Jim Wallis is a New York Times bestselling author, public theologian, speaker, and international commentator on ethics and public life. He served on President Obama's White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and was former vice chair of and currently serves on the Global Agenda Council on Values of the World Economic Forum.
Jim is the author of 12 books. His most recent book, America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, was released in January 2016. His other books include: On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good, Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery; The Great Awakening:Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America; and God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.
He is president and founder of Sojourners, where he is also editor-in-chief of Sojourners, which has a combined print and online readership of more than 5 million people. Jim frequently speaks in the United States and abroad. His columns appear in major newspapers, including The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe. He frequently appears on radio and television as a commentator on CNN, MSNBC, Fox—on shows such as Meet the Press and Hardball—and on National Public Radio. He has taught at Harvard University, Georgetown University, and a variety of other academic institutions.
Jim was raised in a Midwest evangelical family. As a teenager, his questioning of the racial segregation in his church and community led him to the black churches and neighborhoods of inner-city Detroit. He spent his student years involved in the civil rights and antiwar movements. Jim founded Sojourners while a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois. Jim and several other students started a small magazine and community with a Christian commitment to social justice. More than 40 years later, Sojourners has grown into a national faith-based organization. In 1979, Time magazine named Wallis one of the "50 Faces for America's Future."
Jim lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife Joy Carroll, one of the first women ordained in the Church of England and author of Beneath the Cassock: The Real-Life Vicar of Dibley, and their young sons, Luke and Jack. He was a Little League baseball coach for 11 years — 22 seasons.
Authors Jim Wallis and Eddie Glaude Jr. join Morning Joe to discuss the water crisis in Flint and how racial geography impacts the country.
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How does faith inform public debates on social justice in U.S. politics? How should religious leaders and politicians engage the political process while maintaining their moral witness? Since the fall of 2011, Jim Wallis has been addressing these questions in a course he teaches at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. He leads the class through a series of topics that intersect religion, society, and politics. Sojourners and the Berkley Center have now made this course available online through video recordings and course packets.
The (Un)common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided
Jim Wallis thinks our life together can be better. In this timely and provocative book, he shows us how to reclaim Jesus' ancient and compelling vision of the common good — a vision that impacts and inspires not only our politics but also our personal lives, families, churches, neighborhoods, and world. The (Un)Common Good is the revised and updated paperback edition of On God's Side and includes a new preface.
On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned About Serving the Common Good
On God's Side examines the deepest problems this world faces. What we need is a commitment to an ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the common good. How do we work together, even with people we don’t agree with? How do we treat each other, especially the poorest and most vulnerable? How do we take care of not just ourselves, but also one another? Wallis tackles these questions and more in this challenging, yet hopeful book.
The Great Awakening: Seven Ways to Change the World
What would it take to change the world? What would it take to end extreme poverty, to address climate change, to create peace? For too long, a narrow religious agenda has been used like a wedge to divide people. But a wider and deeper vision of faith and values is emerging. It's a renewal of faith – a great awakening – that combines personal faith with social justice. A new social movement is on the rise. The Great Awakening is upon us.
God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It
God's Politics offers a clarion call to make both our religious communities and our government more accountable to key values of the prophetic religious tradition. Our biblical faith and religious traditions simply do not allow us as a nation to continue to ignore the poor and marginalized, deny racial justice, tolerate the ravages of war, or turn away from the human rights of those made in the image of God. These are the values of love and justice, reconciliation, and community that Jesus taught and that are at the core of what many of us believe, Christian or not.
Faith Works: How Faith-based Organizations are Changing Lives, Neighborhoods, and America
"In Faith Works, Jim Wallis has woven together a detailed road map for those interested in loosening the chains of social injustice. This book is a powerful resource for change!" Millard Fuller, Founder and President, Habitat for Humanity International
The Soul of Politics: Beyond 'Religious Right' and 'Secular Left'
Jim Wallis responds to signs of cultural breakdown and political impasse with a resounding and highly moving call to reintegrate politics and spirituality - a call for a new political morality combining social justice with personal responsibility.
The Call to Conversion: Recovering the Gospel for These Times
Jim Wallis explores Jesus' call to God's community and away from worldly standards, the churches' betrayal of the call, and the possibilities for a new response.
