Friday, January 25, 2008

Jim Wallis "gets it"

Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine and author of a number of important books dealing with faith, society, poverty and social justice, appeared on The Daily Show earlier this week.

His interview with Jon Stewart reveals that the man really "gets it" when it comes to faith and life in 2008.

Take a look here:

Tell me what you think?

Wallis is just out with a new book, The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America. Likely a book that would be worth our time.



Arlene Kasselman said...

Larry I think he does get it. When he talked about the two great hungers of the world being Spirituality and Social Justice and how they intersect, I think that is key. I just wonder how can this message be heard by the church?
I also think there are some who may misinterpet his reference to political candidates being judged on their moral compass and not their stripe of religion as affirming to their already held positions. This is the morality of Christ where the powerless are invited in - quite drastically different to the "morality" of our current times.

Daniel Gray said...

I saw this the other night. Just watched it again from your post. It was definitely a great interview.

Larry James said...

arlene, thanks for the post.

I believe there is a movement underway that will demand a change in how churches regard and relate to the world. I know my daughters haven't the time for church in the status quo.

As to the individual candidates, I believe that Wallis would say we work with all, but lobby and influence out of our spiritual value base--a base that spans all of the major world religions so that our work in the political arena is not sectarian, but human.

Brian McLaren's book, Everything Must Change, is very helpful here.

chris said...

What would a church look like that would meet your demands?

Larry James said...

Chris, I don't have any demands. But, if you're asking what I think is important for any group that claims to be following Jesus, then I would look for a reflection of his attitude and spirit in all that was planned or accomplished. That would leave little room for much of what divides his followers today and it would free us up for radical ministry in the world.

belinda said...

I love the part about "being spiritual" vs. "being religious." That's what my husband and I have said for a long time. We also need to be more concerned about being on God's side vs. God being on our side.

chris said...

Why is it that people who are always talking about social justice and poverty are usually on the far left, if not socialists? Socialism has never worked very well and never will. Capitalism has given us the highest standard of living anywhere in the world. Jim Wallis was president of SDS, a far left student radical organization when he was in college. I don't see anything spiritual about leftist organizations.

Anonymous said...

"I don't see anything spiritual about leftist organizations."

That says A LOT!

Justin said...

Chris, I am an active proponent of social justice, and I'm certainly not a leftist. A small l libertarian maybe, but not a leftist.

I think a lot of what Wallis says is great, but after receiving his emails and reading blogs for a while, I do have some issues with his supposed non partisan look on things. He's pretty gung ho about the Democrat Party. I take issue with people that say, or just insinuate, that one must be a member of one party to be a true follower of Christ. That goes for Pat Robertson, and it goes for Jim Wallis too. Jesus likely wouldn't support either party, were he here today. He would stand with people, who are often hurt by systemic injustice, whether it comes from Republicans or Democrats.

Larry James said...

chris, justin, et. al., read Brian McLaren's chapter on "Theocapitalism" in his new book Everything Must Change. You appear totally blind to the affect of materialism on our culture, our churches and our individual lives. That is not socialism, that is the faith.

chris said...

Larry, I am about the most unmaterialistic person you could ever know. I buy some clothes from the Dollar Store but I don't feel guilty if I move up to Target:) We live in the same house we bought 30 years ago.

But more of a religion than excessive consumption is the whole "global warming" movement. Now THAT'S a religion, complete with Father Al. I don't hear you talking about that.

Justin said...


Are you saying that I am blind to the effects of materialism on our culture? Seriously?

I've read everything McLaren has put out, including "Everything Must Change) and I agree with like 85% of what he has to say, most notably, the theology. And I will be the first to admit that there are problems that arise in a capitalist society... there is no doubt. But there are similar or worse problems that arise from other economic systems, namely the fact that they are more unsustainable than capitalism. They impoverish everyone under their control. They create class resentment, which causes people to become MORE concerned with what they have compared to others, rather than less.

The principles espoused by the economists (if I can use that word) that McLaren speaks of in EMC are not a cure all to the problems that we face. The problems we have cannot be fixed by legislation. The problems that we have must be fixed by Christ's Kingdom being spread. Trying to legislate some standard of "fairness" into the world is no different than those on the religious right who seek to impose their "christian" morality on others, via legislation against gay marriage, and other acts they deem unacceptable.

