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 11 books. The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided (Brazos Press), was released in June 2014. 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.
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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
'Nothing We Can Do' and Other Lies About Gun Violence
There is nothing we can do to reduce the growing number of mass shootings in America — except get more people to have guns. Unbelievably, that’s what conservative spokespersons and Republican presidential candidates are saying after the latest college massacre in Oregon which killed 10 and wounded 7 others.
Saying there is nothing we can do to end such killings is patently untrue. And suggesting that more guns in more places would reduce gun violence is not only morally irresponsible, but also flies in the face of all the facts. Suppose we arm everyone — do we really want to live in that kind of country and raise our children there? Or send our children to college on those campuses, as I will do for the first time next fall? I think there is a better interpretation of the Second Amendment than the idea that the Constitution allows individual citizens to own whatever form of lethal weapons they want.
I Am a Sinner: Don't Forget to Pray for Me
The first thing the new Pope Francis said to the world in St. Peter’s Square when he accepted the papacy was “I am a sinner.” In a final mass of one million people in Philadelphia, the last words Francis spoke to the American people were, “Please pray for me; don’t forget!”
From the moment Francis arrived to the last event he led in the U.S., I saw something I never had before. For the first time in my life, I saw the gospel proclaimed at the highest levels of the nation—from the White House, to the Congress, to the United Nations, to Madison Square Garden, to Independence Hall, and to Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Simplicity, humility, compassion, grace, service, love, justice, peace, care for the poor, and creation itself were all lifted up in the places where such things are seldom valued or even named.
Francis: When a Visitor Changes Your Home
Stunning is the word that most comes to me after Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Washington, D.C. The country and the media was reveling in his presence, using language like “amazing,” “incredible,” and “wonderful” in response to this extraordinary moral leader who literally transformed our public discourse in the 48 hours he was in the nation’s capital. What these two extraordinary days mean going forward is the big question on all our hearts and minds.
At the formal welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House, a very traditional template was transformed by the “Vicar of Christ,” whose presence turned everyone’s language to one reference after another to those Christ called “the least of these” in the 25th chapter of Matthew. Never have I heard the most vulnerable being the most talked about in this city.
President Obama began the pope’s visit with these words, “What a beautiful day the Lord has made.”
Indeed. Then Pope Francis introduced himself to America as “a son of an immigrant family” who was “happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.”
The Matthew 25 Test
AS THE SEASON turned from summer to fall, I was reflecting again about Sojourners’ vocation, the focus of our mission and ministry.
Matthew 25:31-46 is my own conversion text, the scripture that brought me to Christ a long time ago out of the radical student movement. It’s also been a converting text for many others here at Sojourners over the years.
The 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel has been foundational to Sojourners from the very beginning of the Sojourners community more than 40 years ago. But I am realizing that Matthew 25 is not only foundational for us, it is really our vocational text. In other words, it shapes not just what we believe and what we stand for, but also what we do as an organization—the issues we address, the campaigns we get involved in, the statements we sign, the coalitions we join, and much more.
In that sense, I’ve been thinking about Matthew 25 in relation to issues of organizational stewardship and sustainability. Autumn is always a busy season for me and for Sojourners. Faced with many invitations, requests, and opportunities to make a positive impact on a variety of issues, how do we decide where and how to focus our ministry, energy, staff, time, and gifts? How do we be good stewards of our calling? I think that Matthew 25:31-46 provides the answer. The key moment in the passage is when Jesus says:
I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me ... Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.
Pope Francis' Visit: The Conversation in America Will Change Next Week
Next week, the conversation will change in America. All the media attention recently given to political figures will now shift to a moral leader who is changing the global public discussion about what is compassionate, just, good, and right — and Christian.
This is a fundamental spiritual shift that we deeply need in our country right now. Three major East Coast cities will have their typical traffic patterns and lodging arrangements severely disrupted. I’m not predicting an earthquake or a hurricane — instead, for only the tenth time in our nation’s history , the pope, spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide, will visit the United States.
The last papal visit was from Pope Benedict XVI in 2008. Pope Francis’ visit to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City, which will take place from September 22-27, is expected to be historic in terms of the crowds it generates, with well over one million people anticipated for the Philadelphia portion alone.
