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Book note:

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. What happened?

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 issue.

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
(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 religious issue.

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. (Deut. 30-:19)

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 authentic.

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 best-seller.

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 34% today!


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, save 34%, and Witherspoon will receive 5% of what you pay.



Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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