The Common Good

The Washington Post

The Washington Post Press Items
The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of the Washington-based social justice group Sojourners, is even blunter in his assessment of the Tea Party's approach to giving. "The libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue," he wrote on his blog, God's Politics. "Emphasizing individual rights at the expense of others violates the common good, a central Christian teaching and tradition."
Glenn Beck has picked a fight with me, but he recently started a more troubling battle with the nation's churches with his criticism that "social justice" is "code" for "communism" and "Nazism," and that Christians should leave their churches if they preach, practice or even have the phrase on their Web site.
Others, including Jim Wallis, leader of the progressive faith movement Sojourners, who has served on the White House council, said he hopes to see the president engage with the faith community on a much deeper level on domestic and foreign policy. "I want him to listen to faith groups as much as he listens to people on Wall Street," Wallis said. "I want him to listen to faith groups as much as military leaders on Afghanistan."
One cold morning the week before Christmas, I found myself huddled with a group of homeowners and religious leaders on Pennsylvania Avenue, in the shadow of the White House and the Treasury building. The homeowners, who had all worked hard to buy their first homes, and most of whom had put enough money down to qualify for fixed-rate mortgages only to be persuaded into more exotic mortgages, were facing imminent foreclosure. We had come to stand with them.
For some, the "Christian community lifestyle" means not raising their own food remotely with "other self-sufficient Christians" but rather moving to inner-city neighborhoods and sharing resources. Groups such as D.C.-based Bread for the World and Sojourners are examples of a Christianity that is thriving and badly undercovered.
The Rev. Jim Wallis, a left-leaning minister, spoke next. "We're at a rally!" he exhorted the participants, many in green AFSCME shirts. "We need some rally voices!"
The brainchild of progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis and Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for then-President George W. Bush who now writes a column for The Washington Post, the bipartisan alliance is made up of an "orgy of strange bedfellows," Gerson said at a news conference this week introducing the group's ideas.
Three members of the council -- the Rev. Joel Hunter, the Rev. Frank Page and the Rev. Jim Wallis -- have heightened concerns among church-state separatists. Wallis persuaded President Bill Clinton to start his faith-based program, which opened the door to Bush's larger program. And Page is the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, which strongly advocates that it is discriminatory for the government to prevent its members from sharing their faith with others.
The group will do more than steer federal social-service funds to religious organizations, said the Rev. Jim Wallis, who expects to be named to the council. "This is a much broader mission than who gets funded," he said. Wallis, who presides over Sojourners, a progressive Christian organization based in the District, said he expects that the council will advise the president on substantive foreign and domestic issues.
Sojourners, a liberal evangelical group, intends to keep the pressure up with a march in April, the Mobilization Against Poverty, that will call on the president to cut the poverty rate in half within 10 years. The organizations say they are only attempting to help Obama stay on the course he has promised. Said Sojourners organizer Jim Wallis: "We're trying to help him fulfill his commitment and hold his administration accountable at the same time."