The Common Good

Jim Wallis, evangelical leader, backs Obama on 'Faith' plan

Source: Daily Kos
Date: July 2, 2008

Evangelical leader Jim Wallis, author of The Great Awakening and founder of Sojourners, which bills itself as the largest network of progressive Christians in the United States, today issued a statement in response to Obama's proposal on Tuesday to form a new President's Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships within the White House.

Wallis just last week blasted James Dobson's attacks on Obama. The Obama Faith plan has drawn support and criticism (for continuing to bridge the church/state divide, and for other reasons) in the past 24 hours.

Here is Wallis's full statement.

Wallis:

I have been deeply disappointed with the corresponding lack of policy commitment to reduce poverty by the Bush administration, and the eventual politicizing of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives office along partisan lines. Instead of a partnership, this initiative became a substitute for necessary public policies attacking the causes and consequences of poverty within the United States. Despite this failure, my commitment to public-private partnership involving the faith community has never diminished.

I have hoped that both of the presidential candidates would re-commit the nation to this necessary and positive vision of partnership between the public sector and the faith community on the goals of poverty reduction. Today, Barack Obama outlined his plan to engage faith-based and community organizations from the White House in order to create "the foundation of a new project of American renewal." Obama affirmed the idea of a faith-based initiative on the solid foundations of both real partnership and the necessary commitment of government to sound public policy to reduce poverty. Prior to today, the danger was that Democrats might revert to old secular biases and end the faith-based program all together preferring only public sector approaches as the remedy to poverty instead of also forging vital partnerships with civil society that include the faith community. It was good to see that the failures of the Bush faith-based initiative have not deterred Obama from proposing a robust vision of his own.

The key to today's proposal is that it is based on public and faith-based partnership, and will not become another replacement for sound public policy. To truly be successful, this initiative must utilize the unique resources and identity of the faith community while, at the same time, recognizing the indispensible role that government and public policy must play in tackling the root causes of poverty. Obama's proposals also contain necessary protections for religious liberty, pluralism and constitutional safeguards.

This initiative has the potential to unite people across partisan lines. I truly hope that a recommitment to engaging the valuable role of faith-based organizations doesn't get mired in the endless political debates of the past while God's concerns for the weak and vulnerable get ignored.