April 30, 2013

Sojourners’ Jim Wallis Ponders Immigration, Guns at Washington National Cathedral

Sojourners' President Jim Wallis appeared at the National Cathedral recently to talk about the direction of the country and his new book "On God's Side".

Sojourners’ President Jim Wallis appeared at the National Cathedral recently to talk about the direction of the country and his new book “On God’s Side”.

By Jeff Walton (@JeffreyHWalton)

Immigration reform legislation will pass Congress by the August recess, predicted Sojourners CEO and President Jim Wallis in an April 28 interview. Wallis sat down with Washington National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall to discuss immigration, gun control, the direction of young evangelical Christians and Wallis’ new book “On God’s Side.”

Part of a book tour, Wallis’ visit to the Episcopal Cathedral was followed the next day with an appearance at Hall’s former parish, All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California.

“I’m going to predict that by the August recess we will have comprehensive immigration reform,” Wallis declared, announcing that immigration reform is Sojourners’ top concern. “It may be the only positive thing we see in Washington, D.C. in the next few months.”

Encouraged by support from both Southern Baptists and some conservative groups such as Focus on the Family, Wallis reported that the Administration, Republicans and Democrats all cite the faith community as a “political game changer” on the issue.

Wallis also praised the Cathedral’s advocacy on gun restrictions saying it “warmed my heart” and categorized it as a “long-term battle.”

“The country has changed — Washington has not,” Wallis asserted, labeling gun owners’ groups like the National Rifle Association as “gun runners” and linking them to manufacturers rather than members. The author proposed that parents and pastors would ultimately change the firearms debate over the long-term.

“You and the bishops speaking out right away first thing was a great sign of hope,” Wallis said of Hall and the Cathedral’s public advocacy for increased firearms restrictions.

Hall asked Wallis to respond to a quote by Washington Episcopal Church Bishop Mariann Budde that it is time for religious bodies like the Episcopal Church to reach out to young Evangelicals who might not share their parents’ social views.

“There is a sea-change going on among young evangelicals,” Wallis reported, adding that the “none-of-the-aboves” who decline to identify with a specific church still believe in God, “they just don’t want to affiliate with religion.”

“I’m wondering if Lincoln was one of the first none of the aboves,” Wallis pondered, noting that the former president went to church but was not a member.

Pivoting back to his book, Wallis asked what it meant to be on God’s side.

“What religion forgets is I think the second commandment – to love our neighbor as ourselves,” Wallis explained, adding that “we forget who our neighbor is” and that God pushes out the definition.

“How do we extend our notion of who our neighbor is?” Wallis posited. “That’s a transforming ethic that makes the common good possible.”

Asked what could be done to restore the credibility of the church, Wallis responded that his theology of the incarnation is that “In Jesus, God hits the streets.”

“How do we surprise people by bringing unexpected hope? That, I think, is what brings credibility back.”

Asked about the importance of civility, Wallis replied that the country was hurt by the political climate.

“It’s more than losing good manners,” Wallis diagnosed, partly blaming the media, which he charged loves street fights and confrontation. The common good, on the other hand “isn’t sexy.”

The Evangelical Left official also made note of a statement on civility that he signed with the now-deceased Chuck Colson. “Learning to talk to each other and listen can be really important.” Wallis even echoed Colson in recalling that the lifestyle of the early church “created the evangelistic impact — ‘How do we live’ is the question.”

“Change happens here only when we decide for the common good outside of Washington,” Wallis announced, citing a “Bibles, badges and businessmen” trifecta of clergy, law enforcement and the business community in support of immigration reform.

Decrying cynicism as “a buffer against personal commitment,” Wallis said it was something only possible for comfortable people, with others preoccupied by a fight for survival. Wallis also argued that there is a difference between optimism and hope.

“Optimism is a feeling, hope is a decision you make,” Wallis defined. “Hope means believing in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change.”


  • http://gregpaley.wordpress.com gregpaley

    Not exactly accurate to say Wallis has a “new” book, just another variation on his standard themes, especially his “middle way” between right and left. In this latest book: “Don’t go right; don’t go left; go deeper.” Wonderful advice, but the author doesn’t follow it himself. Wallis went left years before most of us were even born, but he continues to wear (awkwardly) the tag “evangelical,” probably the worst case of false advertising in Christendom. He also tries to pass himself off as the Wise One who sees the errors of both liberals and conservatives and (like every charlatan) claims he has found the More Excellent Way, so we can sigh with relief at him guiding us into the non-ideological REAL Christianity, the kind Jesus himself would practice if he walked the earth today. Wallis has been promising gullible readers his More Excellent Way for 50 years, and he never provides it, never. It’s pure liberalism, and nothing in the Wallis platform differs in the slightest from the Democratic party platform (except that he does claim to be pro-life, but generally avoids that ticklish issue). Some reviews of On God’s Side state that “Wallis is neither liberal nor conservative.” Oh, please. He IS liberal, his insincere references to Chuck Colson notwithstanding.

    We discover in On God’s Side that (as in all Wallis’s books) Jesus’ agenda looks suspiciously like Jim Wallis’s agenda (pure coincidence, of course), and that Jesus has a knack for using the latest liberal buzzwords like “inclusivity” and (the core idea of this book) “fairness.” Liberalism is not, of course, a system of thought, it is a collection of slogans, just words or phrases that easily fit on a bumper sticker and can be spoken and shouted ad nauseam, meaning that the liberal pundits could just as easily be a chorus of mynah birds trained to repeat the usual: “Inclusivity!” “Equality!” “Fairness!” Don’t think, don’t explain, just repeat, and the dimwits in the culture will get sucked in.

    Who could object to “fairness”? No one. But the BIG question liberals never dream of asking is, fairness as defined by whom? (Well, THEM, of course.) In this book, “fairness” means accepting open borders, admitting illegal immigrants and accepting them, everything but people-movers to aid them in their illegal entry. Is that “fair” to the US citizens in Arizona and New Mexico who have their property trashed and who often live in fear? Or to US taxpayers coast to coast, who all pay for the massive cost of millions of people who should not be here, aided by a president who has made it clear that, for him, there is no border, and by a Congress in which both parties shy from the immigration issue because they are such craven cowards that they are cowed by fears of the media calling them “racist.” Jesus’s view of fairness (or, Wallis’s view, rather) is that US citizens don’t matter, “fair” only applies to people whose presence in the US begins with breaking the law. Ignoring the needs of US citizens and focusing all our compassion on illegals fits Wallis’s definition of the “common good,” one of his bumper-sticker clichés that shows up on every page. Keep saying the cliché, make the reader shut down his brain and just accept the pleasant-sounding phrase. Who would oppose “the common good”? I would – that is, I would define that far differently that Wallis would. As a Christian, I see myself under no divine mandate to encourage illegal immigration or any other crime. Wallis can tear down the walls of his home if he wishes to and put up a sign that signs “Homeless people welcome here.” He has no right to tell an entire country, or all the Christians in it, that they must do the same – and, incidentally, Wallis isn’t going to open up his home because he understands that being “welcoming” and “inclusive” doesn’t mean removing all boundaries. But remember, liberalism isn’t about being generous, it’s about forcing other people to be generous.

    Being “on God’s side” and being guided by Jesus means: be a liberal, support open borders, accept that the immigration situation will remain as it is, or worsen, but God wants you to accept it and abet it. If you want to contribute to the “common good,” check the names on the ballot that have a “D” (as in “Democrat”) next to them. And when you talk, use the right words – “compassion,” “common good,” “inclusive,” “equality,” the usual list. This is the Gospel, according to St. James.

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