that’s their prerogative too. (Or do you insist that the groups working with victims of human trafficking drop what they’re doing and start promoting Kyoto?) Bottom line: what Cizik does with environmental issues is for the NAE to decide, and both Dobson and Wallis should butt out. Wolverine



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 15, 2007 at 1:52 am


Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but my understanding is that Dobson’s group is not affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals and neither is Sojourners. So what we have is two guys getting mixed up in an internal dispute with an organization that neither is a member of. The NAE is an organization of conservative evangelical denominations that formed as a counterweight to the “liberal” National Council of Churches — the two Jims themselves couldn’t really join even if they wanted to. That said, it is very likely, depending on the church that Dobson attends, that he is in fact affected, though perhaps indirectly, by Cizik’s pronouncements.



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Suz

posted March 15, 2007 at 2:03 am


D4P- HA!!!!That was GREAT.



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Wolverine

posted March 15, 2007 at 3:28 am


Rick, You realize that, if what you said is true, there’s a case to be made that Dobson’s actions are in bounds, while Wallis’ actions are not. I might have jumped to some conclusions in my 6:26 post, but it would be useful to know just what ties Dobson and Wallis have to the NAE. Wolverine



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Don

posted March 15, 2007 at 4:07 am


“The NAE is an organization of conservative evangelical denominations that formed as a counterweight to the “liberal” National Council of Churches — the two Jims themselves couldn’t really join even if they wanted to.” According to the membership page on the NAE Web site (www.nae.net), individuals *can* belong to the organization. The online membership application lists five classes of membership: individual, congregation, denomination, organization, and school. The Church of the Nazarene (Dobson’s denomination) is listed as an NEA member denomination. However, I couldn’t find either Sojourners or Focus on the Family listed under their list of member organizations. What denomination is Jim Wallis affiliated with? Some of what follows is speculative; maybe someone knows more than I do. Since Dobson is not directly tied to the NAE, I would guess that his complaint might be regarded as a turf war. Perhaps; I don’t really know. And I think Wallis responded at least in part to counter what he may feel is a perception that Dobson is (or claims to be) speaking for all evangelicals. At any rate, there doesn’t seem to be any real *internal* dispute within the NEA itself, from what I’ve read; it seems that Richard Cizik has the full support of the NAE board of directors. While the NAE hasn’t drafted a position statement on global warming itself, their recent statement condemning torture would seem to indicate that they aren’t interested in speaking out on Dobson’s priority issues alone. FWIW,



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Carl Copas

posted March 15, 2007 at 4:09 am


On a completely different matter: can anyone recommend a blog where there are good and lively discussions of Xtian doctrine? Feel free to reply to my email: bhikku_bum@yahoo.com Thanks in advance.



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jerry

posted March 15, 2007 at 4:53 am


why is wallis so hung up on this conversation with dobson? has he had any other people turn him down on an invitation to talk? what is the issue here? me thinks that wallis needs association with “big names” to boost his ego and elevate his politics. this post says nothing that hehasn’t said many times before. maybe he needs to move on.org. for the health of the nation and sojo. since jim says that “all the great moral issues are being addressed by people of faith”.. what is the issue???? jim.



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Payshun

posted March 15, 2007 at 5:09 am


Wow I am coming into this one late. As a former evangelical it’s funny to see this conversation about progressives and conservatives.Conservatives have vilified progressives for the better part of 50 years. I keep thinking of comments like calling King a communist or other things like that. Progressive Christianity has done a very thorough job of dismantling much of the ideology and theology that makes of conservative Christianity. In it’s own circles there is constant debate and struggle regarding how it stands. but it has only been visible for like the last 10-15 years. Progressives like myself have not been trying to build political power in the same way as conservatives. p



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 15, 2007 at 6:36 am


According to the membership page on the NAE Web site (www.nae.net), individuals *can* belong to the organization. The online membership application lists five classes of membership: individual, congregation, denomination, organization, and school. I thus stand corrected. me thinks that wallis needs association with “big names” to boost his ego and elevate his politics. this post says nothing that hehasn’t said many times before. maybe he needs to move on.org. for the health of the nation and sojo. since jim says that “all the great moral issues are being addressed by people of faith”.. what is the issue???? jim. Conservatives have been bashing him, Ron Sider and Tony Campolo for decades, and I’m sure some of them denigrate their faith because they’re not conservatives — having been through that myself I understand.



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Amazon Creek

posted March 15, 2007 at 7:07 am


And I know I’ve said this a few times previously in prior posts….but once again….here goes: I really appreciate Sojourners for adding integrity of concern for the poor, etc back into Christian Values. But….once again, I hope people keep their perspective. Yes, Jesus and his disciples after Him took care of the poor and supported the underdogs. But that same Jesus and his same disciples also emphasized that this world is not our home. The love we share in following Jesus’ example – is to lead people to…..ta da! – the example – Jesus Christ. Because this world is NOT our home. We’re all just sojourning. And in the end, the only One who can really fix this world is Jesus Christ returning to rule and reign. There’s nothing wrong with operating in Washington DC – if we keep our perspective. Our purpose in loving is to lead people to the One who loves them millions of times more than we could ever be capable of – Jesus Christ. Because – this world is not our final resting place. People need so much more. They need a Friend to offer them the forgiveness they will need in the Next World too. Throughout church history, it has never turned out well when the church got overly caught up in politics. Most times, it turned out downright ugly. Yes, political involvement is needed. But let’s not forget the far quieter method of just feeding the hungry, ministering to their needs – and sharing Christ’s love with them and the forgiveness He offers for their misdeeds.



