The New Republic Press Items
Sojourners—the community founded and led by evangelical author and speaker Jim Wallis—responded to subway ads calling Muslims “savages” by purchasing space to post its own posters in the same subway stations. The message is simple: “Love Your Muslim Neighbors.” After the mosque attacks in Joplin and Toledo, Sojourners bought billboards in both communities to broadcast the same message. “It’s only an extremist fringe that would ever attack another religion’s place of worship in this country,” explained Sojourners spokesman Tim King to the Christian Post. “But unless we offer up an alternative voice, it will be the message and acts of extremists that most across the country and the world hear.”
In 1969, Saul Alinsky received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award, given annually by a coalition of Catholic groups in the Midwest to commemorate an encyclical about human rights and alternatives to war written by Pope John XXIII. Most honorees have been ardent reformers of one faith or another: Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu, Cesar Chavez, Daniel Berrigan, and Jim Wallis are on the list—as is Lech Walesa.
Obama's approach made its national debut in a June 2006 speech to Call to Renewal, a group organized by Jim Wallis. It was the address of a politician who knows that Democrats need a significant share of the religious vote-and also knows that Democrats depend on substantial support from secular voters.
During the three events [Elizabeth Edwards] did that day, supporters asked her about farm subsidies, pharmaceutical companies, Iran, flag-burning amendments. She was never stumped and rarely gave an answer shorter than 15 minutes. A question about heating bills lead to a lecture that strayed from localized electrical grids to geothermal readiness to Iraq. Sometimes she got a little too Beltway--quoting Joshua Kurlantzick's Charm Offensive or Jim Wallis's God's Politics or sniping at Republican media consultant Alex Castellanos by name. At the very least, she didn't pander. One man complained that people just wanted to drive their Hummers and SUVs, and the campaign should say, "Hey, you slobs, take a look at yourselves in the mirror." She squinted at him and said, "That's not, like, a winning formula."
I note three religious figures, too. One is Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Turkey. And the other two are from the United States: Jim Wallis, the Sojourners guy. You'd expect that. But also Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention. Good for Davos (and good for Land as well).
Jim Wallis keeps popping up as the new values spokesman for the party. Wallis, a liberal evangelical, has been around forever. He writes books. He founded the religious journal Sojourners. But post-election, Wallis is emerging as the Dems' go-to guy. He's constantly quoted in the papers. He's all over the telly; NBC even tapped him to do inaugural commentary. And following his recent powwow with Hill Democrats about how to reclaim the moral high road, The New York Times proclaimed Wallis the party's new values guru.
Democrats might also get some pointers from the Reverend Jim Wallis, founding editor of Sojourners, a bi-monthly progressive Christian commentary on faith, politics, and culture.