Jim Wallis is one of the best-known “progressive” Christians and the founder of Sojourners (“Christians for Justice and Peace”).
Despite being a registered Democrat and a frequent critic of the Religious Right, he has never really been a champion of LGBT rights.
This is Wallis in 2008:
I don’t think the sacrament of marriage should be changed. Some people say that Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality, and that’s technically true. But marriage is all through the Bible, and it’s not gender-neutral.
I have never done a blessing for a same-sex couple. I’ve never been asked to do one. I’m not sure that I would…
And when a group that “promote[d] LGBT-inclusion in the Christian church” wanted to purchase ads on his organization’s website and newsletter in 2011, this is what Wallis said about them:
“I’m afraid we’ll have to decline. Sojourners position is to avoid taking sides on this issue. In that care [sic], the decision to accept advertising may give the appearance of taking sides.”
Yes. In the battle between equality and bigotry, Wallis wanted his organization to stay neutral. It was a cowardly position to take.
But Wallis has finally come around to being a decent person. I suppose it helps that he’s trying to sell a book, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good.
In an interview with Jonathan Merritt, he (ever so slowly) explained how he now kinda, sorta, wishy-washily supports marriage equality:
I think the common ground could be that liberals and conservatives together could commit themselves to a recovenanting of marriage, a recommitment of marriage. We’re losing marriage in this society, among low-income people particularly and across the board. That is the most important question about marriage right now. How can we recommit to marriage, and then I would say, how to we find ways for same sex couples to participate in the benefits of that recommitment to marriage?
… I think equal protection under the law is something that does support the idea of a civil, civic decision that provides same sex couples the same benefits and rights under the civil law as married couples have. That’s the direction we’re going, but what the church says about sacramental marriage is a larger, deeper question that has to be resolved over time. They need freedom to look at the scriptures and determine what is possible. People can have different views theologically and still support equal protection, which is inclusive more and more of marriage equality.
Ok, so it’s really weak support. He was a little more forthright in a Huffington Post interview with Jaweed Kaleem:
I think we should include same-sex couples in that renewal of marriage, [but] I want to talk marriage first. Marriage needs some strengthening. Let’s start with marriage, and then I think we have to talk about, now, how to include same-sex couples in that deeper understanding of marriage. I want a deeper commitment to marriage that is more and more inclusive, and that’s where I think the country is going.
So… yay. It’s not proud support. It’s not enthusiastic support. It’s the type of support you give something you have no choice but to get behind, sort of like a Democrat who would rather not vote at all but ultimately casts a ballot for Obama because, well, what else were you gonna do?
It’s one embarrassingly small leap for mankind.
Look, I’m glad Wallis finally came to his senses. But it’s too little too late at this point. Younger Christians beat him to the punch on this issue, making his “new” views totally irrelevant.
Jim Wallis could have been a leader. He could have done the right thing a long time ago. But he didn’t. He wavered. He was silent when we could have used him. He took a “neutral” stance that might as well have been pure opposition. He proved that, even on some major social issues, “progressive” Christians are hardly an improvement from people who do nothing at all.
So let’s celebrate the fact that a prominent Christian finally said something sensible about marriage equality. But let’s not pretend Wallis is a role model here. Role models do the right thing no matter how tough it may be, not wait for the political climate to change and then jump on the bandwagon that other people built.