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God's Politics

I guess we suspected it all along, but now we have proof: Jim Wallis is a left-wing, anti-capitalist.
That’s the apparent message behind the dismissal of Andrew Paquin from the faculty of Colorado Christian University. Until Monday, Paquin was a professor of global studies who also is executive director of something called the 10/10 Project, a Colorado-based international advocacy organization that promotes development in Africa. Last year, Paquin, a popular teacher, had been named “faculty member of the year.”
His crime? According to the Rocky Mountain News, the school’s president, Bill Armstrong, former U.S. senator from Colorado, fired Paquin “amid concerns that his lessons were too radical and undermined the school’s commitment to the free enterprise system.” Specifically, Paquin had the temerity to ask his students to read books by Peter Singer, the animal-rights ethicist at Princeton University, and by our friend Jim Wallis.
This whole episode could be a reprise of the Nixon-era “enemies list,” when people who did not make the list sent condolence notes to one another. In this case, if your book didn’t appear on Paquin’s reading list, somehow it missed the mark.
I guess I wasn’t aware that capitalism was under siege – what with the collapse of the Soviet empire and China’s headlong rush into a market-based economy. But the president of Colorado Christian University apparently feels otherwise. Capitalism, in fact, appears to be Jesus’ preferred economic system.
“I don’t think there is another system that is more consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ,” Armstrong told the Rocky Mountain News. “What the university stands for, among other things, is free markets.”
Armstrong didn’t specify exactly how the writings of Singer or Wallis contradicted his beloved free-market ideology. Paquin’s own non-profit actually offers mirco-loans to help Africans start small businesses, and he has plenty of nice things to say about capitalism. “But,” he told the Rocky Mountain News, “I’d stop short of deifying it.”
Colorado Christian University, based in Lakewood, Colorado, adopted a set of “strategic objectives” last year, one of which was the desire to “impact our culture in support of traditional family values, sanctity of life, compassion for the poor, biblical view of human nature, limited government, personal freedom, free markets, natural law, original intent of the Constitution and Western civilization.”
Armstrong told the Rocky Mountain News that he was “probably” part of the Religious Right.
Trust me, Bill. You qualify.

Randall Balmer is professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University and a visiting professor at Yale Divinity School. He very much hopes that his book, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America, was on Andrew Paquin’s reading list. His latest book, God in the White House: A History, will be released in January.

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