In Europe and In the U.S. — We Must Welcome the Stranger
The pope’s teachings and his deeds have inspired people to put aside their differences and to work together for a common good. We hope that this momentum will carry over to the debates on immigration. We must work together push back against the hateful anti-immigrant messaging coming from some of our elected officials and candidates for office, and draw on the moral high ground we find in our faith and Scriptures. Including Matthew 25.
Beyond the need for broad-based legislative reform, ordinary people and communities of faith in the United States can also make a difference on an individual and family level. Just as the pope has called on European Catholic churches to “welcome the stranger” in their own parishes and homes, American churches, synagogues, mosques, and even individual homes should take up that challenge as well. It’s time for people in the United States and Europe to learn what it really means to welcome the stranger.
Support the Iran Deal. It's Time to Be Peacemakers.
Here are the politics of the Iran nuclear deal: Congress returns next week from its summer recess, and among the first orders of business will be taking up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program, recently negotiated with Iran in Vienna by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.
Opponents of the agreement had hoped to use the August break to sway undecided members of Congress. It didn’t happen. Instead, yesterday, Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland became the 34th senator to publicly support the accord— meaning there are enough votes to sustain a presidential veto of any bill intended to kill it.
Now, here is a faith perspective: For Christians, this is a victory for peace and diplomacy over another bloody and destructive war. It is a time when common sense wins over bombast — when reality wins over rhetoric.
Finding the Way of Hope
ONLY SOCIAL MOVEMENTS really change history. Developing, nurturing, and supporting a new generation of leaders is central to the long-term success of these movements. As leaders like me get older and look to the future, mentoring young leaders is particularly important. More and more of my time is spent doing that mentoring, not only broadly but in relationship to particularly promising young leaders whom I have met. It is some of the most important and enjoyable work that I do.
For many years, Sojourners called together large conferences on biblical justice and peace. Thousands of people came year after year, and many positive things happened—new relationships, connections, projects, and organizations—even marriages and families! Now, several other groups are having justice and peace conferences, which is exactly the kind of “competition” Sojourners has always hoped for.
Last year, some of our younger staff came up with a great idea—to have a leadership “Summit” for people already providing leadership for the biblical vision of justice and peace. All the participants would have to be nominated by credible leaders doing this work, and instead of Justice 101 with big speakers and standing ovations, this would become a new, creative environment for moving justice agendas forward—Justice 202. We didn’t publicly advertise these gatherings—instead, the invitation spread by word of mouth as leaders, especially younger ones, were drawn together by experienced justice leaders who nominated them.
Iran Deal: It's Time for Some Serious Talk
If politicians are letting one person trump the tone of politics, just to go up in the polls or get on the debate stage, that’s very bad news for our nation’s civil discourse.
It certainly isn’t serious talk. Serious talk is “Hard work.” “Difficult negotiations.” “Competing interests.” “Coalitions and diplomacy.” Serious talk recognizes that no agreement, no matter how diligently negotiated, is perfect.
Iran is an enemy – an enemy of America, an enemy of Israel, and an enemy of peace. I believe that. But you need to find ways to make peace with your enemies in order to reduce potential conflict. Choosing war with our enemies as our first option since 9/11 has just made us more enemies.
The question is: what we should do about Iran?
How We Talk About Life — and Death
It’s not often words escape us. But in the aftermath of the now viral recording(s) raising concerns over whether Planned Parenthood seeks profit from aborted fetal tissue — and the crassness with which its representative discusses how to accomplish it without “crushing” the tissue/organs — that’s where we were left: with no words. We confess to being at a complete loss of what to say in the face of humanity’s brokenness.
Beyond the ethical questions of how an organization receives payment for tissue sales or the debates around the potential benefits of the patients’ donations of fetal tissue, the videos are an in-your-face reminder of our culture’s blatant disrespect for life.
That disregard is not unique in our society, of course. Journalism: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Medicine: “There’s nothing more to be done. She’s a vegetable.” Justice system: “He’s gonna fry.” War: “Light ‘em up.” Uncomfortable questions about life and death and ethics are best papered over with emotionless cliché, obviously.
As a society and as individuals, when we fail to recognize the imago dei in others, we trend further away from our uniquely human capacity to empathize and closer to isolated, analytical, and almost robotic assessments of value.
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