Jim Wallis is a New York Times bestselling author, public theologian, speaker, and international commentator on ethics and public life. He recently served on the 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, will be released in January. His most recent 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 magazine, which has a combined print and electronic media readership of more than a quarter million people. Jim frequently speaks in the United States and abroad. His columns appear in major newspapers, including The New York Times, Washington Post, 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, Hardball, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the O’Reilly Factor—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 is a Little League baseball coach.
To arrange a media interview, contact:
Michael Mershon, Director of Advocacy and Communications
»Download a print-quality photo (5x7 @ 300dpi)
View a full list of upcoming events featuring Jim Wallis and other Sojourners staff.
Request Jim to Speak
For speaking event invitations, contact:
James Simpson, Executive Assistant
3333 14th St NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20010
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
How to Move from Allies to Accomplices
When I began writing my latest book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, my hope was to help foster that new conversation on race in America — and to point to the action that needs to come from it. Because only when we openly and truthfully speak to the roots of racism and inequality in our country — white supremacy, white privilege, and the dehumanization and devaluation of black lives and bodies — will we able to deal with the modern-day realities of that legacy and solve the obvious problems before us in racialized policing and the blatant racial disparities in our criminal justice, education, and economic systems. So we launched a “town meeting” tour that creates space for the voices of diverse local leaders in each city and allows for the multiracial, truth-telling conversations and actions we so urgently need across this country. I’m happy to say that tour has started, and it has been powerful to see and hear.
How Many Tears?
EARLY THIS YEAR, I was invited to the White House for an important meeting. A young couple entered at the same time I did, carrying their baby—which struck me as unusual for a meeting with leaders at the White House.
They introduced themselves and their 15-month-old daughter. Then the couple told me this: “Her 6-year-old sister was shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.”
Then I understood. They were there for the same meeting I was—President Obama’s announcement of new executive actions on background checks and other gun enforcement and safety issues.
The East Room of the White House was full of the victims and family members of victims of mass shootings, which occurred 372 times in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870. (As defined by the Mass Shooting Tracker, a mass shooting is any in which four or more people are shot.)
Many families that had lost children or parents were there. Former member of Congress Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, were there. Many remember the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., in which a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia shot 19 people, including Rep. Giffords, six of whom were killed, including a 9-year-old girl.
IT WAS THE PEOPLE and the faces that most moved me—and moved the president. Much was made the next day of his emotional response. When he said, “Our unalienable right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness—those rights were stripped from college kids in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high-schoolers in Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown,” he had to wipe tears away from his eyes.
“Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” Obama said. “And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”
I have seldom seen President Obama so emotional. I know the hardest day of his presidency was when he had to go to Newtown to meet and talk to the families of the 26 students and teachers who had lost their lives to another mass shooter. And it is clear to me that Obama was responding as a dad who has two girls of his own.
Race is in the Air We Breathe and the Water We Drink
How would you feel if you realized your children’s water was being poisoned, and your government didn’t seem to care? That’s the story of the parents of 8,000 mostly poor and black children in Flint, Mich., (which means most all of the children in urban Flint) that has finally hit our media front pages. The evening news I am watching as I write warns the parents of Flint not to bathe their young children in city water.
The First Week
We had a good first week with America’s Original Sin. I wanted to share with you and many other friends along the way of our ongoing tour my favorite interview of the week. It was on Morning Joe. I was delighted to see that some genius producer there had invited Eddie Glaude, the Chair of the Center for African American studies with an endowed chair at Princeton to join the discussion. Eddie had been on Morning Joe the week before to promote his new book, Democracy in Black, which I am reading right now. The dialogue we had on the show was both exciting and encouraging, at least from both of our perspectives!
Building Racial Bridges
The best way to change that old talk that black parents have with their children is to start a new talk between white and black parents. These conversations will make people uncomfortable, and they should. White parents should ask their black friends who are parents whether they have had “the talk” with their children. What did they say? What did their children say? How did it feel for them to have that conversation with their children? What’s it like not to be able to trust law enforcement in your own community?
WATCH: Survey Reveals a Startling Truth About White Christians
Most polls don’t matter much. But this one does. A recent Public Religion Research Institute survey has revealed a devastating truth: While about 80 percent of black Christians believe police-involved killings — like the ones that killed Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, and so many more — are part of a larger pattern of police treatment of African Americans, around 70 percent of white Christians believe the opposite … that they are simply isolated incidents.
