Jim Wallis is a pastor who has run The Sojourners, a deeply Christian organization that is involved in politics.
While they’re considered a “progressive” group, Jim Wallis was one of the people George W. Bush, back in 2000 as President-elect, brought in with lots of other evangelicals to talk about how he might address the “soul of the nation”. As I said, they are progressives, I can honestly say there’s not much I have in common with their motives for doing what they do.
That said, Rev. Wallis has a lot of interesting things to say, in an already interesting article from the New York Times and truthout.org. It’s an article written before the last election, but strangely—and unfortunately—it rings that much truer because what was prediction and trend in October 2004 is merely, spookily, reality today.
Rev. Wallis was asked by our faith-based-president, “I’ve never lived around poor people. I don’t know what they think. I really don’t know what they think. I’m a white Republican guy who doesn’t get it. How do I get it?” That’s a shockingly (today) humble admission. How did Rev. Wallis reply? “You need to listen to the poor and those who live and work with poor people.”
Later, after the inauguration, Bush told Wallis and other pastors that America needed their leadership. Rev. Wallis replied, “No, Mr. President, we need your leadership on this question, and all of us will then commit to support you. Unless we drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we’ll never defeat the threat of terrorism.”
Wow. That’s powerful imagery for a powerful concept that many of us have believed for a long time.
But that’s not the only thing in which I find fellowship with the good Reverend. From the selfsame article:
Can the unfinished American experiment in self-governance - sputtering on the watery fuel of illusion and assertion - deal with something as nuanced as the subtleties of one man’s faith? What, after all, is the nature of the particular conversation the president feels he has with God - a colloquy upon which the world now precariously turns?
That very issue is what Jim Wallis wishes he could sit and talk about with George W. Bush. That’s impossible now, he says. He is no longer invited to the White House.
“Faith can cut in so many ways,” he said. “If you’re penitent and not triumphal, it can move us to repentance and accountability and help us reach for something higher than ourselves. That can be a powerful thing, a thing that moves us beyond politics as usual, like Martin Luther King did. But when it’s designed to certify our righteousness - that can be a dangerous thing. Then it pushes self-criticism aside. There’s no reflection.
”Where people often get lost is on this very point,“ he said after a moment of thought. ”Real faith, you see, leads us to deeper reflection and not - not ever - to the thing we as humans so very much want.“
And what is that?
I am not a person of long-throw, Capital-F Faith. There are a bazillion more concrete, more localized things that I have a lower-case faith in—friends, family, my brain, the compassion of others, the family of humanity, eventual equal rights for all, the natural trend in the world towards Better. Not Good, not Evil. Just Better Than It Used To Be.
If I were certain of that last thing, it wouldn’t require faith—or Faith. I’d just be certain. It’s faith that carries one over doubts to get to the good stuff.
And, Ever Optimistic God of the Chocky Biscuits always has faith—not Faith—that there’s always Good Stuff ahead.