I will attempt to finish up with Jim Wallis and his various issues, or my various issues with him, today. It now gives me extreme tired head, but I still think it's important as this guy rises in prominence. So, I will try to end this series with some quick hitty things I've run across in interviews or articles on Jim's site (Sojourners). Some were not written by him, but since Wallis is the Editor-in-Chief/Executive Director of said organization, I think it's safe to say they met with his approval.
It's clear that Wallis and I disagree almost completely on the role of government. I also disagree with him on what a proposed "man of God's" priorities should be as it relates to politics and the individual. Another issue I have with Jim is his sometimes inflammatory and incendiary remarks that can devolve into name-calling. One example is in this Boston Globe review/interview. I think that if a Christian is trying to garner support for himself or a movement-- even if political-- he should not resort to unsubstantiated public accusations, especially towards other professed Christians, less they bring their own motives into question. But in said interview we get this exchange:
IDEAS: You're an evangelical but not a fundamentalist. Do you think most people understand the difference?
WALLIS: No, I think they don't, because the fundamentalists, like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, have claimed the term evangelical as their own, and they want to say that they speak for all evangelicals. Now, anybody who's in the evangelical world knows that isn't true. . . . There's a new generation of young Christian activists, including evangelicals and Catholics both, who really don't fit into these old categories.
IDEAS: What makes Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell a fundamentalist but not you?
WALLIS: Well, there's a whole history there. Fundamentalism exists not just in Christian faith, but in Islam and Judaism too. And often, there are a number of major mistakes they make. They go for power. They want to take over and then legislate their religious agenda. And they also are . . . attracted to the use of violence for their cause – whether it be terrorism on one hand or unilateral preemptive wars on the other. I would love to see fundamentalists pay more attention to Jesus. You know, how did Jesus become pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American?
IDEAS: Do you think that George W. Bush is a fundamentalist?
WALLIS: You know, I tend not to throw labels at people. . . . I don't quibble with his personal faith. He's a person I've talked to enough, in meetings and even in a couple of conversations that the two of us have had, that I think his faith is real. Where I disagree with George Bush is in his theology. I think that George Bush's God is a God of charity, and the Bible presents a God of justice, in terms of issues of poverty and economic justice. . . . I say budgets are moral documents. They reveal the priorities and values of a family, a church, a nation.
So, he "...tend[s] not to throw labels at people", but has no problem with the label of "fundamentalist" for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell? And is there any doubt that when he talks of Islamic fundamentalists he's alluding to terrorist? Ergo, Falwell is a terrorist? And let me just say that at least Falwell preaches and is pastor to an actual church. Maybe Jim just doesn’t "throw labels" at Presidents. That's probably smart, but also a little hypocritical. And while we are on the topic of hypocritical, the statement that fundy's "...want to take over and then legislate their religious agenda" strikes me as odd coming from Wallis. Isn't that exactly what he wants to do? Legislate feeding the poor and caring for the needy? You know when "we discover that faith challenges the powers that be to do justice for poor..."? Just checking. Oh, and also on that hypocrisy front, in 1984 Wallis endorsed Jesse Jackson for President (some might say I need no further arguments). His tax returns revealed that the year before he and his wife (I'm sure now estranged) earned about $115,000 and Jackson was able to part with a whole $500 of that for churches and charity. I would think one who thought that "caring for the least of these" is of the highest importance would find fault with such lack of charity. Oh...but...that's right, Jim doesn't care about that because he thinks that "...the particular religiosity of a candidate, or even how devout they might be, is less important than how their religious and/or moral commitments and values shape their political vision and their policy commitments." So now I can't decide if Jim is a hypocrite or not...I guess I'll let you decide.
Back to the name-calling. In this little ditty Mr. Wallis takes issue with Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Apparently he was disappointed by DeLay's lack of support for an amendment to a child tax credit that would have accelerated the refundability for families making between $10,500 and $26,650 (For the sake of brevity I will NOT point out that no family of four making $10,500 would pay income tax, but oh, sorry...). Also, it's not that they opposed the bill, just the acceleration (Damn Republicans!). So because of DeLay's despicable acts, Mr. Wallis states that Delay and his Republican colleagues "haven't been reading their Bibles the way..." others that support such measures have. But that pales in comparison to the next sentence when Wallis goes on to warn DeLay that he's on his way to becoming the "Bull" Connor of the anti-poverty movement. In case the name doesn't immediately register (didn't with me, either), "Bull" Connor is a swell guy who was a prominent city official in Birmingham, Alabama. Just so happens that during a month of peaceful demonstrations by Birmingham's African-American community against their city's segregation ordinances lead by none other than Martin Luther King, Jr., "Bull" tried to stop the growing demonstrations, and gained lasting infamy when he resorted to using water hoses and dogs. I can see why Jim Wallis received the "Religious Communicator of Faith" award. Can't you feel the love? One more note. The first time these tax cuts came around, this article on Sojourners declared it a "Victory!" for poor families. I quote,"[t]he Child Tax Credit in the new tax cut legislation allows families with earnings of more than $10,000 to receive a refund check even if they do not owe federal income taxes...While child advocates did not get everything we sought in a refundable tax credit for all children in need, the version passed is a major step forward that will help lift 500,000 children out of poverty." Yet, the next time around, even after checks had been cut to those who neither paid nor owed taxes, Wallis accuses opponents of an "acceleration" of having German Shepherds frothing and ready. I guess the ends justify the means when you looking out for the common good.
I could probably go on, but I hope I've supplied enough that you might share, at least, some of my leeriness of Jim Wallis. I wish it would have given him pause as well, but I'm sure he would assert that I "haven't been reading my Bible the way..." he would. On this, I'm sure he's right.