God's Politics

God's Politics


Jim Wallis: Sam Brownback Says ‘The Poor Will Save Our Souls’

posted by gp_intern

Sen. Sam Brownback and I don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue or policy, but he’s been a faithful ally in our efforts to forge a grand alliance of conservatives and liberals to fight poverty – something he and I agree this country needs. He was also part of our Pentecost conference last year. He just did an interview with Beliefnet’s David Kuo, in which he made some of his clearest statements ever on the issue. You can watch the video or read the transcript here, but here are a few good quotes:

I would agree wholeheartedly that we’re not doing everything that we can or should for the poor, and that hurts us. The poor will save our souls. It’s the story of Lazarus and the rich man. I mean, and that story haunts me because it’s a story about us today. You know, Lazarus is a poor man laid at the rich man’s doorstep and even has sores that dogs lick. … Lazarus goes to the bosom of Abraham, and the rich man goes to hell. And he says, “Lazarus, help me out.” Well, I can’t. And I just look at that, and I just go, if we just engage the poor, they’ll save our souls. And that’s what I look at when I see – and go into Africa or poverty situations here, or even in prisons, and you actually talk with people.

On the relationship between faith and politics:

I do believe in the separation of church and state. But I don’t think separation of church and state means you have to be free from your faith. My faith informs everything I think and do. It’s part of my value system. And to suggest that I can somehow separate and divorce that from the rest of me is not possible. I would not, under any circumstances, try to impose my personal faith and belief on the rest of the country. I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think that’s appropriate. But freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion. And I think that anything we can do to promote the idea that people should express their faith is a good thing.

It’s also interesting that he’s talking about the need for revival. I’m believing more and more that politics alone cannot overcome poverty and our other great social problems. I don’t think it’s a choice between a political and spiritual solution, and it looks like Brownback and I share some similar hopes for revival. Even if we don’t agree on every detail about exactly how such a movement of the spirit will inform our policies, we do agree on the historical imperative:

You’ve got the lowest level of family formation ever, in terms of marriages. You still have seriously high divorce rates. There are more people in prison per capita than in any other country in the world. Is there a historical precedent for turning this around with anything other than mass revival – in other words, through a religious conversion as opposed to something political?

I’ve asked that very question of historians, and they haven’t been able to cite one to me. I think those two move together. When you look at – I think one of the more recent examples that is somewhat close to it would be pre-Victorian England in the late 1700’s, early 1800’s, and you had the Wesley brothers that came forward with Methodism. And then, you had the political movement that moved on top of it … and the end of the slave trade took place. But, you had a culture then that was starting to deteriorate, and then was revived. And then, that revived culture then took on big topics like the slave trade.

Perhaps most refreshing in a politician is this level of humility:

I still have a lot of judgmentalism in me, where I’d see somebody and I just would, you know, I disagree with this person, and you kind of automatically cast them away. And even though you don’t do anything physically, you don’t say anything, but people get a real sense of your heart. And I think that’s probably the place that [God would] be most displeased.

I recommend reading or watching the entire interview as an important part of the ongoing discussion of faith and politics that we’re always glad is taking place.



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Aaron

posted May 9, 2007 at 9:23 pm


Anyone who cannot accept basic scientific facts and theories is disqualified to lead the nation. The minute he raised his hand (and it’s a yes/no question, no qualifiers needed, he should have been dismissed from the Republican presidential debate.



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kevin s.

posted May 9, 2007 at 9:27 pm


Bi-partisan support for Brownback.



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jesse

posted May 9, 2007 at 9:41 pm


Brownback is a decent guy, but I really don’t think this qualifies as “some of his clearest statements ever” on poverty. What does “the poor will save our souls” mean?



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TimR

posted May 9, 2007 at 10:39 pm


Wallis really likes to talk about wanting bi-partisan support for fighting poverty. The only agreement between Wallis and Brownback that is seen in this post is that we should fight poverty. Great. Agreed. Now for the tricky part actually fighting poverty. It sounds great to say that we should put partisan politics aside because poverty is more important that politics. But how? There are two very different ideologies on how to fight poverty. It seems that the main thing Wallis cares about is, raising awareness. I know talking about how bad you feel about poor people can make you feel more compassionate, but it doesn t make anyone less poor.