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Paul

posted March 15, 2007 at 3:28 pm


Carl Copas and Don, Sorry to take so long to get back to you, but I have been up to my proverbial with school and other things. To begin with, I have my own reasons not to be a fan of Mr. Dobson, but those are issues I will raise with him if I ever have the opportunity. I really, really, REALLY wish he had stuck with being a child psychologist… But, having said that, some of the rational behind my statement is as follows. First, I am going to make a distinction between academic(for lack of a better word)/philosophical debates, and political debates. Academic/Philosophical debates, ideally, are about refining positions, promoting understanding, and furthering knowledge. They are also about the cogency of theories, and the validity and soundness of arguments. Political debates, on the other hand, are about style (often over substance), showmanship, gamesmanship, making yourself look better at your opponents expense, and hence about EGO. While it is true that ego has played a role in some academic/philosophical debates, it is, I think, pretty universally recognized as a bad thing. The goal of an academic/philosophical debate is to strongly and thoroughly interact with the ISSUES, not so much THE PERSON. Another distinction I wish to make is that the cogency, validity, and soundness of a position is independent of a person’s ability to portray that in the debate venue. Just because a person is a poor debater does not make their position wrong, nor does being a good debater make their position right. I don’t know if Mr. Minnery is a better debater than Mr. Dobson, but assuming he is, all the more reason for Jim to debate him, because if Jim has any intellectual integrity he will want to interact with the best the other side has to offer, not just with a person because of the position he holds. Also, just because someone chooses not to enter a debate situation is not necessarily a sign of cowardice. It could just as easily be an expression of respect for, and value of, the positions held in that he wants the position to be evaluated on it’s own merits not just his abilities (good or bad) as a debater. If one calls Mr. Dobson a coward for not debating Jim, it seems just as reasonable to call Jim a coward for not debating Mr. Minnery. It is certainly not unprecedented for the leader of an organization to have someone else act as spokesman. I would be loath to criticize Moses for his relationship with Aaron, and no, I am not equating Mr. Dobson with Moses. I have no evidence one way or another as to Mr. Dobson’s time commitments, but it is obvious that time is not an issue for Jim, because if Mr. Dobson had said yes, Jim would be available. This would seem to be proof positive that Jim’s primary concern, is not about debating the issues, but debating the person. This, in and of itself, casts a shadow on Jim’s agenda. But, let’s continue. The question then is, why is it more important to Jim to debate the person, rather than the issues? There would seem to be a number of possibilities. Is it some sort of personal vendetta? Is Jim simply wanting to make Mr.Dobson look bad? Given the status, prestige and influence that Mr. Dobson enjoys in some quarters does Jim need to knock him off some pedestal in order to put the organization “in it’s place” and have the negative impact on that status, prestige, and influence he desires? Does dealing with someone other than the leader of the organization, mean that Jim will not have the impact he wants, either on the organization or those who look to Mr.Dobson for leadership? Could it be that Jim needs to defeat someone of Mr. Dobson’s perceived stature and influence to give sufficient boost to his sense of his own stature and influence? It seems reasonable to wonder if Mr. Minnery does not have the status necessary to give Jim the ego boost he needs? Given the fairly frequent complaints on the part of the Sojourners crowd against the right for having all the media access and political influence, it seems reasonable to wonder, what role, envy, jealousy, and ego play in Jim’s psyche/agenda? I have my own views as to what the major issues in play here are, but I will leave it to others to reach their own conclusions, or not. I agree that the tone of the current article is encouraging. If this were a reflection of a consistent expression of Jim’s attitude, I would be inclined to take it at face value, but given the wider context of his polemical style, a bit of skepticism is certainly reasonable. To view it as a variation of “Enter into my parlor…” is not unjustified. Much more could be said, but this will give you an idea. I apologize that this is not as concise as I would like, but writing is one of the things I struggle with. Don, if you could recommend any texts that would help my writing skills, I would love to hear about them. cheers, Paul



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tt

posted March 15, 2007 at 4:13 pm


Here’s why progressive Christians and really all Christians have to deal with Dobson in their effort to spread the gospel. At one time I could reccomend Dobson’s books, show and work to m non-Christian friends. His common sense and love of people transcended many things and allowed us to open conversations about God and faith. That has changed radically in the past 5-10 years. He (in my opinion) has been on a quest for political power and influence and now has become a focal point for every non-christian who is cynical about matters of faith. I don’t enjoy attacking Dobson, but he no longer represents what I believe Christianity needs to be about, so I have found myself needing to ‘explain’ dobson, et al, before ever getting to the heart of the matter. I wonder if he realizes this is what has happened to his once very effective ministry to both believer and non-believers? And does he care anymore – I really don’t know.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 15, 2007 at 4:29 pm


Yes, political involvement is needed. But let’s not forget the far quieter method of just feeding the hungry, ministering to their needs – and sharing Christ’s love with them and the forgiveness He offers for their misdeeds. All well and good, but one-third of the Scripture also comprises prophecy, which means pointing out specific sins and addressing them. You are right in saying that “this world is not our home,” but now that we’re here we’re obliged make it as “homey” as possible. It is not a matter of whether Christians should be involved in politics; it’s a matter of how and, even more important, to whose benefit. Given the fairly frequent complaints on the part of the Sojourners crowd against the right for having all the media access and political influence, it seems reasonable to wonder, what role, envy, jealousy, and ego play in Jim’s psyche/agenda? You should be ashamed to say this because you’re projecting suspect motives where they might not exist. Sojourners has been around probably longer than Focus on the Family so to a certain extent it’s even more established, and were the spotlight removed from Jim he would still be doing what he’s been doing. On the other hand, I have on good information that Dobson needs the spotlight and brooks no criticism. I mentioned earlier on this thread that Ed Dobson (no relation) and Cal Thomas, both formerly of Moral Majority, have said that “We’ve missed the boat.” Now, they support almost every issue raised by, say, the Christian Coalition but will now tell you that the way it sought to change society was flawed from the outset — and in the book I mentioned earlier they mentioned that James Dobson had a war of words with them, who consider themselves allies. So maybe Jim Wallis isn’t the issue here.



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Chris Crye

posted March 15, 2007 at 5:06 pm


I was glad to see you clearly articulate the sanctity of life, the health of marriages, and teaching sexual morality to our children as great moral issues of the day. I assumed that but to be honest as I have followed your emphasis both in writing and speaking I find that that those in fact do fade in your social agenda. The challenge is that we need to address all of these issues and not merely focus on the politically expedient ones, from which every side of the isle that expediency is defined. My concern with a debate such a proposed will be just that and not a conversation. It would seem conversations are best done in the course of doing the ministry rather than in a format that has some glitz to it but merely gets reported on rather than really producing action that addresses the full agenda such as that articulated by the NAE. I would hope for less positioning of who is more balanced or in tune or whatever and continued effort and celebration of the pieces that we all contribute.



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Paul

posted March 15, 2007 at 5:45 pm


Rick Nowlin, “You should be ashamed” I assume you are talking to me. Thank you for the feedback. Have a good day. cheers, Paul



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tt

posted March 15, 2007 at 6:51 pm


If Campolo is quoted from the pulpit in our church the pastor gets an earful all week long about his ‘heretical’ views and plenty of threats to leave the church if it’s done again. I think his biggest heresy was providing spiritual counsel to Bill Clinton.



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Carl Copas

posted March 15, 2007 at 7:13 pm


Paul, much thanks for the thoughtful response to questons posed by Don and myself. Not quite sure that I fully understand where you’re coming from on this one, but will read again with care. In Xtian love,



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Don

posted March 15, 2007 at 7:17 pm


Paul: I wish some of my students wrote as well as you do. You’re doing fine. Conciseness is a rare goal on these blogs; it takes more time than most of us have when we’re posting here! Peace,



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 15, 2007 at 7:49 pm


Paul — I know I may have sounded harsh, but I really meant that. You know the Scripture “judge not, lest you be judged”? To suggest that people are always looking to “slay the giant” when they have not yet shown any indication is pure presumption. Allow time to expose the truth; then it will be clear to all.



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Jayson Palm

posted March 15, 2007 at 8:17 pm


Well said. Every bit of it…well said.



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Kim

posted March 15, 2007 at 10:14 pm


Dr. Dobson is a graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University (formerly Pasadena College). Perhaps that University would be willing to extend the invitation to him to hold the conversation with Wallis.



