In commenting on the President’s State of the Union Address, Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners, turned his attention to the recent controversy surrounding Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Wallis criticized Northam’s recently uncovered medical school photograph and the governor’s response to the revelations, calling the whole affair “shameful.”

Wallis acknowledged that the public outcry against Northam is appropriate, recognizing that “nearly everyone, on both sides of the aisle, has called for his resignation, and with good reason.” For Wallis, this incident is yet another iteration of the “hateful, violent, and sinful history of racism in our country.”

However, Wallis wondered if Northam’s resignation is a sufficient response to “yet another blatant manifestation of the hateful and violent symbols and practices of racism.” As a faith leader in the Christian tradition, Wallis feels that resigning is not enough, claiming that “we need something further and deeper.” Beyond merely resigning, Wallis urged Northam to repent and specifically called on Northam to confront his and Virginia’s own history of racism prior to his resignation by issuing an executive order to ensure that “all Confederate statues in the state of Virginia … be removed from all public places” and that “their removal be protected by the Virginia national guard.” This move, Wallis suggested, is an appropriate step to confront Virginia’s history as the “cradle of the Confederacy” and slavery’s “violation of the image of God.”

Beyond this, Wallis suggested that Northam use his final days in office to declare “the end of any more racialized voter suppression” and “racially unequal and unfair policing and mass incarceration practices” in Virginia.

For Wallis, these steps “would be an acknowledgement of the real state of the union in America and the right way to begin our repentance of the sin of racial bondage on the occasion of its 400th anniversary in America.”


Jim Wallis is available for interview.

The entirety of Jim Wallis’ reaction to the State of the Union Address and his exhortations to Governor Northman can be found at