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Ngchen

posted May 9, 2007 at 11:52 pm


Bravo! (And no I don’t mean that sarcastically.) Finally an area of agreement between the left and right. All too frequently people are only interested in demonizing the other side, without even stopping to consider the other person’s points. With regard to poverty, I submit that the solution is both the establishment (or maintainence) of some sort of reasonable safety net, in addition to fair work rules etc. Coupled with that, yes get people out of their spiritual slumber and strengthen families. The latter is something that government can do very little about, yet it is essential.



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Sarasotakid

posted May 10, 2007 at 3:00 am


Anyone who cannot accept basic scientific facts and theories is disqualified to lead the nation. The minute he raised his hand (and it’s a yes/no question, no qualifiers needed, he should have been dismissed from the Republican presidential debate. AaronI respectfully disagree. Those who know me in this room, know that I can be unrelenting in my opposition to conservatives. Brownback has the right to believe whatever he wants about creation vs. evolution. That said, if he tries to impose some form of creationism in the public schools (whether it be the teaching of “intelligent design” or something of the sort) then I will gladly join you in opposing him. Furthermore, for other reasons I would not support him. But I would not hold his belief about the creation of the world against him.



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Bert

posted May 10, 2007 at 3:12 am


Jim Wallis understands that it is heresy and misleading theology to associate Jesus specifically with the policies of the Democratic party. After all, isn’t that what we’re criticizing the other side for? As such, Jim specifically reaches out to Republicans in dialog on poverty and peace related issues. At no point does he ever compromise his progressive credentials by doing this. He simply sees that it is a good idea to start engaging in some mutually respectful dialog with the other side. When progressive Christians say that Jim shouldn’t even be talking to Brownback, that’s unChristian and unproductive.



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l'etranger

posted May 10, 2007 at 3:23 am


Great post and a good response Bert. Hopefully this should act as a useful corrective against the “Wallis is a shill for the Democrats” tendency.



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l'etranger

posted May 10, 2007 at 3:24 am


That said, amongst the republicans I think Huckabee is probably a better candidate -same sorts of values as Brownback but less ideological in policy terms



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moderatelad

posted May 10, 2007 at 2:38 pm


Bert | 05.09.07 – 9:17 pm | #Jim Wallis understands that it is heresy and misleading theology to associate Jesus specifically with the policies of the Democratic party. After all, isn’t that what we’re criticizing the other side for? It seems that Wallis is becoming the ‘Robertson’ for the liberal believers. What he accuses more conservative religious leaders of doing with or for the Republican Party – he is basicly doing for the Democratic Party. (pot and kettle comes to mind) have a great day! .



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Rick Nowlin

posted May 10, 2007 at 2:57 pm


It seems that Wallis is becoming the ‘Robertson’ for the liberal believers. What he accuses more conservative religious leaders of doing with or for the Republican Party – he is basicly doing for the Democratic Party. (pot and kettle comes to mind) This is false, and you know it. Wallis has been doing this since the 1970s and will keep on doing it even if he weren’t so “hot.” And you also never hear about Robertson working with people on the other side; even from a theological viewpoint he believes only in defeating it to promote is own private interests.



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Donny

posted May 10, 2007 at 3:57 pm


Before revival can happen, the truth must be in place and preached without error. Something Progressive politics will not allow. I do not look forward to an America ruled by Hollywood poor du jour causes. Once the camaeras are gone, so is that kind of help. Jim, you talk a good game, but are found so wanting upon testing. Progressive theology cannot replace the Truth of the Gospel for this secular humanistic lie that is at the very heart of everything progressive. It is more like Sodom and Gomorrah is the fruit of progressive idelogy and sadly its theolgy. When every social ill can be proven as the result of “liberalism,” progressives, need to be asked to leave the Christian debate or repent and be returned to the Church.