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mark costanzo

posted March 15, 2007 at 10:23 pm


jim: great job on your handling of this issue.should anyone be suprised at dobson’s emphasis on personal morality @ the expense of a broader range of social justice issues? i always think that if this were the 1950′s-1960′s again dobson’s emphasis would be the same even as blacks were being lynched & kept in the segregated caste system. he probably would have thought dr. m.l.king jr. was diverting attention from the great moral issues of the day.



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Kevin K (yet another Kevin)

posted March 15, 2007 at 10:25 pm


Great post, Jim. There is change afoot and not just in America. Some call it a “religious/spiritual revival.” I would say more like the next Reformation. Can you say “Praxis?”



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Colin J. Guthrie, Ph.D.

posted March 15, 2007 at 10:28 pm


Let’s see. Is this Elmer Gantry proposing to debate with Rush Limbaugh? Or, perhaps this is Pat Robertson deigning to discuss with Jerry Falwell what “God told me today” – with, or without, reference to the special connection to the Heavenly Throne by fax or TV cable? Or maybe Falwell inviting Robeertson to compare the 700 Club with his (Falwell’s) so called “Moral Majority”? Or Troy Perry inviting Ted Haggard to tell the world how he (Haggard) became “100% heterosexual” in 3 weeks? Or an attempt on Jim Willis’s part to find out what else one ought to put on the list, besides Spongebob Squarepants, that will make a boy gay? Or, even better yet, a way to find out which will make a child gay quicker, the little purple doll or Spongebob Squarepants? Each and every one of these meetings is of earth-shattering importance, and certainly contains a very important issue for at least some part of the “fundamentalist” (or “conservative”, if you prefer) kooks, cranks and crazies in the Je$u$ Bu$ine$$. And every one of them has the PROOF-TEXT – straight from God’s mouth to his ear – to prove it. The bottom line is – as it always has been – “What’s the bottom line?”, in dollars and cents for the franchise that is. Right now, Dobson can afford not to debate. His psyquackagy cult is raking it in. Sojourners apparently ain’t. But that’s the Je$u$ Bu$ine$$ boys. Some have what it takes to gather a large flock of sheep to sheer. Others don’t. And Tweedledum debating Tweedledee – or Tweedledummer – won’t make any difference.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 15, 2007 at 11:08 pm


There is change afoot and not just in America. Some call it a “religious/spiritual revival.” I would say more like the next Reformation. I agree 100 percent, but we should heed the words of the great “prophet” Gil Scott-Heron: “The revolution will not be televised.”



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 15, 2007 at 11:13 pm


Colin — Droll, very droll. In fact, it does make a lot of difference. If Dobson and Wallis were at all alike, going after the same thing, we wouldn’t be having this debate because they would certainly cooperate, truth be told.



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Kevin K (yet another Kevin)

posted March 15, 2007 at 11:23 pm


Rick, LOL…I doubt it will be televised. This is a bottom-up, grassroots thing and the conversation is growing each day. Ain’t God amazing. Just when we begin to lose hope…out comes the A-Team of new prophets and bingo…ya gotta love it!



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 15, 2007 at 11:33 pm


Kevin K — That’s exactly what I meant.



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Kevin K (yet another Kevin)

posted March 15, 2007 at 11:33 pm


Rick, And remember…”the revolution will not go better with Coke!”



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Wendy

posted March 15, 2007 at 11:46 pm


I respect Dr. Dobson, but I haven’t in the last years agreed with most of what he has said, or been involved in. I don’t like his tendency toward whole heartedly supporting everything put into place by the republican party- without hearing the other side. For some of us, it is a larger question than abortion, and ‘gay rights’. I’ve sat and listened to him yell from the radio, and I have to wonder- does it bother him that so many children died today because of hunger? Or preventable disease? Or war? Why is he so into supporting the gospel of wealth? What does that have to do with Christianity? So many questions for Dr. Dobson- I think it is high time that Dr. Dobson addressed some of the questions that a conversation/debate like this would generate. Why is he so eager to go on Hannity and Colmes (sp?) and not to do this- especially after he found time to write a letter asking for a person to be fired? Its because he is fearful of looking like he’s lost something, I suspect; and that hasn’t happened in awhile. And I don’t think it matters if he has the ‘conversation’ with Wallis or Cizic or whomever, as long as the questions are answered by Dr. Dobson. As for me, I have a town meeting to go to to address a problem with one of our wells- It has become seriously polluted from factory farm run-off. The fight goes on day to day for some of us- the real fight- not just a conversation.



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Ed

posted March 15, 2007 at 11:54 pm


I would prefer to see something more akin to a conversation than a ‘debate.’ A debate will in some fashion seek to declare a winner by way of rhetoric and perhaps (in this case) incessant prooftexting…a nauseating endeavor and hardly beneficial for the body of Christ. I would love to see that ‘conversation’ happen between anyone from the two ‘camps’ because it doesn’t happen enough (if at all as far as I know). The blogosphere is a terrible place to carry on these vital conversations. So please Mr. Wallis, let’s steer away from ‘debate’ like they do in the presidential elections and invite folks to listen in on a conversation and give the opportunity for those attending to ask good questions.



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Mel

posted March 16, 2007 at 12:05 am


What’s so biblical about the political views of Jim Wallis?



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JWH

posted March 16, 2007 at 12:06 am


This is my first blog experience – I’ve read most of it and am struck by how virtually everyone is talking about everything EXCEPT loving our neighbor as ourself, which is how we are COMMANDED to manifest our love for God. Being as selfrighteous as everyone else on this blog, I’ll say it really drew me to the text:Matthew 7: 21″Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’



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Bill Samuel

posted March 16, 2007 at 12:20 am


Minnery might not have been the author of the letter, but Jim, did you fail to notice that you were not the addressee? You have a less direct tie than Minnery does. You’re playing games.



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DeWayne

posted March 16, 2007 at 12:21 am


I agree that Dr. Dobson has indebted himself to a discussion to clear the air regarding spiritual issues. In relation to these issues is what I’ve found as a significant problems with main stream Evangelist leaders. Today many are happy to join in the flow of emotional issues, but evidencing fearful attitude about exiting this free-flow, even after realizing the many errors and evil involved. What the main stream religious community has become lock-step involved, are issues of emotion rather than issues of life. By this meaning the responce of Christ to Christians asking how they had assisted Christ in need. Today many Evangelist churches are teaching an emotional relationship with the Lord, watching in pride those coming in the front door, and failing to realize and confront the issue of those leaving by the back door. Today many employ rock music and six word lyrics, huffing and puffing their way into a spiritual asphyxia. I wonder sometimes to what spirit they open themselves to. God is not looking for a singular emotional relationship, God looks for a total life (everlasting) relationship. It is time to realize what in life Christ has commanded. An important command missed by most, is to be as wise as the serpent, secular man is aware of this need calling it being informed. In this full context having nothing to do with evil, but rather exposing it. nd here is the main failure of many main line Evangelical leaders, being ignorant or fearful of important spiritual issues of life, fearful instead of losing a tax deferment.