You cannot force people to be good. You must change their hearts through your own actions, through sacrifice, through radical love. People that abuse capitalism will not stop when you try and legislate against them. They will only find ways to circumvent legislation, or they will cease doing business all together, something that would be incredibly detrimental to those who need economic gain the most.

The Republicans aren't our saviors (Pat Robertson), the Democrats aren't our saviors (Larry and Jim Wallis) our Savior is Jesus Christ, and only by following his example, which, may I remind you was not to take over the government but to be killed by it) is the one that we should follow. Capitalism is not a system to be imposed on anyone. It is merely the result of free people making mutually beneficial and agreed upon decisions. We should work within this system, which allows for many people to rise out of poverty, as well as increasing the living standard of most, to be able to be the Kingdom in larger ways. We should not try to enforce our religious beliefs on others in the name of compassion. To often, our manipulation of markets and laws in the name of God ends up hurting those we are supposed to help, as well as makes us beholden to a all together unredeemed social structure that exists purely to give a sort of order so that the message of hope in resurrection may be spread to the ends of the earth.

I am quite insulted that you would so condescendingly refer to me as "blind" to the problems of materialism. Capitalism doesn't breed materialism. Materialism is a symptom of a broken world, which we must preach against and live our lives as a witness against, rather than trying to force our ideology on people and forever turning them away from the love of Christ. Jesus was NOT about force. He left the choice up to the rich young ruler, he gives the choice to all to follow him. He could have taken over the government and forced everyone to live the life he showed us, but he didn't. Instead, he submitted himself to those that oppressed, to show the oppression to the world. And in doing so, he overcame them.

Maybe instead of trying to control the lives of others, you should follow him to the Cross.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe instead of trying to control the lives of others, you should follow him to the Cross."

So now we're challenging Larry's commitment to Christ and implying he's not a Christian? Seriously?

While we're at it, Justin, I'm kicking you out of my church.

Did you actually listen to the Wallace interview. He said the moment a "religious left" emerges we've made a mistake.

Wallis isn't saying Christians have to be a certain party. He most obviously lines up as a Democrat and I'm sure he wouldn't deny it. But that's not his point. He's not injecting Christianity into his politics.

Last time I checked, Christianity DOES NOT have a monopoly on poverty or any other "religious left" "ideal". I think you're way too hopped up on politics right now. Take a deep breathe, the elections will come and go, and you can go back to your normal life.

Justin said...

Maybe you missed the fact that that Larry decided he could read my mind and knew that I "blind" the the reality of materialism, or whatever it was that he assumed, and then went on to tell me that I should read a book that I've all ready read and that things would be clear to me if I did.

I don't have to watch that interview, because I have read enough of his writings, and was on his email list for over a year, so I know where he stands. I used to try to comment on the blogs that sojourners has, and if you don't line up exactly with the democrat party over there, you are going to be attacked by others.

Wallis even said that privatizing social security "disrespects the biblical covenant".

Anonymous, did you read anything else that I wrote? Do you agree or disagree? Would you please respond to that, other than taking what I said out of context to fit your preconceived notion of what I believe? I am not part of the Religious Right. I do not think Capitalism is from God. I think its the most efficient way to create wealth, and its the most efficient way to help people, whether its through more jobs and opportunities or whether its through Christians being able to have enough to provide for themselves, as well as others.

But that being said, I still stick to what I've seen of Wallis over the last year or two. The guy sends out emails to lobby congress for democrat ideals. That's fine and good if he wants to do that. All I am saying is that he is no different, in theory, from Pat Robertson or James Dobson. They all seek to use force to make people more Christian. And I don't agree with that.

But what I most disagree with here, which was the point of my second comment, is Larry's accusation that I don't understand materialism, and the accompanying insinuation that if I read McLaren's book (which I have) or if I did understand materialism, I would come to the same understanding that he does about capitalism, namely, that it's evil.

Anonymous said...

"that I should read a book that I've all ready read and that things would be clear to me if I did."

Maybe you didn't read the book carefully. Sometimes when I read stuff, it makes more sense the second time.

You should listen to his interview. Besides, it's always good to give people second chances... they can change their beliefs/views every know and then. Unlike politicians, most people aren't born with a political platform.