Racism Is a Faith Issue
To put this in a religious context: overcoming the divisions of race has been central to the church since its beginning, and the dynamic diversity of the body of Christ is one of the most powerful forces in the global church. Our Christian faith stands fundamentally opposed to racism in all its forms, which contradict the good news of the gospel. The ultimate answer to the question of race is our identity as children of God, which we so easily forget applies to all of us. And the political and economic problems of race are ultimately rooted in a theological problem. The churches have too often “baptized” us into our racial divisions, instead of understanding how our authentic baptism unites us above and beyond our racial identities.
Do we believe what we say about the unity of “the body of Christ” or not?
'We set out to start a community, and now we have a village'
A SELF-PROCLAIMED “ordinary radical” from eastern Tennessee, Shane Claiborne is a founding member of the New Monasticism movement, which encourages a life of simplicity, nonviolence, community, and prayer. In 1997, along with fellow passionate friends from Eastern University, Shane co-founded The Simple Way—an intentional Christian community in inner-city North Philadelphia. His books include Jesus for President, Red Letter Revolution, Common Prayer, and Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers. He’s been featured in films such as Another World is Possible and Ordinary Radicals. His forthcoming book, Executing Grace, calls Christians to advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty.
Shane’s first book, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, quickly became a foundational text for many young, social justice-minded Christians. Now, 10 years later, he’s updating the world about what this revolution looks like today. Claiborne spoke with Sojourners editor-in-chief Jim Wallis by phone in November about what’s new—and what’s not—in his lifelong vocation to be part of the Jesus revolution.
Jim Wallis: This is the 10th anniversary of the publication of Irresistible Revolution, and you’ve just released an updated edition. What new insights can we expect in this version?
Shane Claiborne: After 20 years of living in North Philly, there are things you look back on and you think, wow, that looks different from what I thought it would. So it’s been a surprise and a gift to get to tweak the book a little bit. I wrote notes in the margins throughout the book. Some of them are fun and some of them are to be a little bit more accurate. Then I did a whole section of frequently asked questions. Those run the gambit of “How come you got married?” to “What do you do with ISIS?” I added an appendix, too, about the tradition of civil disobedience in the church. It was fun!
“The irresistible revolution,” you said in the first edition of the book, “isn’t just about going to heaven when you die, but bringing heaven down as you live. ... The revolution we are talking about begins inside each of us and extends to the ends of the earth.” Has that changed? No, I don’t think that has changed at all. What does change are the ways we live that out. When we started The Simple Way 20 years ago, there was the sense that everybody needs to leave everything behind and just live on the streets. What we’ve seen the Spirit doing is much more dynamic and spectacular than that—people are living out unique vocations. We have lawyers, doctors, plumbers, gardeners, or urban farmers—folks who are using their gifts for seeking first the kingdom of God and interrupting the patterns of injustice.
Crossing the Bridge to a New America
[Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Jim Wallis' new book America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. Order your copy here.]
IN JOHN 8:32, JESUS SAYS, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” which is one of those moral statements that breaks through the confusion and chaos of our lives—untruths that we believe are able to control us, dominate us, and set us on the wrong path. Untruths are burdens to bear and even can be idols that hold us captive—not allowing us to be free people who understand ourselves and the world truthfully.
The families of the victims of the Charleston church shooting last June have spoken grace and truth, and their example could inspire us to acknowledge and change the truths about race in America. Their grace will test the integrity of our truth and our response. Will we seek, tell, and respond to the truth as we go deeper in our needed new national conversation and action on racism in America?
For example, we have seen and heard painful revelations about how police—and, even more systematically, the criminal justice system—too often mistreat young men and women of color. What happened in these incidents? And are they just “incidents,” or is there a pattern here? Is there really just one criminal justice system for all of us—equally—or are there actually different systems for white Americans and for Americans of color?
Are we hiding behind untruths that help make us feel more comfortable, or are we willing to seek the truth, even if that is uncomfortable? The gospel text cited above is telling us that only by seeking the truth are we made free, and that hanging on to untruths can keep us captive to comfortable illusions.