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tt

posted March 16, 2007 at 12:39 am


for most evangelicals the abortion and homosexual issues cause us to think about any of our lifestyle issues, so they are the ones that we (dobson, et al)keep hammering on. When you see the oppulence of Focus on the Family HQ (and it’s mild compared to many others) and the need to keep republicans in power, it becomes impossible to discuss the things Cizek and Wallis are.It’s not that those issues aren’t important – but it is what will keep all of us happy and pointing the finger elsewhere in our wildly ingrown churches.



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tt

posted March 16, 2007 at 12:40 am


I meant “don’t cause us to think…”



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priscilla McDougal

posted March 16, 2007 at 1:06 am


I believe your time has come; stay the path with courage. Jesus may yet be heard above the crowds and bombs. Your work is vital; essential to life and Love. I support you 100%



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Talia Nuckolls

posted March 16, 2007 at 1:58 am


Jesus? That guy all of us “Christians” claim to follow? More than anything he helped people eat and have life and that’s why they loved him. Dr. Dobson has built an empire on a wonderful cause…stong American families. BUT…are they showing people Jesus love or confirming Conservitives views and surrounding ourselves with more padding of self-righteousness as not to deal with the fallen world? What if all the Focus on the Family donors…gave to World vision? How many wells could we build. What if we bought renewable energy passes…wouldn’t that (coupled with great Biblical parenting) make our children’s lives better?I agree. Our soap boxes are comfy and covered in jewels..but that people are still starving and dieing.



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dan

posted March 16, 2007 at 2:42 am


Mr. Dobson cannot take time off from writing a book to talk about something as central to his being as the central moral issues of our time!!! I’m sorry but there is something about that that doesn’t pass the smell test. Mr. Dobson and his ilk remind me of the following poem. I dreamed I stood upon a hill, and, lo! The godly multitudes walked to and fro Beneath, in Sabbath garments fitly clad, With pious mien, appropriately sad, While all the church bells made a solemn din A fire-alarm to those who lived in sin. Then saw I gazing thoughtfully below, With tranquil face, upon that holy show A tall, spare figure in a robe of white, Whose eyes diffused a melancholy light. “God keep you, strange,” I exclaimed. “You are No doubt (your habit shows it) from afar; And yet I entertain the hope that you, Like these good people, are a Christian too.” He raised his eyes and with a look so stern It made me with a thousand blushes burn Replied his manner with disdain was spiced: “What! I a Christian? No, indeed! I’m Christ.”



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James Morgan

posted March 16, 2007 at 3:56 am


8. Don’t let your children vote non-Republican: Republicanness is next to Godliness. 9. Don’t let your children go to public schools, where they’ll learn about “science” and other Satanic mythology. 10. Don’t let your children go to college: they’ll get brainwashed by liberal secularist professors. Oh, and they’ll probably turn gay. D4P | 03.14.07 – 12:47 am | #You forgot: 11: Spank your kids. That will make them more kind and loving.



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jerry

posted March 16, 2007 at 4:08 am


morgan is a jerk. and wallis is a non person, grubbing for money. give money to sojo, buy the newsletter, sign up for whatever. comon folks. where is the meat from wallis?? show me. tell me. pleeeeaasse.



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John D. Sens

posted March 16, 2007 at 4:09 am


I can’t add much except to say it will be a cold old day when I rely on a book written by James Dobson as a guide to child rearing.



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sts

posted March 16, 2007 at 4:10 am


meat? as in let me tell you something I don’t do or have any desire to do that I think you do wrong?



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jerry

posted March 16, 2007 at 4:19 am


paul. get up on your hind legs and say what you have to say. go back and read your latest whining and then let me know what you are trying to say. be a man paul.sy what you gotta say.



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sts

posted March 16, 2007 at 4:22 am


thanks for coming aboard Jerry – I too need your example of what it is to be a man.



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John D. Sens

posted March 16, 2007 at 4:30 am


Jerry’s name calling leaves something to be desired. But he has a point that Jim is constantly grubbing for money. In fact, many Christian groups have long since turned their emphasis from spiritual concerns to temporal concerns. Today being Christian for many Christian leaders means giving money or service to someone else. I have heard a lot of sermons on giving money; our church has sent teams to foreign lands to build structures. We have speakers on the evils of homelessness and poverty. But, I can’t remember the last sermon I have heard on spiritual exercises to deepen one’s relationship with God. The last encounter I had with Christian spirituality was in a cursillo course about 1994 almost 13 years ago. To a degree, abandoning spirituality for temporality is a form of laziness. It is so much easier to round up a turkey dinner for 50 to 100 people than it is to help someone confront serious spiritual problems.



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janet

posted March 16, 2007 at 4:46 am


D4P I just copied and saved your post. I learned a lot. You got to me just in time… I went into my boys room and burned all their pink clothing, forbid them from making Easy Mac or Ramen ever again, told them to never unload the dishwasher, bought my daughter a purity ring, threw our recycling in with the rest of our trash, smashed our new Nora Jones cd, destroyed my video footage from my recent humanitarian relief trip to East Africa, okay.. I can’t even joke about the republican line, am pulling all of them out of the public schools they attend, and told my daughter she could no longer attend her woman’s studies, human race and relations and cultural anthropology classes at our local state university anymore. Thank God you got me this information in the knick of time… before they all turn gay. Janet Janet



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:16 am


In fact, many Christian groups have long since turned their emphasis from spiritual concerns to temporal concerns. Today being Christian for many Christian leaders means giving money or service to someone else. I have heard a lot of sermons on giving money; our church has sent teams to foreign lands to build structures. We have speakers on the evils of homelessness and poverty. I see a good balance in my own church, just like yours. But here’s the thing: Much spiritual “exercising,” at least the way you put it, has to do with actual relationships in the world, not mere study or meditation; in fact, they can even lead to avoiding God altogether. I have to watch for this myself since I can be “into my head” a bit — my pure Biblical knowledge is strong but my application is sometimes weak. An aside: Paul, if you’re reading, I owe you an apology — I should not have said what I did yesterday.



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Ms. Cynthia

posted March 16, 2007 at 12:52 pm


Ah. . . I knew the debate would return to one of Jim’s favorite topics. They way we choose to use our physical resourses, talents, funds, $$$ It is great to hear that some of our religious institutions and Biblical Acedemics are interested in hosting such a round table. With another political election luming in the distance it would be refreshing to realize just how diverse the Evengelical Community is, not to mention the Christian Community or even the American Religious Community. Now that it is popular for polititians to ware their religious views on their sleeves we would do well to be a little more informed about the resources that Americans draw on to form their value systems. It would be most engaging to realize how big the table would need to be in order for us to see and become familiar with all of the religious leadership and talent that is on the horizon who will be raising arguements and influencing the future. Such a summit should be covered on line, by the media and oh yes even TV while we still have it. IF the funding for such an event could be found it is likely we will probably even forget who was responsible for inspiring Jim with such an idea because there will be so many other people to contend with in the field that want to participate.Since budgets are moral documents I think it would be important to include a session about how churches are using their talents and resourses, including a discussion about institutional investments. Yes I mean Wallstreet. In lue of the other discussions i.e. Global Warming, I think we should compare what we believe with where we are investing as Religious Individuals as well as Institutions. My family is not with out clay on their boots, having discovered we inheritted a few energy stocks. You may be surprised how many church communities are faced with funding their activities with such income. This is a good time for mutual soul searching, rethinking strategies as the religious family and collaboration on a greater scale.I would like to know if there are enough religious leaders in America who have the courage to address our moral values with transparency and leading by example.We may discover that some of the religious spokesmen who distain talking about environmental and poverty issues the most, have relationships with their personal moral budgets that explain to us why they hold such positions. I am surprised the press has not done more to out them.



