Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Jim Wallis Gets Neither God Nor Politics

With many of the quotes from yesterday, at their face value, I have no problem. In some cases, a closer look reveals deeper motives. One thing to remember about Jim Wallis, maybe the most important thing, it that all his beliefs refer to the political realm, not the personal. In most cases, I think the Bible is reticent, if not completely unconcerned with the political world.

Where in the Bible do we find the call to be "...committed to international cooperation rather than unilateral policies," or even that "Christ commits Christians to a strong presumption against war?" If anything, I think the New Testament states the political issues nation-states face matter very little. Does God really care if the United States government asks France and Germany if it's ok to bomb an enemy? I doubt it. It's the "personal" that is important. Of course, I think it would be hard to argue that God in the Old Testament at times didn't support war. Am I supposed to believe the nature of God completely changed? But this is not a debate for today.

Certain statements also bother me because their mere existence would seem to indicate that Mr. Wallis' political opposites agree with such stances. Why is it necessary to say, "that faith creates community from racial, class, and gender divisions and prefers international community over nationalist religion, and we see that "God bless America" is found nowhere in the Bible." Who thinks "God bless America" is in the Bible? Should they be included in a substantive debate? Who's pushing a "nationalist religion?" Does he believe "the Right" is trying to separate people into "...racial, class, and gender divisions?” I think he might. An accusation of the party he supported in the last election was that Republicans were out to squash the vote of minorities. Do such baseless accusations work to create a community that ignores race? When he says, "Some things ought never be done - torture, the deliberate bombing of civilians, the use of indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction..." does he believe our government just drops nukes on cities to see their reaction? Does he have evidence of "deliberate bombing of civilians?"

Anyway, what we find from reading a sampling of Jim Wallis' writing is that he believes that, "Budgets are moral documents. They reflect the values and priorities of a family, church, organization, city, state, or nation." Also, that, "Any serious reading of the Bible points toward poverty as a religious issue, and candidates should always be asked by Christian voters how they will treat the least of these." Things we can agree on: the Bible does make poverty a religious issue. The question is where does the Bible make poverty a political issue? The answer. It doesn't. It is silent on what the government should do. Jesus is very clear that we should take care of the poor, as is Paul. And what Wallis does is take the fact that "...any serious reading of the Bible points toward poverty as a religious issue," and comes to the conclusion that we should therefore become activists to create a welfare state to care for the poor. In the same vein, I would agree that "...Budgets are moral documents. They reflect the values and priorities of a family, church, organization." Here's where we start to differ. A city? Maybe. A state. Less likely, but ok. But a nation. Ok, I guess I would agree that it currently is. But is not the bigger question, should it be? The founders did not intend for the federal government to take stances on morality and religion. They hoped to leave those issues to the states. Wallis may state that he wants to "...avoid the dangerous accumulations of power and wealth," but how else do you care for the poor of the world, much less a nation, with out accumulating wealth...and therefore power? You can't. If your goal is to have the federal government to ensure every person is fed 3 square, has medical insurance, and can watch Oprah everyday; someone has to pay for it. Without even going into the question of where it would come from, money must be ACCUMULATED so it can then be distributed where it is 'needed'. If I could just remember where God lays out how to create the proper bureaucracy to help the needy. Is it II Corinthians? Maybe it is in the Sermon on the Mount...oh well.

I, on the other hand, believe that the responsibility to care for the poor falls to believers and the church...still trying to find where Jesus mentions the government. I will start from there in the next post, as I fear I have gone on too long, already.

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