In an election year, 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. Understanding the moral compass they bring to their public lives and how their convictions shape their political priorities is the true litmus test.Ok, so what the minister, Jim Wallis, is saying is that it does not matter if a certain individual is a Christian, even if he is an extremely devout one. What matters are his politics. I'm sure Billy Graham made that same point very clear to every President he visited in the White House.
In the "God's Politics: A Better Option" article (linked above), we finally get some loose definition for what Jim Wallis hopes. It is what he calls "prophetic politics". He states:
"THERE ARE NOW three major political options in our public life. The first political option in America today is conservative on everything - from cultural, moral, and family concerns to economic, environmental, and foreign policy issues.
...The second political option in contemporary America is liberal on everything - both family/sexual/cultural questions and economic, environmental, and foreign policy matters.
...The third option in American politics is libertarian - meaning liberal on cultural/moral issues and conservative on fiscal/economic and foreign policy. The "just leave me alone and don’t spend my money option" is growing quickly in American life."
Those are your choices, but Big Jim has a better option...
"I believe there is a "fourth option" for American politics, which follows from the prophetic religious tradition we have described. It is "traditional" or "conservative" on issues of family values, sexual integrity and personal responsibility, while being very "progressive," "populist," or even "radical" on issues like poverty and racial justice. It affirms good stewardship of the earth and its resources, supports gender equality, and is more internationally minded than nationalist - looking first to peacemaking and conflict resolution when it come to foreign policy questions.
Ok, let's chart this out. If you have a block bisected both horizontally and vertically. It moves left to right from morally conservative to morally liberal politically. It moves top to bottom from fiscally conservative (lower taxes) to fiscally liberal (higher taxes). So in the top/left corner are Republicans. Next to them on the top are Libertarians. Below the Libertarians are the Democrats. The new option, which is morally restrictive and fiscally restrictive, is "Prophetic politics" and it fills in the bottom/left box.
Where do I sign up? Who wouldn't want more moral restrictions combined with having less money? Well Jim says..."
...At the heart of the fourth option is the integral link between personal ethics and social justice. And it appeals to people who refuse to make the false choice between the two.
Who are these people? Many are religious: Catholics, black and Latino Christians, evangelicals who don’t identify with the Religious Right, and members of all our denominational churches who want to put their faith into practice. They are Jews and Muslims who are guided by an active faith and not just a personal background. They are people who do not consider themselves "religious," but rather "spiritual," and would be drawn to a fourth option in politics. And they are people - religious, spiritual, or not - who consider themselves shaped by a strong sense of moral values and long for a political commitment that reflects those values.
...It would speak directly to the proverb "Without a vision, the people perish," and would offer genuine political vision that rises out of biblical passages from prophetic texts. Our own ancient prophetic religious traditions could offer a way forward beyond our polarized and paralyzed national politics and be the foundation for a fourth political option to provide the new ideas politics always needs.
...Prophetic politics would not be an endless argument between personal and social responsibility, but a weaving of the two together in search of the common good."
Yes, it's for people that "...want to put their faith into practice," but just can't fathom how to do it without government assistance. Isn't one of the great aspects of the United States of America that I can grab a placard and preach on any corner or go load up my car with a paycheck's worth of food and clothes and hand it out to the needy as I see fit. Or maybe that I can start a church and we can pool our resources and spread God's love through tracts and canned foods and new shoes and free medicine and free daycare. No, that is not the solution. You see the proper way to fix what ails the world is to prioritize so that "...values of politics are my primary concern."
Yes, it's for "...people - religious, spiritual, or not." But how will the "nots" feel about a "...political vision that rises out of biblical passages from prophetic texts," a.k.a. the Bible? That little nugget has already been noted by Elisabeth Castelli when she wrote on Slate (the very conservative news site) in a review of God's Politics that, "Moreover, it is also in the midst of this discussion that "religion" morphs into what Wallis is really talking about: "the religion," that is, Christianity...For Wallis, religion is not one possible source among many for influential narrative of justice; the Bible is the source." She doesn’t like that, but back to me. If “A life of Christianity” replaced “Prophetic politics in this sentence: ”...Prophetic politics would not be an endless argument between personal and social responsibility, but a weaving of the two together in search of the common good," Jim and I would have very few problems, but unfortunately for him it’s politics as usual.
So, we have man of God espousing a political ideology that will limit much and hand out much. One that only one of the three current viable political parties might lend even a modicum of support. One that I feel is more anti-Christian-- or at least challenges God's priorities-- yet makes no bones about the fact that it is based on the Bible. As an aside, throughout all the articles and columns by Jim Wallis I have read (the number is getting way too big) there would seem to be an obvious lack of direct quotes or mentions of specific scripture. Aside from some mentions of prophets and some vague allusions to the Sermon on the Mount, Wallis chooses not to back up any of his claims with chapter and verse. All this leaves me with the question of, "What's he actually up to?"
Maybe I'll get to that...