Posts By This Author
The Legacy of Barack Obama
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA has only been out of office for a few weeks, but his legacy is secure in ways that are critical to our national identity—and quite separate from his policy successes and failures.
One lens through which we can understand Obama’s relevance and lasting historical legacy is found, surprisingly, in the book of Genesis. Genesis 1:26-27 gives us the first biblical description of human origin: “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, to be like us. ... Humankind was created as God’s reflection: in the divine image God created them; female and male, God made them.’”
This text is foundational to how we understand God’s purpose for the world and for human beings. Perhaps most important, it establishes the foundational value of every human as being made in the image of God ( imago dei).
This biblical revelation—and America’s racial history—is why the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008 is of such lasting importance. The United States was founded on the original sin of white supremacy, which declared that some people were less human than others; the nation was built on the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans and the displacement and eradication of Native Americans. In the process, the founders of our nation cast aside the notion of imago dei. The Constitution enshrined the notion that African slaves could be considered three-fifths of a person for the purposes of congressional representation (and Native Americans counted not at all).
Choosing an African-American man for the highest office in our nation—making him the most powerful person in the world for eight years—was and is a fundamental blow to white supremacy. The Obama presidency marked a historic era in the longstanding and ongoing movement to undo white supremacy and privilege.
White Evangelicals and the Election
AFTER A LONG and extraordinarily toxic election, white people elected Donald Trump president of the United States. They weren’t the only ones voting, but the white vote—coupled with efforts to suppress minority voters along with diminished enthusiasm and turnout among all voters—was enough to make the difference. After beginning his political career with a racist birther campaign against the first black president, then starting his presidential campaign with a speech that viciously denigrated Mexicans and immigrants, Donald Trump won the election not in spite of but because of his bigotry.
One of the important moral discussions that will take place over the coming months is around the questions “Who did evangelicals vote for in 2016, and why?” White evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Trump, but evangelicals of color did not. In light of these results, we need to step back and ask much-more-basic questions, such as “What is an evangelical?” “What do evangelicals look like?” and “What issues motivate evangelical voters?” The answers are more complicated and more encouraging than what the media and pollsters have traditionally described and what the votes of white evangelicals in this election painfully showed.
In 2016, the conversation about who evangelicals are and what issues motivate them began to change. An influential declaration signed by 80 racially diverse evangelical leaders focused on their rejection of the racial and gender bigotry of Trump. It clarified the fundamental differences between older white evangelicals and a new generation of multiethnic evangelical leaders and what they care about.
One sign of progress is that when the media discuss religious voting preferences, they are now more likely to use the phrase “white evangelicals” as a category rather than assuming that the term “evangelicals” applies only to white people.
Robin Hood in Reverse
THE RICHEST EIGHT people in the world, according to an Oxfam report this January, own more wealth between them than the poorest 50 percent of humanity—3.6 billion people.
Let’s make that clear: Eight people own more wealth than 3.6 billion people. That is simply grotesque. And it is the type of fact that needs to break through the complacency and routine of our daily lives, and the latest outrages of the U.S. president, and spur us to demand effective collective action to change course.
Many people don’t spend much time thinking about the difference between income inequality and wealth inequality, but it’s important to understand that wealth inequality is both harder to fix and harder to justify, and it has enormous consequences that resonate over multiple generations. The reality that the Oxfam report makes plain is that even while global extreme poverty has seen dramatic reductions over the last couple of decades, global wealth continues to be concentrated at the very top, into fewer and fewer hands.
The recovery of global financial markets since the crash of 2008 has been very good for the already wealthy, but for those who didn’t have many assets to begin with, the recovery of the stock market has benefited them far less. To put it bluntly, the class of the people who had the most to do with causing the crisis ended up benefiting the most from it.
Truth and Consequences
ELECTIONS HAVE consequences. It’s a phrase we hear all the time, generally from whichever party won a recent election and is claiming a mandate to fulfill campaign promises.
Sometimes, for those observing Washington from the outside, the truth of this statement can get lost. People see partisan gridlock and say to themselves, “Nothing ever gets done in Washington. Both parties have all sorts of problems. Why should I even bother to vote?” Yet the truth is that all elections—local, state, national—matter. They all have consequences. And in 2017, we are seeing this play out in particularly dramatic and alarming ways.