And if the untruths are, more deeply, idols, they also separate us from God—which is, obviously, highly important for those of us who are people of faith.
The title of my new book, America’s Original Sin, is itself unsettling and, for many, provocative. We first used the phrase in a 1987 cover story in Sojourners magazine. The language of “America’s original sin” helped me understand that the historical racism against America’s Indigenous people and enslaved Africans was indeed a sin, and one upon which this country was founded. This helps to explain a lot, because if we are able to recognize that the sin still lingers, we can better understand issues before us today and deal with them more deeply, honestly, and even spiritually—which is essential if we are to make progress toward real solutions.
New York City police commissioner William Bratton acknowledged at a church breakfast in 2014 the negative role of police against African Americans throughout American history. “Many of the worst parts of black history would have been impossible without police,” Bratton said. You can imagine my surprise when he then used the language of original sin: “Slavery, our country’s original sin, sat on a foundation codified by laws enforced by police, by slave-catchers.” Bratton is no theologian or liberal academic but rather an experienced, knowledgeable, and tough cop. In fact, Bratton has been a controversial figure in New York, coming under fire for his “broken windows” policing strategy that focuses on aggressively targeting low-level offenses in order to deter more serious crime—a strategy that many say disproportionally affects people of color.
Bratton reminded fellow New Yorkers that the colonial founder of New York City, the Dutchman Peter Stuyvesant, was a supporter of the slavery system and created a police force to enforce and protect it. “Since then,” said the commissioner, “the stories of police and black citizens have been intertwined again and again.” He called the role of the NYPD sometimes “corrosive” in race relations. Bratton was talking about how the “original sin” has lingered in our criminal justice system, which is a reality that many people of color experience.
‘What do they want?’
I agree with Commissioner Bratton that telling the truth about America’s original sin is the best way to deal with it and ultimately be free of it. That makes moral and practical sense. Yet the truth of systemic injustice in the past and present must also compel us to action. It remains to be seen whether Bratton’s acknowledgment of the historical issues translates into a commitment to real and ongoing reforms in how his police do their jobs.
Steps of Gratitude
I DIDN'T KNOW much about sepsis until it hit me out of the blue the Friday before Thanksgiving. After working late Thursday night, I woke up the next morning shivering and shaking, with my teeth rattling and full of pain; my left leg was swollen and fire-engine red.
I was immediately sent to the hospital and told frightening things about how dangerous a septic cellulitis infection can be. The ailment is random and can strike people of all ages; bacteria gets under the skin and spreads, and if it goes into the bloodstream, things can get dangerous indeed.
I am certainly not used to lying in a hospital with intravenous antibiotics being pumped into me day and night. Fortunately, thanks to my overall good health, I responded quickly to the antibiotics, resulting in a full recovery. I’ve often visited others in hospitals and been an advocate for patients in bureaucratic health-care systems, and this unexpected visit reminded me why that is so important. It is easy to feel alone in those systems and to lose your voice. I have always been impressed by nurses, who so often bring life, laughter, and even love to health systems that so easily block out such things, and some of my nurses were the delight of my lockdown hospital time.
I grew close to my roommate in the hospital, a man who, like me, is married to an English woman, and who was clearly suffering from cardiac issues. The lack of privacy through flimsy curtains forced me to overhear a doctor telling him that he had two choices: a heart surgery that the doctor thought the man wouldn’t survive, or hospice care with only six months or less to live.
Decisions about life and death often suddenly fill these hospital rooms. My leg infection quickly shrank in comparison, and being present to my roommate and his wife became very important. Friends coming by to talk to my roommate brought tears, stories, smiles, and fears.
TWO WEEKS BEFORE entering the hospital, I had gone on a much-needed personal retreat—not to lead but just to listen, learn, and be quiet. The topics of the seminar were “character” and “gratitude.” The former was intriguing, as the subject of character always is to me. But I found the latter theme, gratitude, to be profoundly challenging—and restful at the same time. Gratitude is hard. It is especially hard for those of us who see their vocation as changing the world—seeing what is wrong and trying to make it right. We see the unjust things and want to make them just, the broken things and want to help heal them; we see the bad and want the good. It can be exhausting.
- 1 of 102