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God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get Itby Jim Wallis
Synopses & Reviews
Since when did believing in God and having moral values make you pro-war, pro-rich, and pro-Republican? And since when did promoting and pursuing a progressive social agenda with a concern for economic security, health care, and educational opportunity mean you had to put faith in God aside?
While the Right in America has hijacked the language of faith to prop up its political agenda — an agenda not all people of faith support — the Left hasn't done much better, largely ignoring faith and continually separating moral discourse and personal ethics from public policy. While the Right argues that God's way is their way, the Left pursues an unrealistic separation of religious values from morally grounded political leadership. The consequence is a false choice between ideological religion and soulless politics.
The effect of this dilemma was made clear in the 2004 presidential election. The Democrats' miscalculations have left them despairing and searching for a way forward. It has become clear that someone must challenge the Republicans' claim that they speak for God, or that they hold a monopoly on moral values in the nation's public life. Wallis argues that America's separation of church and state does not require banishing moral and religious values from the public square. In fact, the very survival of America's social fabric depends on such values and vision to shape our politics — a dependence the nation's founders recognized.
God's Politics offers a clarion call to make both our religious communities and our government more accountable to key values of the prophetic religious tradition — that is, make them pro-justice, pro-peace, pro-environment, pro-equality, pro-consistent ethic of life (beyond single issue voting), and pro-family (without making scapegoats of single mothers or gays and lesbians). Our biblical faith and religious traditions simply do not allow us as a nation to continue to ignore the poor and marginalized, deny racial justice, tolerate the ravages of war, or turn away from the human rights of those made in the image of God. These are the values of love and justice, reconciliation, and community that Jesus taught and that are at the core of what many of us believe, Christian or not. In the tradition of prophets such as Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Desmond Tutu, Wallis inspires us to hold our political leaders and policies accountable by integrating our deepest moral convictions into our nation's public life.
"Jim Wallis is compelling, provocative, and inspirational, with faith that can move mountains and can certainly move people and communities." Archbishop Desmond Tutu
"Jim Wallis is an inspiration to me — for his witness of faith and his engagement with politics." Bill Moyers
"Jim Wallis is the major prophetic evangelical Christian voice in the country. He refuses to allow the religious Right to have a monopoly on morality and spirituality; he also calls for the secular Left to speak to the crucial issues of personal meaning and individual values. His major message is faith, hope, and love — yet it is put forward with a sense of urgency and insight rarely seen in our cynical time. I hope and pray his voice resounds across this land — and that we pay heed to it." Cornel West, author of Race Matters and Democracy Matters
"The Left mocks the Right. The Right knows it's right. Two ugly traits. How far should we go to try to understand each other's point of view? Maybe the distance grace covered on the cross is a clue." Bono, lead singer of U2
"Long before Democrats and progressives started thinking about the electoral importance of getting right with God — that is to say, on or about November 3, 2004 — Jim Wallis was trying to remind liberals of the contributions people of faith have made to the struggles for social justice, civil rights, and peace. This is Wallis at his usual passionate and brilliant self: he's eloquent and intellectually honest, and he will move you to examine your conscience and search your soul." E. J. Dionne, Jr., author of Stand Up, Fight Back and Why Americans Hate Politics
Conservative evangelicals have hugged their Bibles, worn their flag pins, and self-righteously attempted to co-opt any discussion of religion and politics. Liberals are embarrassed to discuss their religious beliefs in public and attempt to avoid the subject altogether. Is there an appropriate way Christians and other morally concerned people can express their faith and values in the public debate while still supporting the constitutional separation of church and state?
We've become great at pursuing our individual "spiritualities," but in the process may have lost sight of the power of religious belief for motivating social reform. What we need is something akin to the social politics of Jesus: speaking out for peace, justice, the poor and disenfranchised, while speaking out against oppressive government and rampant commercialism.
Drawing on his experiences with the poor, with preachers, and with presidents, Wallis points a way for every person to draw on their faith and spiritual tradition to do their part, offering practical tips for how one can enact the spiritual ethic in their own public lives.
Wallis finds the current conservative, liberal, and libertarian options out-of-step with the desires of most Americans untenable. Wallis offers a fourth option, "The Common Good," that would represent those who are traditional on issues of moral character, personal responsibility, sexual integrity, and family values (without scape-goating any group like single parents or homosexuals), while being very progressive on issues like poverty and racial justice. This option affirms good stewardship of the earth and its resources, supports gender equality, and looks first topeacemaking and conflict-resolution when it comes to foreign policy questions. At the spiritual heart of this option is linking one's personal ethics to social justice.
A prophetic book, it provides a scathing indictment of American society and the skewed values our government seems to endorse and implement. A hopeful book, it offers a platform for bringing the spiritual and political together, offering an alternative to the conservative, liberal, and libertarian options currently available to Americans.
About the Author
Jim Wallis, an Evangelical, is the leading figure at the crossroads of religion and politics in America today. He is a public theologian, nationally renowned preacher, faith-based activist and author of seven books. He is the founder of Sojourners, a nationwide network of progressive Christians working for justice and peace, and continues to serve as the editor of Sojourners magazine, covering faith, politics, and culture. He is also the Convener of Call to Renewal, a national federation of churches and faith-based organizations working together to overcome poverty by changing the direction of public policy. Wallis has been an Institute of Politics Fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and has taught on faith, politics, and society both there and at the Harvard Divinity School. Time magazine once named Wallis one of the fifty faces for America's future. Wallis speaks at more than two hundred events a year, and his columns appear in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and dozens of other newspapers around the country. He also offers regular commentary and analysis for radio and television. Wallis currently lives in inner-city Washington, D.C., with his wife, Joy Carroll, and two sons, Luke and Jack.
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