This was, of course, an April Fool's Day joke...
Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis stunned critics and supporters alike Sunday as he emerged from a three-month sabbatical from the progressive Christian social justice organization and announced he had joined the tea party.
"During a silent retreat at a Carthusian monastery in the high Sierras, I received a vision," Wallis said in a statement delivered via fax from his hermitage on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island. "God — as Aslan, the great lion of [C.S.] Lewis' Narnia — appeared to me but he was not alone. He was accompanied by a rabbit — a hare carrying a pocketwatch that was tethered to his waistcoat by a golden chain. Aslan and the Hare invited me to walk with them to Starbucks, but when we arrived, it was a not a chain coffee shop. Rather, it was a traditional Japanese tea house. Aslan spoke to me: 'Jim you really should try the tea. It's better for you than your fair trade coffee.'
"As I reached for my the cup of tea on the table in front of me, I awoke, startled, heart racing, covered in sweat," Wallis continued in his statement, which appeared to have been written with a quill pen and ink. "That's when I knew: God wants me to join the tea party. I have seen the error of my ways. The Mighty Aslan has spoken loudly and clearly. And I have heeded his call."
Wallis, 51, has been on sabbatical from Sojourners since January. He was set to return to the 40-year-old organization's D.C. offices April 9. His unexpected announcement is a complete 180-degree turn from his public statements about the tea party in the past, including a May 2010 post titled, "How Christian is Tea Party Libertarianism?"
Media personalities Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh released a joint statement Sunday morning in response to Wallis' unexpected change of heart. It said, simply, "BOOYAH!"
Evangelicals for Social Action founder Ron Sider took to his Twitter account to react to Wallis' news, tweeting three words: "Farewell Jim Wallis."
Late Sunday morning, longtime Wallis allies Tony Campolo, Phyllis Tickle, Joan Chittister and Richard Rohr reportedly were en route to Block Island in a chartered boat captained by Wes Granberg-Michaelson, a Sojourners board member and former general secretary of the Reformed Church in America. Shane Claiborne has chosen to swim to the island in an effort to limit the carbon imprint of the emergency progressive intervention.
Reports that the group plans to hold a traditional exorcism are unconfirmed.
Shortly after 1 p.m. EST Sunday (April 1), an evelope containing the photograph (at left) — which appears to be authentic and undoctored, although undated — arrived at the Sojourners offices in Washington, D.C. via carrier owl. There was no return address.
The undated photo appears to have been taken last year in Rochester, N.Y., outside the Flower City Habitat for Humanity and Heritage Christian Services. Wallis was joined at the tea party by Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, though the exact circumstances of their posthumous appearance is under investigation.
Please join us in praying for Jim, his family, friends and colleagues at Sojourners and in the progressive Christian community worldwide, as this shocking story develops.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.