Jim Wallis is a socialist Christian with a progressive politics and an inclusive stance toward other religions. He has taught faith, politics and society both at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government as an Institute of Politics Fellow, and at the very liberal Harvard Divinity School. Author of seven other books, he speaks over 200 times a year, writes columns in several newspapers, and appears on radio and TV talk shows. He lined up Christian leaders to meet with President Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Archbishop of Canterbury, among others, to plead for an alternative to war in response to terrorism.
Raised in a traditional evangelical family, Wallis spent his student years involved in the civil rights and antiwar movements. He cites racial segregation in his church and community as his motivation for becoming involved in these movements. He graduated from Michigan State University, where he was President of Students for a Democratic Societyand then went on to attend Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois where he joined with other young seminarians in establishing the community that eventually became Sojourners. In 1979, Time magazine named Wallis one of the "50 Faces for America's Future."
Time as a Marxist
In a Jan. 21, 2010 interview with Chicago radio station, WBEZ, Jim Wallis recounted his meeting with Dorothy Day, Catholic activist who co-founded the Catholic Worker movement in 1933. In the interview Wallis states that earlier in his life he was a Marxist. Full audio of the interview is here. The audio for the following transcript of the interview is here.
Jim Wallis recounts his meeting with Dorothy Day:
"...In walks the great lady. Dorothy wrote a book about her life called "Love is the Measure". But she wasn't ever soft. Very tough...
Dorothy Day: "So, you're a radical student like me, right?"
Jim Wallis: "Yeah..."
Dorothy Day: "You were a Marxist like me, right?"
Jim Wallis: "Yeah."
Dorothy Day: "And now, you're a Catholic?"
Jim Wallis: "Well uh, I'm a Christian."
Dorothy Day: "You're not a Catholic?"
Jim Wallis: "Some of my best friends are Catholic..."
"But she was kind, and called Sojourners the Protestant [version of the] Catholic Worker, and from then on we became friends..."
In 1979, the journal Mission Tracks published an interview with Wallis, in which the activist evangelical expressed his hope that "more Christians will come to view the world through Marxist eyes".
Leaving Trinity School
In the early 1970's Wallis was under pressure to leave the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois because his anti-Vietnam War activism was seen as potentially scaring off the school's benefactors. He left the school and helped establish a commune in which he lived out his "kind of Marxist" beliefs, including living in close vicinity to the poor and pursuing social justice activism full time (Wallis was arrested 22 times for acts of civil disobedience in his early years). The commune disbanded after it moved to Washington to advocate on social justice issues. But the name, Sojourners, lives on in his current organization and its monthly magazine.
Wallis has stated that he believes the United States is partly responsible for the Soviet attack on Korean Flight 007.
Wallis has stated that the United States has been responsible for seducing the Vietnamese boat people with an addiction to Western consumerism. In his own publication Wallis wrote: "Many of today's [Vietnamese] refugees were inoculated with a taste for a Western lifestyle during the war and are fleeing to support their consumer habit in other lands".
During his time at theological college, Wallis founded an anti-capitalism magazine called the Post-American which identified wealth redistribution and government-managed economies as the keys to achieving "social justice." In 1971 Wallis founded the People's Christian Coalition in Chicago as a network of progressive Christians. In 1975, IPS co-founder Richard Barnet encouraged Wallis to bring the group to Washington, D.C,, at which time the group was renamed to Sojourners. At this time Wallis renamed the Post-American magazine to Sojourners Magazine, a monthly magazine covering faith, politics and culture. Barnet was listed as a contributing editor to the magazine. As at March 15, 2010, Wallis served as Editor-in-Chief/Chief Executive Officer of the organization.
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
It has been alleged that Wallis invited the Communist Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) — the public relations arm of the El Salvadoran terrorist group the FMLN, — to take part in a number of initiatives with Sojourners.
"Witness for Peace" Campaign
Together with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright (Obama’s former pastor of 20 years), Jim Wallis "rallied support for the communist Nicaraguan regime and protested actions by the United States which supported the anti-communist Contra rebels"
Jim Wallace/Jim Wallis?
The following thee entries refer to Jim Wallace, rather than Jim Wallis. This is possibly a typo. The address given for Jim Wallace of the Democratic Socialists of America Religion and Socialism Commission is 1311 Quincy Street, N.E. Washington D.C.
Quincy Street runs through the tiny Columbia Heights district of Washington DC, where Wallis' Sojourners organization was established in 1977.
DSOC Religious Commission
In 1977, John Cort attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee convention in Chicago. At the convention Cort and others organized a DSOC Religion and Socialism Committee (later Commission). Cort was elected coordinator and editor of the newsletter.