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rain man

posted March 16, 2007 at 2:28 pm


This is a fairly tired debate–Wallis vs. Dobson. While I agree that both men are probably too political, discovering Wallis and Sojourners actually saved my faith from a permanent state of disillusionment (brought on by the conservative church getting married to the right-wing political agenda).Payshun–I’m interested in your comment about being a ‘former evangelical’–in what context do you worship now? Also, has anyone here read Tolstoy’s “What I believe”? It was written in the late 1800′s but is a very powerful statement against the religious establishment.



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John Holmes

posted March 16, 2007 at 2:31 pm


From a situation from the opposite side of the globe to most of the participants of this forum, I would respectively suggest that there are a few ideas that are pertinent to the discussion. The impact of policies of the 1st world both publicly stated and covert, look very different through others eyes. I would refer to the reference to Wilberforce and the slave trade. He was one of a number of Christians who felt that they had calling to work towards various social good goals. The Protestant work ethic loosely stated is that one does the best one can do with your God given talents at and in what every occupation you are in/called to/end up in. One is to live well but not wastefully. Bit Victorian isn t it. Much of the dominant ideas projected from the US seems to be focused on the Market . Who sets the prices? I would suggest – the strong and privileged. For example it is a bit hard for an Australian or African wheat farmer to make much on the wrong side of $475 billion /year of agricultural subsidies distorting global markets. Corners get cut, environmental problems magnify, there is not the capital to invest in education, development etc. At another level, just look at the fine print in some of the US free trade treaties. Leaving all to the Market and concentrating focus on personal piety and morality, just does not encourage those who can, to occupy space in the market for good. The Victorian reformers looked at the plight of the disadvantaged and we remember them for their work and successes. They would not allow the dominant cultural/economic elite to shut them up. My appeal is for good debate, with the recognition that space needs to be made for those Christians who are working in specialist areas and who have cutting edge knowledge to speak even if they make the observation that the Emperor is naked . On a good news front, bit challenging when sitting in a conference in Singapore last week, listening to reports of small group and house church planting, of the establishment of over 2000 house churches in China by 2 young women over a relatively short time. So I would suggest that the debate be widened to include the planet, the consequences of the debated policies at a personal, local and global level. The USA is not the world, nor should the Church in America be referred to or considered to be the Church of America , or of any other country, Australia, Singapore, China or Taiwan, but should be self-aware that it is of heaven, not of any particular ideology or political unit.



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Gratia

posted March 16, 2007 at 2:33 pm


The increasing role of the internet has played a large part in learning, and I believe this role goes largely unrecognized in the current debate about the focus of Christian politics. I believe we could come to a consensus more easily if we changed our narrative. Today’s Christian narratives seem to be divided into two camps. The first seems to be, “We Christians must take care of the priorities we see as primary to the faith, not talking about issues in which we have little or no experience, seeing every challenge to that as an evil distraction from what is important, and embracing our role as a martyr for Christ to continue the good work we are doing for Him.” The second seems to be, “Many Christians are and have always been behind in responding to pressing issues in a Christlike way; therefore, we will press for reform, challenging those who have not come to the same realizations as we have by aggressively using every means possible to point out their fallacies very clearly.” The Christian process of dealing with how we as a community are “missing the mark” could happen in a less explosive and more wholesome manner if a re-vamped narrative were adopted. A more truthful (and helpful!) narrative might be as follows: “We Christians who have not personally been exposed to large levels of suffering have been largely uninformed about global and domestic issues in the past because of the lack of information now widely available on the internet. The source of most of our information in the past came from books, missionaries in other countries, our personal experiences, and people and organizations who took time to target us personally or organizationally with their educational messages. Now, we have the option to take in and put out information much more quickly and internationally. Therefore, we encourage the education (both privately and institutionally) of each and every sister and brother among us, pointing out resources we as Christians (personally and organizationally) hold to be trustworthy and dear. The information is now more ‘in our faces’ than before, so this is the crucial point of time at which we must begin to react; as the world changes, we must continue to work out a Christlike reaction to the problematic issues each generation is given.” I believe this would rid us of some judgmentalism stemming from both camps, encouraging renewed interactions between sisters and brothers who might otherwise remain unforgiving and unforgiven. The wide dissemination of information via the internet has also affected the way we communicate, debate, and converse. It is true that we still deal with one another face to face, and that Christ Jesus still calls us to bring offenses to our sisters and brothers first personally, then in a group of two or three, then as a community. However, the internet widens our audience beyond our control; when we post something, it is news for everyone who cares about the subject, no matter what they believe. Although posting a writing echoes the past practices of sending out a magazine or newsletter to a specific readership, we now cannot limit the dialogue to our own church, or our own organization, or our own faith. This has the potential to refine our views. We are forced to interact, perhaps even in dialogue, with people of an opposing or uncertain opinion (whether within our faith or outside it) who might not otherwise be found among our readership or in the same physical space as we air our opinions as well as our firmly-held and cherished beliefs. It also refines our views because we are empowered to research all aspects of a topic via a wide variety of sources. On the other hand, this unlimitable readership makes it difficult to hold private or intra-community communications, debates, conversations, even prayers; and we cannot share prayer requests and praises without somehow being overheard and examined. Any short-sightedness on our part will be exposed, whether by “outsiders” or by “each other,” and the consequences could be more far-reaching than before. Therefore we must be willing to evaluate our beliefs together (with an emphasis on togetherness as well as evaluation). We must patiently know that every word written plants seeds in the hearts of its readers (whether within or outside of our church, organization, or faith), and wisely gauge how to plant the seeds of wisdom and knowledge we have been given. We must tirelessly forgive each other (as individuals and institutions) for harsh words as Christ forgave us, and come to grips with a new way to communicate, debate, converse, and pray with each other (as individuals and institutions) in a way that the onlooking and curious internet world will know us by our love.



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Ralph Keel

posted March 16, 2007 at 3:07 pm


Dear Jim and Jim, Be gracious and respectful to all of us. Put both books on hold and let the conversation begin. I think the world and God can wait another year or perhaps a decade for another book! Ralph 3-16-07



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Paul

posted March 16, 2007 at 3:17 pm


Rick Nowlin, Thank you. Hope you have a good day. cheers, Paul



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John D. Sens

posted March 16, 2007 at 5:47 pm


Gratia, You make some good points. But,regarding the Internet, the “elephant in the room” is that there is no gatekeeper to sift the wheat from the chaff. For very small amounts of money, anyone can set up an impressive website and publish anything. This reduces the credibility of everything. I have found that the Internet does have great educational value but mostly for those who are educated and trained in the area being researched and who are able to evaluate what they see. There is a lot of fraud afoot on the Internet. Every day I get a raft of e-mails from Africa promising me millions of dollars if I cooperate by giving the sender a bank account number. I have known people to be taken in by these frauds.So yes, the possibilities are great, but so are the dangers.



