Jim Wallis, God's Politics
|God's Politics: Why The Right Is Wrong and The Left
Doesn't Get It
by Jim Wallis, San Francisco: Harpers, 2005
A review by Dr. Robert Boehlke
On November 3, 2004 about half the voters were devastated
by the election results. After all the hard work by new and old voters,
George Bush had been reelected. Based on the failures of the Bush
administration in Iraq and the mismanagement of the economy, the election
should have been the proverbial "slam dunk" for the Kerry-Edwards ticket.
Part of the answer is provided by this book. Its author is the founder and
editor of Sojourners magazine. He is an evangelical with a
prophetic consciousness akin to that of Micah and Amos.
Unlike some religious persons with strong convictions, he
is more concerned about seeking common ground with opponents than in
demonizing them. He rejects the Religious Right's side for knowing that same
sex marriages are the cause for the breakdown of marriage and the family.
Heterosexuals cause the breakdown of marriage! But problems of family
nurture are real and need the support of both Left and Right in finding
solutions. Over against the Religious Right, he insists that same sex
couples must have all the rights of other couples. Instead of an
constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman, it
might be wiser to have marriage be authorized via a civil ritual only. Then
it would be up to local religious bodies to decide whether they would also
bless those unions with a religious rite as well. But he urges the Left to
recognize that parenting needs the financial support of society but also its
culture for positive nurturing. Allowing an "anything goes" society needs
reconsideration for the sake of the family's well-being.
Apparently last November, most voters voted their fear of
terrorism and their distrust of the Democrats in terms of "moral values" as
defined by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and the Republican strategists led
by Karl Rove. Did this mean that Democrats did not care about moral and
religious values? Of course not, but according to Wallis, Democrats "…wanted
to restrict religion to the private sphere and were very comfortable with
the language of faith and values even when applied to their own agenda", and
in contrast, Republicans " …wanted to narrowly restrict religion to a short
list of hot-button social issues and obstruct its application to other
matters that would threaten their agenda" (xvii-xviii). Jesus might be
Bush's favorite philosopher, but his policies of war, ill-treatment of
prisoners captured by the military and the favoring of the rich over the
needs of the poor indicate that he has undertaken no more than a superficial
study of the Jesus of the Gospels. Had he studied what Jesus said and did,
then his budget would be not only a statement of receipts and expenditures
but it would be a theological document as well. If Jesus is the president's
Guide, then his priorities would be informed not by Party ideology but by
the Gospel such as suggested by Jesus' first sermon:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has
anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim
release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the
oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor "(Luke
4:-18-19, ala Isaiah 61:1-2). When Jesus had finished reading from this
scroll, he said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your
hearing." (Luke 4:21b).
In contrast to the "wedge issues" of no stem cell
research, no abortion and no same sex marriage, Wallis along with others
proposes more authentic religious values:
We believe that poverty--caring for the poor
and vulnerable--is a religious issue.
Governmental budgets and tax policies should show
compassion for poor families rather than reward the rich. Foreign policies
should include fair trade and debt cancellation for the poorest countries.
(Matthew 2:34-40, Isaiah 10:1-2.
We believe that the environment--caring for God's
earth--is a religious issue.
Policies should protect the creation rather than serve
corporate interests which damage it. (Gen. 2:15, Ps. 24:1)
We believe that war--and our call to be
peacemakers--is a religious issue.
Policies in the name of citizens should respect
international law and cooperation in responding to global threats rather
than in preemptive wars of choice. (Mat. 5:9)
We believe that truth-telling is a religious
Government officials should tell the truth in justifying
war and in other foreign and domestic policies. (John 8:32)
We believe that human rights--respecting the image
of God in every person--is a religious
issue. (Gen. 1:27)
National officials should foster change in attitudes and
policies which led to the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners.
We believe that our response to terrorism is a
National officials should drop the dangerous language of
righteous empire in the war on terrorism which confuse the roles of God,
church, and nation. They should be alert to perceiving evil in our actions
rather than only in our enemies. (Mat. 6:33, Prov. 8:12-13)
We believe that a consistent ethic of human life
is a religious issue.
Policies on abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia,
weapons of mass destruction, HIV/AIDS--and other pandemics--and genocide
around the world should obey the biblical injunction to choose life.
Since God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat,
political leaders should avoid the exploitation of religion or congregations
for partisan political purposes.
All voters should be more thoughtful in evaluating their
leaders' policies rather than claim that God has endorsed a particular
leader. (xxiii-xxiv, with modifications).
Those are Wallis' basic concerns. He then suggests practical
ways by which these concerns can be embodied in our national life. Religious
and civic organizations would find it profitable to use this book as a basis
for study. Whether one is "officially" religious or "secular" or not,
Willis's ideas will challenge current assumptions. May his tribe increase.
The fact that this book continues to be in the top category of the New York
Times Book List must indicate that if nothing else, the last election has
prompted a desire to sort out which religious and moral values are most
This is a volume of singular worth. Some may wish, as I do, that the author
had made his points without telling us how such and such thing happened when
he was involved along with a famous person such as Nelson Mandela. His
exposition would have been just as true and relevant without being burdened
by such baggage. Some may be turned away because of this stylistic tendency
which would be a loss in this reviewer's judgment -- not only to the reader
who put the book aside, but to all persons struggling with politics from the
perspective of religious faith.
- Robert R. Boehlke
Dr. Boehlke is a retired Presbyterian minister
who served for more than 20 years as Prof. of Christian Education at the
Theological Seminary in Jakarta, Indonesia, as a mission co-worker from the
Presbyterian Church (USA). He and his wife, Mary, now live in Richfield, MN.
|Jim Wallis book offers a " national voice
for progressive faith"
This message comes from Sojourners
We have a unique opportunity to lift up a much stronger
national voice for progressive faith. If we can make God's
Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It
a national best-seller, your progressive religious values will be in the
front of bookstores across America!
As the Bush administration prepares to
inaugurate another four years of its policies, together we can raise up a
voice of Christian conscience and a visible alternative to the Religious
Right. The post-election focus on the faith and values issue is offering us
many new opportunities, and the media attention already focused on Jim
Wallis' new book holds the potential for it to become a national
We need your help! If enough
supporters of Sojourners purchase God's Politics today, give copies to
friends, family, and church members, and start study groups in their
congregations and communities, this goal is well within reach.
Help make God's Politics a national best-seller and save
Jim Wallis will soon be touring cities, churches, and
campuses across the country to generate a national dialogue on all our moral
values as people of faith. Imagine the increased media exposure progressive
faith values will receive if this "new vision of faith and politics in
America" becomes a best-seller. Imagine the national coverage given to a
prophetic vision that challenges both the Right and the Left. Just imagine.
You can make a difference! If
you order today for only $16.47, you'll save 34% off the cover price and a
percentage of every sale will support the mission of Sojourners! Together,
let's create a grassroots movement to make God's Politics a best-seller and
lift up an alternative religious voice for justice and peace.
Order here from Amazon.com, save 34%, and Witherspoon will
receive 5% of what you pay.
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