Among early leaders, co-editors and contributors to the newsletter were Peter Steinfels, Sister Mary Emil Penet, Rosemary Ruether, Harvey Cox, Cornel West, Arthur Waskow, Joe Holland, James Luther Adams, Jim Gorman, Maxine Phillips and Jim Wallis. Monsignor George Higgins was also a contributor.
More than 1,200 people attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee initiated Democratic Agenda Conference held November 16-18, 1979, at the International Inn and Metropolitan AM Church in Washington 1 DC. The conference focused on "corporate power'; as the key barrier to "economic and political democracy," concepts many Democratic Agenda participants defined as "socialism.'
The Democratic Agenda meetings attempted to develop anti-corporate alternatives" through influencing the direction of the Democratic Party during the period leading to the July 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York.
DSA Religion and Socialism Commission
DSA Conference delegate
Opposing loans to Chile
In 1987, Joanne Landy, Thomas Harrison and Gail Daneker, Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy/East and West, New York, circulated a statement Against Loans to Chile calling upon the Reagan Administration to oppose all loans to Chile.
It has been signed by leading "peace, labor, human rights, religious and cultural figures from the United States, Western Europe and Latin America." They were "joined by a large number of activists and writers from the USSR and Eastern Europe, many of whom have been persecuted in their own countries for work in independent peace and human rights movements."
Jim Wallis endorsed the call.
Speaking in Melbourne, Australia
On August 27, 1995, Wallis spoke on "Prophetic Spirituality" at Pax Christi's 50th Anniversary. The event was held at St. Mary's College, Melbourne University and ran from 2pm-5pm. He then spoke on "Alternative Vision" at the Baptist Church in Melbourne at 7pm.
Faith in Public Life
In 2004, Rev. Jim Wallis, Rabbi David Saperstein, Melissa Rogers, Rev. James Forbes, Ricken Patel and Sister Catherine Pinkerton were involved with the initiative from which Faith in Public Life was created. Officially launched in 2006, the organization seeks to build the faith movement’s media presence and capacity, providing strategic assistance to faith-based coalitions, brokering new partnerships, developing online communities, sponsoring opinion research, and amplifying the voices of emerging religious leaders.
- The religious Right is wrong by trying to use the Republican Party for its private agenda. What the religious Left doesn't get is that the biblical teachings of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus are a political matter as well as a religious one. Denominational leaders are inspired to issue justice statements, with little effect. Rightwing Christianity wants to use public means to enforce its private religious beliefs. Religious Left politicians keep their faith to themselves, as though it did not apply to politics. The only way Wallis sees to make the social justice teachings of the Bible a political force is for the religious Left to make them so. His Call to Renewal campaign is an attempt to make it happen. His example is Martin Luther King's combining biblical justice with the U.S. Constitution in his civil rights campaign.
Network of Spiritual Progressives
In July Rev. Jim Wallis was keynote speaker at a conclave to create a new "Network of Spiritual Progressives." The brainchild of UC Professor Michael Nagler and Berkeley Rabbi Michael Lerner, the conference was sponsored by a variety of faith-based groups, with the cornerstone organization being Lerner’s community.
Lerner and Reverend Jim Wallis provided the keynote addresses. "Wallis, whose latest book, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, a bestseller, has become the best-known voice of the religious left. Given this cachet he has joined the elite group of celebrity consultants—another of whom is UC Berkeley’s George Lakoff — periodically summoned to Washington to advise Democratic leaders."
Wallis lambasted the religious right, arguing that the time has come for the left to take back American religion.
Remarking that “Religion’s job is to pull out our best stuff,” Wallis decried the “seduction” of key leaders of the religious right by the Republican Party. He observed that the true function of prophetic religion is to serve “not as a wedge, but as a bridge.” He argued that “religion should be the moral center of our public life,” and that the reawakening of the religious left would assure that this would again be the case.
Noting that the religious right’s moral “agenda” is restricted to abortion and gay marriage, Reverend Wallis observed that while poverty is mentioned 3,000 times in the Old Testament, neither poverty, protection of the environment, nor the “illegal and immoral” war in Iraq has caught the right’s attention. Remarking that conservatives have painted a picture of Jesus as “pro-rich, pro-war, and pro-American,” Jim lamented, “We need to take our religion back.”
Wallis observed that “the biggest mistake progressives made was to cede values and faith to the religious right,” implying that many people of faith decided that liberals, and Democrats in general, didn’t care about faith, didn’t care about their spiritual crisis, and as a result began to vote Republican. Reverend Wallis argued that progressives must have faith, that it “is about changing the big things” such as ending poverty in the world.
