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Cooperation in spite of religious diversity

A positive speech by Jim Wallis, 2006-DEC-03

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On 2006-NOV-29, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D_NV) asked Jim Wallis to deliver the Democratic party's weekly radio broadcast for Saturday, DEC-02. This request was unusual. Previous addresses had always been given by elected officials. Jim Wallis holds no public office. He is an evangelical Christian, a non-partisan religious leader, and editor of Sojourners magazine. He is driven by a concern for the poor, the environment, peace, morality in government, and similar matters of social justice. As Wallis stated in his speech:

"The path of partisan division is well worn, but the road of compassionate priorities and social justice will lead us to a new America."

He wrote in his "God's Politics" blog on Beliefnet 1 that the request to deliver the radio address was:

"... an opportunity to move outside our usual circles and reach many new people. I had complete control of what I would say, and could speak in a non-partisan way about the values and solutions our country so desperately needs by challenging both parties. The text speaks of the need for a government with integrity that can work for the common good, the importance of bi-partisan political leadership in overcoming poverty, the moral need to extricate ourselves from Iraq, the protection of our environment, the changes needed to produce a culture that promotes healthy families, and a common ground effort to dramatically reduce the number of abortions in America. All of these are part of a new politics; the kind of politics that are inspired by our deepest values and that require new leadership by both Democrats and Republicans, and (as I conclude my remarks), from "each and every one of us." 2

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Jim Wallis' speech:

A rule-of-thumb interpretation of copyright laws limits unauthorized publishing of literary works to 500 words. The following is a slightly edited version of Wallis' speech to fall within this limit. The full text is online 3 as is the audio version of the speech. 4

For too long, we have had a politics of blame and fear, while America is eager for a politics of solutions and hope. It is time to find common ground by moving to higher ground.

Because we have lost a commitment to the common good, politics is failing to solve the deepest crises of our time. Real solutions will require our best thinking and dialogue, but also call us to transformation and renewal.

Most Americans know that the important issues we confront have an essential moral character. It is the role of faith communities to remind us of that fact. But religion has no monopoly on morality. We need a new, morally-centered discourse on politics that welcomes each of us to the table. Ö

At this moment in history, we need new directions.

Who is left out and left behind is always a religious and moral question. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the health of a society was measured by how it cared for its weakest and most vulnerable, and prosperity was to be shared by all. Jesus proclaimed a gospel that was "good news to the poor."

I am an evangelical Christian, and a commitment to "the least of these" is central to my personal faith and compels my public actions. It is time to lift up practical policies and effective practices that "make work work" for low-income families and challenge the increasing wealth gap between rich and poor. We must find a new moral and political will to overcome poverty that combines personal and social responsibility with a commitment to support strong families.

Our earth and the fragile atmosphere that surrounds it are God's good creation. Yet, our environment is in jeopardy as global warming continues unchecked and our air and water are polluted. Good stewardship of our resources is a religious and moral question. Energy conservation and less dependence on fossil fuels are commitments that could change our future - from the renewal of our lifestyles to the moral redemption of our foreign policies.

A culture that promotes healthy families is necessary to raise our children with strong values, and the breakdown of family and community in our society must be addressed. But we need serious solutions, not the scapegoating of others. And wouldn't coming together to find common ground that dramatically reduces the number of abortions be better than both the left and the right using it as an issue to divide us?

We need a new politics inspired by our deepest held values. We must summon the best in the American people, and unite to solve some of the moral issues of our time. Americans are much less concerned about what is liberal or conservative, what is Democrat or Republican. Rather, we care about what is right and what works.

The path of partisan division is well worn, but the road of compassionate priorities and social justice will lead us to a new America. Building that new America will require greater moral leadership from both Democrats and Republicans, and also from each and every one of us.

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Books by Jim Wallis that reflect his vision for faith, politics, and social justice:

bullet Jim Wallis, "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It,"  HarperSanFrancisco, (Reprinted 2006). 432 pages. It was on the New York Times bestselling list for 15 weeks. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

Review: by John Moe for Amazon.com:

"Secular liberals and religious conservatives will find things to both comfort and alarm them in Jim Wallis's God's Politics. That combination is actually reason enough to recommend the book in a time when the national political and theological discourse is dominated by blanket descriptions and shortsightedness. But Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, offers more than just a book that's hard to categorize. What Wallis sees as the true mission of Christianity--righting social ills, working for peace--is in tune with the values of liberals who so often run screaming from the idea of religion. Meanwhile, in his estimation, religious vocabulary is co-opted by conservatives who use it to polarize. Wallis proposes a new sort of politics, the name of which serves as the title of the book, wherein these disparities are reconciled and progressive causes are paired with spiritual guidance for the betterment of society. Wallis is at his most compelling when he puts this theory into action himself, letting his own beliefs guide him through stinging criticisms of the war in Iraq. In his view, George W. Bush's flaw lies in the assumption that the United States was an unprecedented force of goodness in a fight against enemies characterized as "evil." Indeed, although both the right and left are criticized here, the idea is that the liberals, if they would get religion, are the more redeemable lot. Wallis's line between religion and public policy may be drawn a little differently than most liberals might feel comfortable with, and while he pays some lip service to other faiths most of his prescription for America seems to come from the Bible. Still, for a party having just lost a presidential election where "moral issues" are said to have factored heavily, God's Politics is a sermon worth listening to."

bullet Jim Wallis, "Living God's Politics: A Guide to Putting Your Faith into Action" HarperSanFrancisco, (2006). 176 pages. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

From the Back Cover:
"When Jim Wallis, author of New York Times bestselling Godís Politics ... was on the road talking about his book, people welcomed his prophetic message and then asked what they could do to help. This book would be a guide for the next steps toward building a movement on a personal as well as community grassroots level."
bullet Jim Wallis, "The Soul of Politics: Beyond 'Religious Right' and 'Secular Left' " Harvest Books, (1995). 352 pages. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

An Amazon.com review: "Wallis draws on his experience in urban ghettos to show why traditional liberal and conservative options that emphasize either social justice or personal values fall short. He looks outside the traditional corridors of power to find solutions."

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Beliefnet's "God's Politics" blog is at: http://www.beliefnet.com/blogs/godspolitics/
  2. "Jim Wallis: Speaking to America," God's Politics blog, Beliefnet.com, 2006-DEC-01, at: http://www.beliefnet.com/
  3. Jim Wallis, "We need greater moral leadership," God's Politics blog, Beliefnet, 2006-DEC-02, at: http://www.beliefnet.com/
  4. Download audio of the "We need greater moral leadership," radio address

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Original posting: 2006-DEC-03
Latest update: 2006-DEC-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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