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Rick Nowlin

posted May 10, 2007 at 5:03 pm


Progressive theology cannot replace the Truth of the Gospel for this secular humanistic lie that is at the very heart of everything progressive. It is more like Sodom and Gomorrah is the fruit of progressive ideology and sadly its theology. Donny — please go away for the sake of the Kingdom, for you have no role in it and in essence are promoting a false gospel. You are the type of person who may get an unpleasant surprise when you get to the judgment — “I never knew you.” FYI, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed more by greed, arrogance and selfishness than by immorality — and, in my view, conservatives have historically had more of a corner on that than the “liberals.”



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Blake

posted May 10, 2007 at 5:07 pm


Wallis: “I’m believing more and more that politics alone cannot overcome poverty and our other great social problems.” Does this statement trouble anybody else? Wallis is coming to this realization now? So Wallis, at some point, believed that politics alone was the answer to the problems of our society?



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Blake

posted May 10, 2007 at 5:11 pm


Rick Nowlin: “You are the type of person who may get an unpleasant surprise when you get to the judgment — “I never knew you.” Rick, I think most of us would agree that Donny is out of line, but your implied judgement on his soul is probably out of line here. Biblically, it’s the type of judgement that warned against. I like your thoughts, Rick, although I don’t always agree. But I thought that was a bit too much. Sincerely,



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Aaron

posted May 10, 2007 at 5:18 pm


But I would not hold his belief about the creation of the world against him. I would have to disagree Sarasotakid, the inability to acknowledge basic scientific principles shows an underlying deficiency in cognitive function, I greatly question his decision making capability.



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moderatelad

posted May 10, 2007 at 5:20 pm


Rick Nowlin | 05.10.07 – 9:02 am | #This is false, and you know it. Wallis has been doing this since the 1970s and will keep on doing it even if he weren’t so “hot.” First of all, I stated that he was ‘becoming’ not that he ‘is’. From what I have been able to dig out of much of what Wallis has written. He claims that he is reaching across political lines to achieve his objectives. I do not doubt that he is trying. His claim a few months ago about bringing church leaders together on ‘climate change’ and that even conservative groups and denominations were joining him was an interesting use of statics. First – it was about 85 denominations that he listed but some of them had more than one person from the same denomination. (mine was one of them) Now – I believe that their are over 9000+ registered denominations in the US – so he has a small percentage. Second – denominational leaders joining him. Several of them were mega church pastors and not elected denominational leaders. Third – several of them that were there at this gathering were people that are leaders of mostly conservative denominations but personally are Democrates/Liberals. (again – the two from mine are democrates – wonderful people but no way did they represent our denomination in this situation) So – yes, many of Wallis’ tactics are very simular to those that he blasts for doing the same thing. Have a great day . ps – it depends on what your description of ‘hot’ is. (just kidding) .



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curiouser and curiouser...

posted May 10, 2007 at 5:30 pm


Donny is ALWAYS “out of line”. “Before revival can happen, the truth must be in place and preached without error.” We don’t see any “truth” in your posts, Donny, only maligning. That is why you are not believed.



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Mike Hayes

posted May 10, 2007 at 6:10 pm


Jim Wallis, How encouraging it is to hear from conservatives like Sam Brownback who value poverty assistance, in the world’s poorest countries and here in the US. Thanks for letting us know!



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kevin s.

posted May 10, 2007 at 7:10 pm


“You are the type of person who may get an unpleasant surprise when you get to the judgment — “I never knew you.”” Um, no… Seeing liberal political values as the end-all, be-all of heresy may be a spurious conclusion, but it does not render null one’s salvation. You have said some pretty exreme things about conservatives yourself.”Does this statement trouble anybody else? Wallis is coming to this realization now?” If he is coming to the realization at all. That’s the whole problem with claiming to have an authoratative grasp on God’s political views on all things from poverty to Social Security to abortion.