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curiouser and curiouser...

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:07 pm


John D Sens, “But he has a point that Jim is constantly grubbing for money.” I don’t see that. Not at all. Certainly no where NEAR the extent to which the Falsewells, Dobsons, etc. do it.



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moderatelad

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:18 pm


Dear Jim Wallis and Jim Dobson – Why don’t we just forget the debate and move on with your individual ministries and their missions statements. I see no need to cause either of you any embarrassment or the greater Christian community. You both have a vision and I believe that if you keep focused on that you will find more than enough people in the Christian community that will come along side of you and your organizations. So – who ever threw down the gauntlet – please pick it up and lets not go here and argue ‘my issue is bigger than your issue’ (this whole thing seems to be dwindling down to an argument that naughty little boys have behind the barn) Later – .



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:50 pm


moderatelad — What you’re suggesting is absolutely impossible, never mind inadvisable. We Christians didn’t get to where we are, especially in this country, by standing for nothing, and if a ministry is not focused on Christ we have a responsibility to say so because it affects us down the road. This is not the time or place for “post-modern” thinking with truth being determined by social or cultural norms; there is a right and a wrong, whether it has to do with issues or how to go about addressing them.



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Carl Copas

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:28 pm


Gratia: “We must tirelessly forgive each other (as individuals and institutions) for harsh words as Christ forgave us, and come to grips with a new way to communicate, debate, converse, and pray with each other (as individuals and institutions) in a way that the onlooking and curious internet world will know us by our love.” Amen sister.



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Kevin K (yet another Kevin)

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:35 pm


John Holmes and Gratia, The points you make resonate strongly with me. If the emerging church conversation is anything, it is about expanding the boundaries of Jesus’ inclusive way to include the whole of mankind. I dare say there are many outside of Christianity who demonstrate the Jesus Way more than many of us who refer to ourselves as Christian. We do the world a huge injustice by allowing bad beliefs to masquerade as good faith and in so doing, misrepresent the message of our Lord and his Kingdom come to earth. The Church has no national boundaries. I think the Internet is having a profound effect on us. It has its weak points for sure, but it has given voice to thousands and easy access to information that would have been difficult to assemble prior to the I-Net’s existence. The “evaluation of our beliefs together” is the agent of change, IMO. If we can begin to know the hearts of others and they can know ours, then this medium may yet accomplish what has not been accomplished to date…the expansion of his Peaceable Kingdom.



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Chris

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:39 pm


I quote Jim Wallis: “the enormous challenges of global poverty, climate change, pandemics that wipe out generations and continents, the trafficking of human beings made in God s image, and the grotesque violations of human rights, even to the point of genocide, are also among the great moral issues that people of faith must be – and already are – addressing.” It strikes me that these are also “sanctity of life” issues and not seperate from it. When “sanctity of life” is reduced simply to anti-abortion, that is a travesty. What about what Jim mentions as quoted above along with child healthcare, the death penalty, the ghetto-ization of poverty, etc?



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moderatelad

posted March 16, 2007 at 8:37 pm


Rick Nowlin | 03.16.07 – 11:55 am | #You might be right – but…Dobson’s letter was to someone else other than Wallis. Why is Wallis attacking Dobson? ‘Dobson’ has a view’ and so does ‘Wallis’ – let them communicate to the general Christian community and bring the people to themselves that have the same vision / heartbeat. Dobson has prioritized his list of issues as well as Wallis – so work on your list and leave the other alone.Later – .



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Kevin K (yet another Kevin)

posted March 16, 2007 at 8:38 pm


Chris, I don’t believe they can be separated. However, since we aren’t organized enough (or have the unified will) to take on all of these at the same time, it comes down to prioritizing. The Church certainly has the means and resources available to work all fronts at once, but perhaps not the will…as yet. It is from the likes of Jim, Sojourners, McLaren, Butler-Bass and all of us who seek to practice our faith and inviting all to a seat at the table, that the din is growing louder. I have great hope that there is major change in the winds and those winds are God’s great unifying Spirit at work in HIS church.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 16, 2007 at 8:49 pm


Dobson has prioritized his list of issues as well as Wallis – so work on your list and leave the other alone. Not so long as Dobson has the biggest microphone. You forget that this blog exists to give a voice to us progressive evangelicals long locked out of religious media; because we too belong to the Body of Christ we also are entitled to be heard. Are Dobson and his syncophants the only one who “hears from God”? Of course not — but he doesn’t even want to acknowledge our existence.



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Kevin K (yet another Kevin)

posted March 16, 2007 at 9:07 pm


Rick, It certainly has appeared to me just as you describe it. But I’ll bet Dobson is having to acknowledge us now. And if he really “hears” us, perhaps it is not too much to hope that one day he’ll bring his substantial resources (and megaphone) and join in our common mission? He wants a resurgence of morality? Then let’s BE the people of God, not just argue about it.



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tt

posted March 16, 2007 at 9:39 pm


It might be ideal if they each did ‘their thing’ but Dobson is the one who made a very public declaration calling for Cizek’s resignation. Unfortunately that really needs to be responded to. People do wonder if in fact Dobson speaks for all Christians, at one time I think he spoke for a lot more than he does now, but I think a response was called for and necessary



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 16, 2007 at 10:13 pm


But I’ll bet Dobson is having to acknowledge us now. I’ll believe that the day Jim Wallis is invited on his show. He wants a resurgence of morality? Then let’s BE the people of God, not just argue about it. Sounds good to me, except that with the religious right ideology trumps religion.



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Jonathan

posted March 16, 2007 at 10:35 pm


If Wallis wants to reframe a potential “big debate” with Dobson as a “conversation” instead, why did the Sojo Mail item I received in my inbox still bear the subject line “The Great Debate”? I don’t like the way this seems to feed the hype of such a rendezvous. Whatever comes of this, I hope we all remember that humanity is larger than any two men, and God is even larger.



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Kevin K (yet another Kevin)

posted March 16, 2007 at 11:48 pm


Rick, Yeah, that ideology seems to leave little room for discussion. By having to acknowledge us now, I mean that the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, for Dobson I believe, and he knows it. He aligned himself too closely with an narrow ideology that is reaching its zenith…and none too soon, IMO. Jonathan’s statement about humanity being larger than any two men is right on the money. And indeed, God trumps all. I’m not sure a debate would be helpful. At the end of the day, no one really wins an argument. Wasted breath. I think the best approach is to focus on the task at hand and BE the heart and soul of a practicing Christianity. To those naysayers such as Dobson, et al, I say follow or get the heck out of the way.



