...made interesting comments under the Jim Wallis post. What to do? Do I stay in that comment section, trying to spark interesting discussion that 10 people will read, or go to a new post, which 30 people will read? Easy.
On the issue of the Religious Left in general and Jim Wallis in particular, I have located at least three earlier posts:When I Say Religious Left , That Religious Left That Doesn't Exist, and Jim Wallis In Sunday School. The second is quite long, as I got carried away with trying to nail down my point with massive evidence rather than write simply.
I will repeat some from those posts here. We hear a lot about the Religious Right, and there certainly are some folks who assume that political conservatism is a natural outgrowth of Christianity. Their shortcomings are oft-documented and familiar to us all. The Religious Left is claimed to not exist, or not exist in the same way. But every mainstream denomination is dominated by people of liberal political leaning. If their reasoning were new or based on consistent applications of Whole Scripture, I would be reluctant to dispute with them, as their study of Scripture and theology far exceeds mine. But I find that when they give evidence for why their political beliefs descend from the teachings of Jesus, they just recite 1960's liberal crap. That I can see through, having come out of that fever swamp myself.
As an example, every year when the Covenant puts out its missions and outreach material about helping the poor, there are always educational sheets about why we need to increase the minimum wage, with arguments taken directly from the DNC; statistics about how rich Americans are, not with an eye to encouraging giving so much as to claim that one person's wealth creates the poverty of others; and much advocacy of governmental redistribution of wealth, as if that were the same as charity.
So terri, I would say that your observation is correct, and there is certainly much to narrow one's eyes about with the Religious Right. But we are not in much danger of not hearing about it. The traditional media inundates us with it. The Religious Left is a Stealth Left however, controlling the enormous resources of the mainstream denominations. The Methodists (UMC) had scandal after scandal in the 80's and 90's about giving money to advocacy groups in other countries that were in turn giving it to the communists to buy weapons. Not that that stopped the Methodist hierarchy. It dervies from the whole idea that these people were "for" the poor, while the others were "against" the poor, and so gee, isn't it obvious that Jesus wants us to be for the poor?
In fact the fates of the rich and the poor in a society are far more closely related to each other than either is to the middle class. Job creation and public works are largely a result of creating wealth. Not possessing wealth, as by inheritance or actions of decades ago, but of creating wealth in the here-and-now. The fates of the new rich and the poor are perilously intertwined.
The Religious Left is absolutely convinced that what they think is what Jesus wants. They simply choose language that appears at first glance to be moderate and considered, but upon closer examination, is appallingly absolutist. See the comments of Copithorne in the previous Wallis posting as an example. He is not unusual. These folks really believe that the interests of the rich and the poor are diametrically opposed, that the Biblical call to peace means foremost to refuse war, etc.
Bethany, I have little doubt that your brother thinks Jim Wallis is next to God, so I would recommend you tread gently. Even though I think the company he keeps may lead hims astray into class warfare rather than actually helping the poor, I know Tim to be enormously sincere. I believe he will be one who will chart a new course, not caring a fig for liberals or conservatives, but drilling down to what actually works, and I would not take his liberalism from him, as I believe it will be an essential part of his greater work. Eventually, he will be charmed by what actually results in people having food and housing, rather than charmed by who says sympathetic things about the poor.
I have two objections to Jim Wallis: 1. He does not answer his better critics, but contents himself with claiming that his worst critics are selfish bums who hate the poor. He has been at this a long time, and has been challenged and refuted by thinkers of equal sincerity and compassion. He does not answer their challenges. He just keeps accusing his opponents of bad faith, rationalization, and non-adherence to the Gospel. Judge for yourself. Read Sojourners, his major forum of expression, and you will come away with the impression that here is a man of great sincerity and compassion, who wishes to apply the Gospel to real events. Then go over to First Things and see what they offer. All of a sudden, Wallis looks like a shallow, strident, Socialist Lite, still stuck in the 1960's.
2. My related objection is that he misrepresents what those who disagree with him believe. He picks out easy targets, low-hanging fruit, and thinks he has proved his point. He plays hardball against Little Leaguers and slaps hands all around when he strikes out the side.
Odd analogy: I have gotten into the pointless discussion with the King James Version Only crowd about textus receptus, how the Good News translation denies the Blood of Christ, and all the rest. No factual evidence will sway them, because their faith in Christ is tied up with their faith in the Old Ways Of Doing Things. They cannot make that separation. Because God is able to preserve one set of documents and highlight one set of translators, and they think that God would want to do that, they therefore believe that He has done that. They believe that God ordained the KJV, and to doubt that is to have inadequate faith and doubt God's power.
Wallis does the same thing with 60's liberalism. He highlights some verses and ignores others in Scripture, comes to the foregone conclusion of what earnest young seminarians believed in 1965, and thinks that to reject that is to reject the Gospel.