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kevin s.

posted May 10, 2007 at 7:13 pm


“I would have to disagree Sarasotakid, the inability to acknowledge basic scientific principles shows an underlying deficiency in cognitive function, I greatly question his decision making capability.” There are plenty of people with strong cognitive functions who are capable of defending the creationism. Remember, evolution cannot explain the origins of the universe, which essentially remain a paradox from a scientific viewpoint.(I could anticipate the response here, but I won’t).



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Rick Nowlin

posted May 10, 2007 at 7:26 pm


Does this statement trouble anybody else? Wallis is coming to this realization now? So Wallis, at some point, believed that politics alone was the answer to the problems of our society? I don’t think he believed that politics was God — what he probably should have said was that his belief was confirmed. I think most of us would agree that Donny is out of line, but your implied judgment on his soul is probably out of line here. Biblically, it’s the type of judgment that warned against. Scripture says clearly that if your faith is not producing spiritual fruit it’s useless, and even Ron Sider has made similar statements. I see no fruit in Donny, just half-baked and uninformed inanities. Seeing liberal political values as the end-all, be-all of heresy may be a spurious conclusion, but it does not render null one’s salvation. That’s not what I’m talking about — see above. While God does call for repentance, He does not replace one form of extremist attitude with another. You have said some pretty extreme things about conservatives yourself.No, I haven’t — they just sound extreme because most people haven’t done the research I have, and besides that conservatives usually don’t accept what I say about them anyway. From what I have been able to dig out of much of what Wallis has written. He claims that he is reaching across political lines to achieve his objectives. I do not doubt that he is trying. His claim a few months ago about bringing church leaders together on ‘climate change’ and that even conservative groups and denominations were joining him was an interesting use of statics. Well, you can invite all you want but people still have to accept. In my experience the conservatives will want to set the agenda and control the debate, and Wallis’ presence won’t allow them to do that. He apparently has, as you suggest, picked off a few who will join with him and he may have to settle for that for now.



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curiouser and curiouser...

posted May 10, 2007 at 7:57 pm


“That’s the whole problem with claiming to have an authoratative grasp on God’s political views on all things from poverty to Social Security to abortion.” But don’t Conservatives CLAIM to “have an authoratative grasp on God’s political views on all things”? The ones who post here sure seem to.



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kevin s.

posted May 10, 2007 at 8:10 pm


“No, I haven’t — they just sound extreme because most people haven’t done the research I have, and besides that conservatives usually don’t accept what I say about them anyway.” Well, you have done the research and come to the conclusion that conservatives are pursuing evil, while liberals are largely altruisitic in their endeavors. One might argue that you brought certain suppositions to the table before your research began. Your argument seems to be that your commentary is acceptable to God because you are right (you have done the research, after all). I don’t see how this speaks to the question of one’s salvation. There are those on the liberal side of things who are just as histrionic as Donny. People tend to say things online that they would never say in real life. But I don’t think commentary on Jim Wallis’ blog is going to make or break eternity, to be honest with you.



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Aaron

posted May 10, 2007 at 8:19 pm


There are plenty of people with strong cognitive functions who are capable of defending the creationism. Sure, so long as it’s not a scientific defense. Handwaving and magical beings can do anything afterall. Remember, evolution cannot explain the origins of the universe, which essentially remain a paradox from a scientific viewpoint.(I could anticipate the response here, but I won’t). If you can correctly anticipate the response, then you know the question is already invalid.



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neuro_nurse

posted May 10, 2007 at 8:35 pm


“Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed more by greed, arrogance and selfishness than by immorality…” Rick Nowlin | 05.10.07 – 11:08 am Ezekiel 16:49 I wonder if people who make comparisons to Sodom and Gomorrah consider the implications of what they are saying. Those people tend to think of themselves as righteous, yet there is no doubt that Abraham was one of the most righteous individuals who ever lived, and what did he do when the Lord told him of His plan to destroy the cities on the plain? He certainly did not say, They had it coming! He begged for God to spare those cities from destruction. Genesis 18:20-32 I ve heard a number of people compare New Orleans to Sodom and imply that Katrina was God s revenge on this city. If that s the case, God must have terrible aim, because He completely missed Bourbon Street! I have talked to some very good Christian New Orleansians who were evacuated before Katrina made landfall, whose homes were damaged, and who are still suffering because of that extremely traumatic event. They resent that comparison! Get over your schadenfreude and think very carefully what righteousness really means. 1 Corinthians 13:5-6 Peace!