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Lorne Bandy

posted March 17, 2007 at 6:30 am


The more I read about this controversy, the more pity I feel for Dobson and the rest of those who are criticizing Cizik and the National Association of Evangelicals. I have read “the letter” several times now, and it is clear to me that Richard Cizik is not simply being maligned for promoting the NAE’s goals of good “Creation Care.” Peppered throughout the letter are harsh suggestions that Mr. Cizik is guilty of far more egregious sins. He (and the NAE as an organization, which has totally backed Cizik up on this matter) have decided to stand up for a controversial cause that up until now has been championed both scientifically and politically by “the liberals.” As a fundamentalist evangelical since forever, I can attest from a firsthand point of view that anything or anybody liberal is considered anathema (cursed to damnation) by conservative political activists. There was a time in my life that I too, used the word liberal as a curse word, fired off with the same vitriol as one would use a racial or sexist slur. I only thank God for His mercy and forgiveness in changing my heart and mind from those days of ignorance. Dobson and his fellow conservative political leaders have held the “us versus them” attitude towards liberals for so long that anybody within the world of Christendom, especially those calling themselves evangelicals, who would AGREE with the same moral, scientific–or God forbid–political position as that of a any liberal, would be considered a backslider and duped by the devil himself! How truly sad that this black-and white thinking has driven a divide deeply into the minds of so many conservative Christians that moral and social issues that are embraced by liberals are considered off limits for their own consideration as worthy moral causes. Remember the letter specifically criticized Cizik and his organization for hijacking the real political agenda of the conservative right in saying, More importantly, we have observed that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children. The widespread implications of this are the thing that sadden me the most about these evangelical conservative leaders. I honestly they are not willing to face the other great moral issues of our times largely because they are not willing to rub shoulders with those who are already working on some of those issues those evil liberals. For decades now it has often been the more liberal minded activists in America who have been calling for not only better creation care, but also for elimination of poverty, racial and economic equality in our criminal justice system, quality education for all Americans, sensible sex education that will eliminate unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease before the fact instead of trying to deal with them afterwards, and many more great moral issues. But if certain Christian evangelicals refuse to ACKNOWLEDGE these problems as valid moral issues of our day let alone organize together to respond to them simply because they are moral issues championed by liberals, I believe the evangelical church will be forced to split into two camps. Those who are willing to address ALL moral issues of our time, or those who are only willing to narrowly focus on those which have been chosen as approved by the true conservative evangelicals as unspoiled by liberal hands. I honestly believe the words of the prophet Amos are just as true today as they were millennia ago: “I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice oceans of it. I want fairness rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want. Amos 5:21-24 TMG



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 17, 2007 at 4:24 pm


For decades now it has often been the more liberal minded activists in America who have been calling for not only better creation care, but also for elimination of poverty, racial and economic equality in our criminal justice system, quality education for all Americans, sensible sex education that will eliminate unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease before the fact instead of trying to deal with them afterwards, and many more great moral issues. But if certain Christian evangelicals refuse to ACKNOWLEDGE these problems as valid moral issues of our day let alone organize together to respond to them simply because they are moral issues championed by liberals, I believe the evangelical church will be forced to split into two camps. Those who are willing to address ALL moral issues of our time, or those who are only willing to narrowly focus on those which have been chosen as approved by the true conservative evangelicals as unspoiled by liberal hands. Which is precisely why their influence is waning today — people are starting to “get it.” I’ve always been an evangelical but personally have never ducked these issues, and to this day some people think I’m some sort of liberal (for believing the Word of God — can you believe it?). Bear in mind, however, that the NAE generally comprises CHURCHES while these religious right-wingers generally don’t represent any particular assembly (Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy are exceptions) but rather parachurch groups, which means the people in the churches are very likely more concerned about racism and poverty at the grass-roots level. And BTW, it was evangelical “liberals” who fought abortion at the turn of the last century (but not by sloganeering the way it’s done today), took down slavery in the 19th Century and started groups to help the poor. It was the African-American church, with few conservatives, that started the civil-rights movement. So if the right thinks that God moves only through them … history is not on their side.



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Jon B

posted March 17, 2007 at 4:26 pm


I enjoy listening to Jim W. He speaks of getting envolved in a civil war in Sudan…but not Iraq. He speaks of keeping the environment clean…but you would never know that the US is a leader in that, our factories comply with strict state and federal requirements.I understand that there are personal and community Christian Morals. I would like to remind Jim that the personal morals shape the community morals. Jim W. seems to be silent on personal Christian Morals, which is the Sojo mission to confuse people of faith.Each article bashes the current administration, while forgetting that Congress approved the invasion of Iraq.So I guess my closing thoughts would be…We see your endgame Jim W. Personally I would like to hear more on the life saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. And if I am remembering correctly Jesus comes and saves this planet also.



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Payshun

posted March 17, 2007 at 7:05 pm


To be fair Rick the civil rights era was a hodge podge of fighters. There were athiests, and agnostics that fought by our side as well. They deserve to be acknowledged too. But you are right though evangelicals were part of the key to fighting slavery during the nineteenth century. Big up to the Catholic church too, they were huge in the underground railroad and also the Quakers were some of the first people to stand against slavery. p



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Ken Anderson

posted March 17, 2007 at 8:36 pm


I am concerned about the devisive nature of some of these remarks and the personal attacks by those who disagree. I think the operative word here is that there are many issues that concern Christians today not just a few. I am reminded of the comparison of the body of Christ to a physical body 1 Cor 12:12-31. We have many gifts, many challenges, many missions to fulfill the completing work of our Lord. We need not all attempt to be a hand or an eye or to say to the other we don’t need them. Let us support the work each is called to and not feel that the work of the hand detracts from the mission of the foot.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 17, 2007 at 8:39 pm


I understand that there are personal and community Christian Morals. I would like to remind Jim that the personal morals shape the community morals. Jim W. seems to be silent on personal Christian Morals, which is the Sojo mission to confuse people of faith. You obviously never read “God’s Politics,” a chapter of which he led with the halftime show that culminated in Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” and which he dubbed the “Super Bowl of Sleaze” because of all the bumping and grinding going on. To be fair Rick the civil rights era was a hodge podge of fighters. There were athiests, and agnostics that fought by our side as well. They deserve to be acknowledged too. In my view, that kind of secularism sabotaged the movement because it got the focus off God. It has not recovered since.



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Paul

posted March 17, 2007 at 11:31 pm


Ken Anderson, Wise words, thank you. cheers, Paul



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Payshun

posted March 18, 2007 at 10:34 am


Rick, This is where I disagree. What got the focus off of God was not the inclusion of athiests, it was SNCC and other’s infighting for control and power. You see many black people just did not want to do the non-violence thing. That had a bigger impact than any of the other outcasts (athiests, agnostics) that were part of the movement.In the end it was Christians that destroyed that movement and we have not had the balls to deal w/ it ever since. p



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 18, 2007 at 9:50 pm


I am concerned about the divisive nature of some of these remarks and the personal attacks by those who disagree. I think the operative word here is that there are many issues that concern Christians today not just a few. I am reminded of the comparison of the body of Christ to a physical body 1 Cor 12:12-31. We have many gifts, many challenges, many missions to fulfill the completing work of our Lord. We need not all attempt to be a hand or an eye or to say to the other we don’t need them. Let us support the work each is called to and not feel that the work of the hand detracts from the mission of the foot. This sounds nice, but we Christians cannot ever be unified just for its own sake. Liberal churches were so into just “getting along” that they forgot they were in a spiritual war and thus became powerless to effect change by the Holy Spirit. In other words, we all have to be committed to truth and the rejection of error. In the end it was Christians that destroyed that movement and we have not had the balls to deal w/ it ever since. Oh, I don’t agree. It’s just that King’s message did not resonate much outside the South, and it was Northern blacks who weren’t that much into faith and thus rejected non-violence — most race riots to this day aren’t in the South.



