The New York Times Press Items
I stopped eating on Monday and joined around 4,000 other people in a fast to call attention to Congressional budget proposals that would make huge cuts in programs for the poor and hungry.
Last week, the conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck called on Christians to leave their churches if they heard any preaching about social or economic justice because, he claimed, those were slogans affiliated with Nazism and Communism.
This week, the Rev. Jim Wallis, a liberal evangelical leader in Washington, D.C., called on Christians to leave Glenn Beck.
The effort has been backed by Richard Viguerie, a fundraiser and activist considered the father of the modern conservative movement. Viguerie, in a July 2009 essay in Sojourners magazine, wrote that executions are supposed to take the life of the guilty -- but noted there are enough flaws in the system to fear an innocent person has been put to death.
What happened to both Wheaton and Jenna Liao tells much about the shifts in evangelical Christianity as a whole. Her Christian education exposed her to examples of religious idealism from St. Thomas Aquinas to Mother Teresa to the progressive evangelical ministers Jim Wallis and Soong-Chan Rah.
Melody C. Barnes, Mr. Obama’s domestic policy director, is a member of Peoples Congregational. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who is friendly with Mr. Obama, has prayed at Nineteenth Street Baptist. And Rev. Jim Wallis, a left-leaning evangelical and a friend of Mr. Obama, has had good relationships with the clergy at National City Christian.
President Obama has been without a pastor or a home church ever since he cut his ties to the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. in the heat of the presidential campaign. But he has quietly cultivated a handful of evangelical pastors for private prayer sessions on the telephone and for discussions on the role of religion in politics. All are men, two of them white and three black — including the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., a graying lion of the civil rights movement. Two, the entrepreneurial dynamos Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, also served as occasional spiritual advisers to President George W. Bush. Another, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leans left on some issues, like military intervention and poverty programs, but opposes abortion.
The Rev. Jim Wallis, a liberal evangelical who is president of Sojourners, a magazine and grass-roots organization based in Washington, said that he and other religious leaders were preparing for a dual role: to challenge the president on policies, and “to clear the way” so people will be prepared to accept the changes he institutes.
“I think Barack Obama understands that big changes won’t happen unless there are social movements pushing from the outside,” said Mr. Wallis, who has known Mr. Obama for 10 years. “Our job is to change the wind.”
Mr. Obama’s proposal was met with praise from leaders like the Rev. Jim Wallis, a prominent spokesman for more liberal evangelicals. Mr. Wallis applauded the fact that Mr. Obama, as a Democrat, was willing to talk about his Christian faith and “wants a faith-based program that’s even better than the Bush program.”
Mr. Obama, in response to a question from an audience member, Jim Wallis, the president of Sojourners, a progressive religious group, said he would seek to cut poverty in America in half within 10 years, although he said circumstances could undermine his good intentions.
“What better way to try to undercut the way he integrates faith and political vision than to say we should all be secretly afraid of his church?” said Jim Wallis, a left-leaning evangelical who has had longstanding relationships with both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, and who says that Mr. Wright has been unfairly caricatured in recent portrayals.