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neuro_nurse

posted May 10, 2007 at 8:44 pm


kevin s.,you have done the research and come to the conclusion that conservatives are pursuing evil, while liberals are largely altruistic in their endeavors.Maybe God s Politics is an oxymoron. “There are those on the liberal side of things who are just as histrionic as Donny. People tend to say things online that they would never say in real life.” I completely agree. (Actually, I ve found myself agree with a lot of things your posted this week) The middle ground does exist, it just seems that the people on the extremes are too far away from it to see it. “But I don’t think commentary on Jim Wallis’ blog is going to make or break eternity, to be honest with you.” No, but IMHO those kinds of comments (from both sides) demonstrate uncharitable and un-Christlike attitudes and beliefs. Peace!



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Rick Nowlin

posted May 10, 2007 at 10:43 pm


Well, you have done the research and come to the conclusion that conservatives are pursuing evil, while liberals are largely altruisitic in their endeavors. I didn’t say that. However, what is true is that the kind of conservatism we see in this country is not organic — a network was deliberately built beginning in the 1960s to dominate political life. And since it is hermetically sealed it truly doesn’t understand why and where anyone would disagree with it. That, however, is changing (PTL), with people now crossing the divide to talk with those not like them. Keep in mind that there is not a “religious left” to the same extent as the “religious right” — as I said, the right wasn’t so much formed as built — and thus the left doesn’t have the clout. Indeed, if you ever read “God’s Politics,” you read the story about the reconciliation between Wallis and Bill Bright, who had openly feuded in the 1970s and ’80s. To me, that was the most important part of the book. Donny does not understand this, and since the heart of the Gospel is reconciliation he has no reason to believe in Christ despite the quasi-religious drivel he consistently writes on this blog.



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canucklehead

posted May 11, 2007 at 5:39 am


“When every social ill can be proven as the result of “liberalism…” Donny Woo-hoo. I’m looking forward to reading your treatise, Donny. When will it be out and where might I obtain a copy? Will it be packaged with other classics from dudes like John R. Rice and Bob Jones XXIII?



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Sarasotakid

posted May 12, 2007 at 11:45 am


When every social ill can be proven as the result of “liberalism,” progressives, need to be asked to leave the Christian debate or repent and be returned to the Church. DonnyWhere did you lift that quote from Donny? Torquemada’s (head of the Spanish Inquisition) manual on making the church a “Big Tent” where all are welcome?



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Kevin

posted May 12, 2007 at 11:20 pm


Speaking from my Lutheran up bringing, doing for the poor does not save our own souls. In fact it is the wrong and selfish motivation. In the Christian faith, the undeserved gift of Christ is the saving act and we then turn and offer the same underserved grace to others. The poor included. No strings attached. I help not to help myself, but because there is a need and it is my call to do so.



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neuro_nurse

posted May 13, 2007 at 10:28 pm


every social ill can be proven as the result of “liberalism,”Is that in your Bible? Because mine says, the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil 1 Timothy 6:10



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Don

posted May 13, 2007 at 10:43 pm


Kevin, I agree. I’m a Lutheran also, and I was troubled by the title of this post for exactly the same reasons. Thanks,



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Gisella Perezarce

posted May 16, 2007 at 1:06 am


I’ve prayed for Brownback for many years although I’m also a liberal and support Wallis. I really appreciate the ability of Brownback and Obama to work together on Foreign Policy issues like the Sudan or other African related issues. God is among the poor and the greatest among us is the servant. God is blessing those who see that at this time in history.



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