Monday, May 01, 2006

Jim Wallis in Sunday School

We are going to be studying Jim Wallis in Sunday School. For those who have missed him up until now, Jim Wallis is author of many books on how Jesus was actually a 60’s liberal. Unfair? Read him closely. Wallis is now touting a Third Way, which like all third ways tends to be the Liberal Way with different hand gestures, but this time Jesus Says So.

He gets it wrong right from his base principles. If Jesus’s plan was to found a community that exemplified forgiveness, mutuality, and sharing, why didn’t He mention it more? Why was his first assignment to the disciples to send them out two-by-two to preach? Why did those disciples decide that the best thing they could do after Pentecost was split up? Community is certainly not antithetical to Christianity, but I don’t think Wallis could find many important Christian writers over the last 20 centuries who thought it was the main point.

Second, he believes that the point of the free market is accumulation. For some it is. But the freedom of the marketplace allows the individual to make choices: to forgo making more money for the sake of more free time, or more safety, or more security. You can trade salary for lots of things in the free market. You can decide that living in a certain place is more important, or having a job that allows creativity, or working with congenial people, or doing something you consider meaningful. Wallis gets it exactly backwards. The free market (I consider capitalism an imprecise and outmoded description at this point) allows people an escape from materialism that is available in few places. That some people abuse that choice is beside the point.

Starting out from inaccurate premises and reasoning forward from there, where do you think Wallis ends up? Right where he started. He grabs each straw man of the Right, wrestles it long and hard like Jacob wrestling with the angel, and throws each down in eventual triumph, exclaiming “See? That’s what G-d wanted all along!”

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