Future of Evangelicalism
The Legacy of an Activist Career An Interview with Jim Wallis
So tell Marvin he should check his facts, and not imitate Glenn Beck.
You have stood in recent years with those who have called for greater civility in our political dialogue. If a young person today were entering into political engagement, but wanted to reject the hyper-partisanship and the enmity, what would that mean?
It means you operate with conviction but not with ideology. You are not afraid to express your political passions. Be independent and not partisan. The way you do it should be in your tone. Even if you feel passionate, you should be civil and not divisive and destructive. Because finally, in the end, we all see through a glass darkly. None of us should be as certain as people are on cable television.
When you surf Bill O'Reilly to Keith Olbermann, you see a different politics but no change in tone. That tone is not reflective of how Christians ought to talk -- about other people, about each other. You don't challenge someone's integrity or character or patriotism just because you don't agree with them about politics.
We should lead the way with a civil and moral discourse. We ought to lead by example. Now, if someone is lying, you say that it's not true. But you don't make stuff up and just attack people's integrity. Even if you disagree, you don't say they must be a horrible person because they don't agree with me.
Mark Hatfield, my old friend in the Senate, when he came out against the war in Vietnam, got letters that started, "Dear Former Brother in Christ." That's wrong, and it hurt him.
I've taken strong stances on poverty my whole life. I'm not a liberal on economics. I'm a radical, if anything. Liberal Democratic economics has failed the poor as well. The poor are still poor, right? But to call me a communist, which Beck and others have done, is stupid.
Our political discourse depends on people not having access to facts, and believing lies just because they hear them spoken loudly. I expect that to be true of Beck, because he is doing this for a living and making a fortune doing so. But I don't expect this from Christians.
For example, I'm having a wonderful dialogue with Jim Daly, the new director from Focus on the Family, on how we need a very different civil and moral tone, and I commend him for what he has already done to change the tone at Focus on the Family.
Finally, when you leave your career of activism behind, what is a legacy that you will be satisfied to leave behind?
A new generation that cares about the things that God cares about. And I see that happening. So I'm very encouraged. That's why I went to the Wisconsin event. I got to speak to twenty thousand new-generation Christians. When I said to them, "Any gospel that is not good news to the poor is not the gospel of Jesus Christ," they all cheered.
They believe that. That makes me go home feeling good. So: caring about the same things that God cares about. It's pretty simple.
Growing up, we just didn't care about a lot of the things that God cares about. When racism was an issue in Detroit, we just took sides with the rest of the white people. Then, later, we cared about some of the things that God cares about, like abortion, but we didn't care about what happens to those children after they are born, just before they're born. Now, I think that's changed.
This new evangelical movement is, if anything, stronger against abortion. They're not Left at all on that issue, but they also have a consistent ethic of life, like Cardinal Bernardin talked about. They care about nuclear weapons as well. I'm going to a talk later today, and tonight Lloyd Stevenson will speak about nuclear weapons. I love that. He would not be Left on a whole variety of things. But he cares about nuclear weapons.
So, I like what I'm seeing in the new generation, and I think they are going to be an independent force in politics. Really, we as Christians ought to be a third force in politics.
Sojourners and Jim Wallis issued a statement regarding their funding sources here.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.