When a man claims to speak for God, he’s opened himself to a barrage from every kind of sling and arrow. Jim Wallis is not afraid. After thirty years pounding the evangelical pavement, thirty years with Sojourner, thirty years living (by conviction I assume) in inner city Washington, he’s got his armor settled in to a comfy fit.
This is a much touted book but will raise few eyebrows. Sojourner politics is clean, kindly and less radical than it used to seem. Wallis advises a middle way, recalling that the middle way is the razor’s edge. How to love the family without despising the lesbian mom, how to embrace the warmonger without rejecting his personhood – these are the dilemmas that good people face in a sharply divided America.
“With the Republicans offering war overseas and corporate dominance at home, and the Democrats failing to offer any real alternatives, who will raise a prophetic voice for social and economic justice and for peace? Never has there been a clearer role for the churches and religious community. We can push both parties toward moral consistency and their best-stated values and away from the unprincipled pragmatism and negative campaigning that both sides too often engaged in during the recent election.”
It’s the case that America mixes politics and religion like nowhere else on earth, while specifically upholding a mandate to separate the two. It’s also the case that when Wallis speaks (and he speaks well) for God, he speaks for a Christian worldview (not that there’s anything wrong with that). This implies that we’ve all read the Bible and would all agree about what Jesus would do.
Basing his “Call to Renewal” not just on his vast knowledge of the Christian faith but specifically on the prophetic vision of the Biblical Micah, Wallis postulates that we will eliminate wars when “more people have their own vines and fig trees.” To this reader this smacks of free market capitalism, and leaves some of us behind in the dust. There are those whose religion enjoins them to embrace poverty (some of them Christian). There are those (some of them atheists) who work for others to have a vine or a tree without themselves ever wishing for even so much as a place to lay their heads. And there are others who believe God doesn’t shrink from war, and counsels, “Kill without passion, die without fear.” Still others believe that God simply is.
The book is complex as the issues it examines, but it won’t, despite Wallis’s sweeping vision, provide easy answers for all.