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Amazon Creek

posted March 19, 2007 at 8:21 am


To Rick: I’m sorry, I probably left the wrong impression if my post sounded like I thought we shouldn’t be involved in politics ever. Yes, yes – I DO think we need to point out when the values in politics are wrong. That highlights what God’s values are. “Shine out among them like stars in the sky.” Philippians 2 But…it’s the “power” thingy that can get addictive. To really succeed in politics – you need POWER. And Satan wasn’t kidding when he offered all the kingdoms of this world to Jesus Christ. As John so clearly states in the Scriptures – the world listens to those of -surprise, suprise! The world! Rick, I’ve been involved in politics – and am not against doing stuff like that in the future. But…to really get anywhere you would have to compromise your values. I don’t like what I’ve seen it do to people. To someone up above (I forgot who) Yes – I definitely see a huge contrast between Dobson’s earlier ministry and that of now. Back in the 70′s and 80′s – Dobson used to be a voice of reason and moderation. Now…it’s like he’s energized by some really bad energy. Someone on another board shared something Dobsen had written about a fight he had with his dog, Ziggy – about where the dog could sleep and when he was to go to bed. The whole thing sounded ridiculous (maybe it’s because I have cats, and not dogs) – like…my cats sleep in all sorts of spots and get up and roam my apartment at night….who cares if they aren’t hurting anything? But the article went on with Dobsen detailing this grand battle that ensued between him and this dog, Ziggy – about who was going to be the master of “bedtime for Ziggy”. Dobsen made it sound like the epic of the decade! And anymore…that’s how Dobsen comes across. “I am the Master.” Everyone should go cringing over to their little doggie beds and stay there until Mr. Dobsen gives his permission that it is indeed now morning and “getting up” has now been authorized. I don’t know…perhaps dogs like being treated that way. My cats would surely NEVER tolerate such treatment. And I would never think of treating a pet that way – unless they were doing damage to my furniture – or doing something harmful to themselves. And hey, my cats are not unruly. They LOVE me – and they seek to do what pleases me because they love me. I also have parakeets – and my cats do not go after my parakeets – because they know I love those parakeets and they are never to go near them. My cats don’t even chase squirrels or birds outside – just because they know I don’t like it. They will just sit there and watch. Am I making sense? That article really stands out in my mind as a real BINGO! It so captured the attitudes and energy I pick up from Dobsen anymore. It was really goofy. Trying to win a war with a little dog… Like who’s more adult – the dog or this man? I read an article in a newspaper recently by a pastor who had attended a meeting where Dobsen showed up to speak. And he described this scary energy that suddenly took over the place. Mob psychology. Know what I mean? Mobs are scary. Mob psychology – even if you agree with what they’re doing – is scary. It’s controlling.



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Paul

posted March 19, 2007 at 3:05 pm


Amazon Creek, Article references please? cheers, Paul



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Kevin K (yet another Kevin)

posted March 19, 2007 at 8:05 pm


Rick and Payshun, Obviousley, the racial issues in the 60′s were very complex. Those of us who were active during those years may recall things differently depending on what part of the country we lived. After the early and heady times of the movement, I remember the growing influence of Stokely Carmichael, then H. Rap Brown, etc. The groups (SNCC, CORE) became more militant in the later ’60′s and many who espoused non-violence became disenchanted and left the movement. When the Christians allowed this power shift, some, seizing opportunity in the wake of the movement’s success, abused their power and thus compromised the early spirit of the movement. It has not recovered. Are there any instances when corruption has not resulted from the reckless use of power?



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Tim

posted March 22, 2007 at 3:54 am


Jon B says: “He [Wallis] speaks of keeping the environment clean…but you would never know that the US is a leader in that, our factories comply with strict state and federal requirements.” notice that the standards Jon refers to to make his judgement that the U.S. is a leader in keeping the environment clean are, you guessed it, U.S. state and federal standards!! this is but another blatant example of the Americentrism I keep telling these blogs about; for anyone conversant with international environmental standards, Jon’s claim that the U.S. is an environmental leader is, of course, nonsenseso the U.S. is a leader of the U.S., well, as church lady would say, “isn’t that special?”



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gary moore

posted March 23, 2007 at 2:45 pm


with due respect to both dobson and wallis as both have achieved considerable if off-setting goals, from a biblical perspective, neither has seen the greatest moral issue of our age: the root of all evil. many social pathologies that both consider paramount are, at root, due to the widening gap between the haves and have-nots in both american culture and, increasingly, the world.the church, both conservative and liberal, must accept considerable responsibility for that, through both sins of omission, as detailed in david miller’s new book “god at work,” and comission. for example, just after the economist recently detailed the average human being stewards about $2,100 of net worth, an influential church has chosen to distribute an article from a leading “christian” financial advisory service about why $800,000 may not be enough for christians during retirement.when dobson looked at publishing my first book twenty years ago, i had to tell his senior book editor that focus’ retirement funds were financing casino gambling. when i recently challenged my local sojourner’s development officer to speak more directly, and specifically, about economic morality, he replied politics must remain its primary focus.focus and sojourners, and the rest of us, need to grasp why jesus never wasted valuable time lobbying pilate or caesar. at the very least, we might reflect on burke’s wisdom that a sick society must focus on politics just as a sick man focuses on his stomach. we won’t cure our society, or increasingly the money cultures of the world, until we get to the root of our cultural pathologies, which are economic.gary moore



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Sarah Arnold

posted March 26, 2007 at 5:42 pm


I don’t see how Gary Moore could accuse Wallace of not focusing on the “haves and have nots” issue–he’s done that all his life. On the question of the debate I agree it is the most important issue of our time. Without a livable planet all bets are off for our children and grandchildren. We don’t know when Christ will return. In the meantime we are told to take care of the creation as good stewards. Let the debate begin–but it’s a no-brainer to my mind who the winner should be. Sarah Arnold



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Mazie

posted April 4, 2007 at 9:13 pm


When you all at Sojo talk about “human” rights, I hope this includes gay and lesbian rights. We are human too, but most people in the evangelical community don’t think so. I would like a clarification of this position from Jim Wallis and the Sojo staff.



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Bryan

posted June 14, 2007 at 9:06 am


Reading this page was a learning experience for me. I learned that conservatives can’t spell and have no sense of humor. Of course, I already knew that Dobson was insane, so I didn’t learn anything new about his character. But at least he uses spell-check.>



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