The Common Good

Jim Wallis Clarifies Significance and Message of the Evangelical Manifesto

Source: Sojourners
Date: May 20, 2008

May 20, 2008

Contact: Jason Gedeik, Sojourners, (202) 745-4633, media@sojo.net

Jim Wallis Clarifies Significance and Message of the Evangelical Manifesto

"Role of Evangelicals in Public Life Still Misunderstood By the Media"

WASHINGTON, DC - May 20, 2008 - Jim Wallis, progressive evangelical leader, author of God's Politics and The Great Awakening and founder of Sojourners, the largest network of progressive Christians in the United States, discussed the misunderstandings of the media around the Evangelical Manifesto in a series of articles. Jim Wallis was one of the charter signatories of the Evangelical Manifesto that was released on Wednesday, May 7th and excerpts from his writings on the significance of this document are highlighted below:

The entire blog posts can be found at www.godspolitics.com.

Media issues false analysis that the Evangelical Manifesto was pro-Democratic:

"News outlets such as CNN have implied in their coverage that the Manifesto was pro-democratic by aligning evangelicals with issues previously championed by the Democratic Party. This completely misses the point and the underlying motivation of this document. The Manifesto argued that "evangelical" must be defined first and foremost as a theological term and not a political one."

Statement not repudiation of politics but of a political allegiance:

"A number of news stories spun the Manifesto as a repudiation of politics by sensationalizing their headlines although they were otherwise good articles. The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Group of evangelical Christians writes manifesto urging separation of religious beliefs and politics," The Tennessean (Nashville) had "Evangelicals call for movement to shun politics," and an Associated Press story ran "Evangelical leaders say their faith is too politicized."

"As the Manifesto stated, Jesus called us to be "in" the world but "not of" the world so that while we fully engage in public affairs we should never be equated with any party, partisan ideology, economic system, class, tribe or national identity. I have said time and time again that God is not a Republican or a Democrat and that committed Christians will, and should be, on both sides of the political aisle."

Media limits understanding of religious groups by using old stereotypes:

"It's unfortunate that the media can't help themselves and always want to squeeze everything into their old framework of left and right, Democrat and Republican. But "left" and "right" are not religious categories, and people of faith should define their political involvement in moral terms, not partisan predictability, and that's exactly what the Manifesto said."

Evangelicals need to address the serious image problem of the Church:

"The church has a serious image problem. A recent book, unChristian, by Barna pollster David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons reveals how an overwhelming majority of young people view Christians as hypocritical, too judgmental, too focused on the afterlife, and too political in the worst sense of the word. And that image is often particularly true of evangelicals. That's a lot of baggage we're carrying around."

"But other studies show that when you ask people what they think about Jesus, you get answers like: compassionate, loving, caring, hung out with sinners and poor people, for peace. We have a serious image problem. People think that we should stand for the same things as Jesus did. So it's time to change the image."

Evangelicals want a common-good politics to replace special interests:

"The people I meet across the country are yearning for a moral center to our public life and political discourse, with a fundamental emphasis on the common good. They want to understand better the moral choices and challenges that lie beneath our political debates. More and more people want to see a common-good politics replace the politics of individual gain and special interests."

Evangelicals should be the ultimate swing vote

"While people of faith should never be in any party's or candidate's political pocket, they should ideally be the ultimate swing vote because of their moral independence from partisan politics."

Jim Wallis predicts further broadening of evangelical agenda

"In the future, we will see new alliances and campaigns on a wide range of moral issues led by people of faith across the political spectrum that will shake up politics. The social movements that really change politics are precisely that - public engagement defined by religious and moral commitment that defies normal political categories. Eventually, even the media will finally get it."

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Jim Wallis follows up his New York Times bestseller God's Politics with a call to action for people who want to address urgent problems that politics has failed to solve. The New York Times bestseller The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America heralds a new era for faith and politics. He is President and Chief Executive Officer of Sojourners; where he is editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine, whose combined print and electronic media have a readership of more than 250,000 people.

Sojourners' mission is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world. Visit www.sojo.net and www.sojo.net/GreatAwakening.