The Common Good


Slate Press Items
She wrote in an article on the same topic for the magazine Soujourners, saying, “I can’t help feeling that while some of the concerns about the effects of a “birth control culture” may be valid, I also worry that to deny women access to contraception — especially when we’re talking about women in the developing world — is to trivialize what more children means in a place like Malawi, or, say, Somaliland, where women have a one in 14 lifetime risk of dying in childbirth.”
Rev. Jim Wallis and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson have endorsed a bipartisan approach to fighting poverty.
Having dropped Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama now turns to five pastors for support, reports the NYT. One, the Rev. Jim Wallis, says he hit it off with Obama because they're both progressive Christians—"We didn't think Jesus' top priorities would be capital gains tax cuts and supporting the next war."
Jim Wallis, whom Kirkpatrick calls the "lonely voice" of the evangelical left, argues strenuously for Christian nonpartisanship, but he also clearly sees left-wing activism as "God's politics." Wallis himself tries to sell the idea of a mass evangelical exodus from the right, but even he lacks the evidence or the following to lend his claims any credence. Rather than being inspired to desert to the left, most evangelicals see Wallis' arguments as a shallow fad (as a pastoral-student friend of mine put it, "socialism shrouded in Jesus talk").
Obama began with a story about his 2004 campaign for the Senate. In the last months of the campaign, Obama's opponent, the volatile Republican Alan Keyes, declared that "Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama." Against the counsel of his political advisors, Obama fired back. He now admits that his volley was weak. "I answered with what has come to be the typically liberal response in such debates," he told the crowd at Jim Wallis' Call to Renewal conference. "I said that we live in a pluralistic society, that I can't impose my own religious views on another." Obama's statement was reasonable, but he now thinks it was the wrong one. "My answer did not adequately address the role my faith has in guiding my own values and my own beliefs," he said last week.
If a viable religious left is going to emerge to balance the religious right, as the Democrats desperately hope it will, two men will be critical to the effort: Michael Lerner, the garrulous rabbi and editor of the interfaith magazine Tikkun, and Rev. Jim Wallis, the barrel-chested evangelical editor of Sojourners magazine and head of the anti-poverty group Call to Renewal. Despite their many shared goals, the two offer disparate visions of what the religious left must do to succeed politically—so different, in fact, that they may be incompatible.
Lo and behold, there is a religious left. A week doesn't seem to pass without some group convening a conference on religion and liberalism. Last year, Rev. Jim Wallis' progressive manifesto, God's Politics, became a best seller; now Jimmy Carter's book attacking the religious right is on the list.
Wallis is an evangelical Protestant leader committed to a prophetic vision of social and political transformation. The plight of the poor and the corrosive social and spiritual effects of rapacious corporate capitalism, racism, militarism and war, and threats to the well-being of families are all on Wallis' docket.
The faith-based defense would be nondenominational and designed to protect Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Wiccans, as well as Christians, officials said. (For technical reasons, it is unclear whether nonbelievers can be protected.)