There are countless examples, but I want to focus on the Department of Justice. While most employees there are career civil servants who stay in their positions regardless of who is president, new presidents get to fill many of the top positions with political appointees. Presidents can pick whoever they want to fill these posts (some must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate), and they can be fired by the president at any time, for any reason. FBI directors serve 10-year terms to insulate them from political pressure, but as we saw in May with James Comey, they can also be fired by the president at any time.
Resistance and Healing
WHERE MUST we start as Christians and faithful churches after such a devastating election that brings the most dangerous man to the White House that we have seen in our lifetimes?
First, many people are terribly afraid, because they are from groups who were attacked and targeted in the campaign by the new president-elect. We must take those attacks seriously by reaching out in solidarity and protection to those who are now most vulnerable—undocumented immigrants, black and brown Americans, Muslims, women of all races, and LGBTQ folks. Members of these groups have already experienced ugly incidents of hate and violence, including increased harassment, vandalism, and even assaults on children and others in the wake of the election results. If I read my scriptures right, those are the people that Christians and other people of good conscience should now turn to in solidarity and support. That is what Christians are supposed to do: Support the poor, the vulnerable, and those under attack.
Second, we must make it very clear that honest and prophetic truth-telling about race in America will be needed as never before in our time, especially from white Christians. The fact that a majority of white Americans, at every level of class and gender, voted for a candidate who ran on racial and gender bigotry is even more distressing when we see that a majority of white Christians voted just like other white voters. And it is revealing that those who say this election was not about race are white, while Christians of color see race at the center of it. Repentance by white Christians in America will require the replacement of the white identity politics that dominated this election with faith identity politics.
One of the saddest aspects of the election for me is the fact that most white evangelicals voted for a man whose life has embodied the most sinful and shameful worship of money, sex, and power and who represents the very worst of what American culture has become.
In Such a Time as This
MANY PEOPLE IN our nation, and indeed around the world, are frightened by the things happening in Washington, D.C. Those most affected by the actions of this administration are especially afraid—and so far the fears of those who were directly targeted by President Trump during the campaign have proven all too justified.
Immigrant families are faced with an administration crackdown on undocumented people. Children are afraid to go to school, families avoid medical facilities, and some people have even expressed their fear of going to church, where they might be targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents—whose numbers Trump and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly have promised to increase by at least 10,000 as part of a deportation force.
In just one of many disturbing examples, in February ICE officials surrounded, questioned, and detained six Latino men who had just left the hypothermia shelter run by Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church in Alexandria, Va. It is difficult to overstate the outrage and betrayal felt by so many that a church shelter for the homeless was targeted by the government to locate and detain undocumented immigrants. Amid these threats, people of faith are pledging to protect and defend undocumented immigrants under attack.
Many others are afraid too. Every black parent I know is afraid for their children, and that is a fact that white Christians, many of whom voted for Trump, must understand. Black pastors are concerned about the young people in their communities and their interactions with police. Racial policing is obviously not a new problem in America, and Trump didn’t start it, but the racial rhetoric of his campaign and the appointments he has made have struck fear into the hearts of many. The president promotes “law and order” and “stop and frisk” in familiar coded language that racial minorities understand. If there is no accountability from the administration or the Justice Department for those who would use excessive force against citizens of color—and especially young people—churches and clergy are pledging to hold their police departments accountable.
What Does It Mean to Reclaim the Name of Jesus in These Times?
As we approach Pentecost, it has become painfully obvious that a new effort is needed to take our faith to the streets — to remind Christians in the U.S. what followers of Jesus are called to believe, and therefore what we are also called to reject.
In a Time of Crisis, Let Us Gather
That opportunity to root ourselves in faith and community is what The Summit is all about, this year and every year. It’s why we need you to join us, and to tell us which other leaders need to be there, too.
On the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King's Assassination, Confessing the Church's Complicity in Racial Division
Confession is telling the truth. Telling the truth to God and the world about ourselves. Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Confession leads to freedom. This day is about freedom for all of us. Without confession to the sin of white racism, white supremacy, white privilege, people who call themselves white Christians will never be free — free from the bondage of a lie, a myth, an ideology, and an idol.
Reclaiming Jesus from the Trump Evangelicals
“Evangelical” is a word that now needs to be defined carefully, given how much it has been distorted and corrupted by both the media and the behavior of white evangelicals. The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is now at stake — as is the integrity of Christian faith for at least a generation to come.