So because Larry "said you were blind" that gives you the right to challenge his own faith and imply he's not following Christ?

Seems to me that's how all the fightin' in church happens.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

should be god-government-and-christian

Justin said...

Sorry, I probably should have said you should "solely" or "only" follow him...

Larry puts so much faith in government to solve all of the ills of the world, to some, it would seem that that is where most of his faith lies. I never said he wasn't a Christian. Only that maybe there's a way besides his own. Its pretty clear to anyone on here that Larry believes that people need to have the exact same worldview as he does to be considered relevant in Kingdom living. Am I wrong in having a different opinion on how Christians should behave?

And I still haven't heard you respond to any of the points I made. I feel like most of them are pretty valid. Kinda a pattern here. Instead of dealing with what Justin says, find one line in his comment to deflect attention from his point of view, which despite what you may think, deserves at least some consideration.

I do, occasionally agree with Larry on his points. I don't think anyone here has ever even considered the fact that I might have a valid point of view.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, Justin, do think you have a valid point of view. I suspect Larry would think so, too. I am sure Larry often responds to comments a little on-the-fly, and that his short response was not intended to offend, though it obviously did. Personally, I agree with you - on a pragmatic level capitalism is the most efficient way to create wealth. The problem is just how out-of-kilter the distribution of that wealth can be. One has to wonder, and maybe worry, when CEO's make 500 times as uch as their average worker. Only 25-30 years ago, that number was less than 100 (times). I think we (through government, which while not my favorite thing is not a bad word) have to figure out how to redirect some of the wealth capitalism creates in ways that (i) do not destory its basis and incentives, but (ii) provide "the least of these" with at least the basic necessities. If, for Chris or others, this makes me a "lefty," so be it. I would call it decency, informed faith, and pragmatic.

Larry James said...

justin, I never intended to imply that your opinion was not valuable, nor do I think I am right and you are wrong, nor that everyone has to agree with me to be "relevant" in the Kingdom, etc.

McLaren provides a very insightful summary of how a huge portion of the current Christian worldview as expressed in churches shapes the faith (i.e. what it means to follow Jesus, as you say) to accommodate an out of control capitalism that has delivered to our doorsteps the New Gilded Age. McClaren simply reports the facts of the current economy, complete with the huge and growing gap between rich and poor.

One fact that we often miss is a "pure play" on following Jesus is almost impossible. McClaren has his point of view/paradigm that he brings to the interpretive task. You obviously have yours. I simply think McClaren's point of view squares more adequately with reality.

I also don't think government is the key to everyting. I do believe sound, compassionate and equitable leadership might be a refreshing change of pace for us all, whether in the church or the government.

justin, sorry I made you mad--it really was not my intention. It is just that a reading of Luke's gospel makes it hard to defend unbridled capitalism.

Justin said...

That's the thing. We don't have unbridled capitalism now. We have corporatism, which does, as you suggest, create a more unequal distribution of wealth. With the inflationary system that we currently have, where the government continuously adds paper money to the economy, most often to finance either wars or large domestic programs, as well as to spur the economy when the artificial boom created by previous distributions of paper money runs dry, that new paper money is basically a tax on everyone, an inflation tax, that transfers wealth from the poor and middle classes to the wealthy. THAT is the main reason that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
The rich have first access to the new money and the easy credit, and they spend it before the price increases occur. So when the new money or new credit gets to the poor, it is either comes out as equal to where they previously were, or a net loss, depending on how much inflation occurs.

Milk is up 40% a year, eggs are up a ton too. The CPI doesn't include food and gas... but its still at 4% for last year, the highest since the early nineties. We finance wars and other government programs with this fake money, but we've been exporting the inflation over seas. Now, its finally coming back to us. And it is the main reason for the unequal distribution of wealth.

Justin said...

Basically what I'm saying is that we don't have real capitalism now, and that a lot of the regulation that we have, as well as the corporatism, which I will admit is a problem with Republicans as well as Democrats, is a major cause in the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer.

Anonymous said...

So if we don't have true capitalism now... you're saying the only way to get rid of corporatism is to dump the only system that remotely has a chance at keeping it in line? Seems like anarchy to me.

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary."
-James Madison
The Federalist Papers

Anonymous said...

Hey Justin,

knock knock... It's your friend the government, and he's always gonna be there for you.