Quoting a young activist, who when asked where the new leaders were, was fond of remarking, “We are the ones we have been waiting for,” Jim Wallis encouraged attendees to begin a new movement. “American history has been changed by social movements and the best ones have had a spiritual foundation.”
Wallis spoke alongside Jeremiah Wright and Wade Rathke at the Gamaliel Foundation's tenth anniversary, National Leadership Assembly entitled "The Time is Now", held in St. Louis, Missouri on Dec. 1-3, 2005. Footage from the event is to the right.
When Barack Obama came under attack during the 2008 election campaign for supposed Muslim ties, Jim Wallis came to his friend's defense.
Wallis wrote an aticle on his blog on February 28, 2008 entitled "Defending the Facts on Obama's Faith".
- So let's set the record straight. I have known Barack Obama for more than 10 years, and we have been talking about his Christian faith for a decade. Like me and many other Christians, he agrees with the need to reach out to Muslims around the world, especially if we are ever to defeat Islamic fundamentalism. But he is not a Muslim, never has been, never attended a Muslim madrassa, and does not attend a black "separatist" church. Rather, he has told me the story of his coming from an agnostic household, becoming a community organizer on Chicago's South Side who worked with the churches, and how he began attending one of them. Trinity Church is one of the most prominent and respected churches in Chicago and the nation, and its pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is one of the leading revival preachers in the black church. Ebony magazine once named him one of America's 15 best Black preachers. The church says it is "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian," like any good black church would, but is decidedly not "separatist," as its white members and friends would attest.
- And one Sunday, as Obama has related to me and written in his book The Audacity of Hope, the young community organizer walked down the aisle and gave his life to Christ in a very personal and very real Christian conversion experience. We have talked about our faith and its relationship to politics many times since. And after Obama gave his speech at a Sojourners/Call to Renewal conference in June 2006, E.J. Dionne said that it may have been "the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy's Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican."
- Like his politics or not, support his candidacy or not - but don't disparage Barack Obama's faith, his church, his minister, or his credibility as an eloquent Christian layman who feels a vocation in politics. Those falsehoods are simply vicious lies and should be denounced by people of faith from across the political spectrum.
The stated purpose of the Council is found on its page on the White House website:
- "The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships works to build bridges between the federal government and nonprofit organizations, both secular and faith-based, to better serve Americans in need. The Office advances this work through 11 Agency Centers across government and a Strategic Advisor at the Corporation for National and Community Service."
Mobilization to End Poverty speakers
The following were speakers at the conference:
- Rachel Anderson, Boston Faith and Justice Network
- Angela Glover Blackwell, PolicyLink
- Rep. Rosa DeLauro, United States House, of Representatives
- Dave Donaldson, Convoy of Hope
- Joel Edwards, Micah Challenge
- Alexia Kelley, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
- Rep. John Lewis, U.S. House of Representatives
- Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, African Methodist Episcopal Church
- Brian McLaren
- Wes Granberg Michaelson, Reformed Church in America
- Donald Miller
- David Lane, ONE
- Tony Hall, Former ambassador and member of Congress
- Bishop Mark Hanson, ELCA Churchwide Organization
- Dr.Vincent Harding
- Lisa Sharon Harper, New York Faith and Justice
- Freddy Haynes, Friendship West Baptist Church
- Zina Jacque
- Rev. Ellen Nissenbaum, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- Jeffrey Sachs, The Earth Institute at Columbia Univeristy
- Tavis Smiley, The Tavis Smiley Show
- Richard Stearns, World Vision
- Alexie Torres-Fleming
- Sharon Watkins, Disciples of Christ
- Jim Wallis, Sojourners
President Barack Obama was also invited to give a major address on poverty at the conference.
Obama's Faith Council
As at March 15, 2010, President Obama's White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships included Wallis. He advised the Obama team on launching its Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and helped expand its mission from the George W. Bush years to include reducing demand for abortion (While Wallis personally opposes abortion, he also opposes criminalizing it).
At a Senate hearing on the Employee Free Choice Act, Wallis testified, making the following comment:
- "From 1995 to 2005, average CEO pay increased five times faster than that of average workers. That is not just an economic issue. That is a sin of biblical proportions."
On Voluntary Faith-Based Initiatives
On April 26, 2005, Wallis spoke on a panel at Princeton University, where he made the following statement regarding voluntary faith-based initiatives:
- "I think we have to be very clear about this. Voluntary faith-based initiatives with no resources, no resources to make any serious difference in poverty reduction is not adequate. That's a charity that falls far short of Biblical justice."
Wallis spoke at the 2008 ACORN National Conference. A video of his introduction before he spoke is to the right.
Council on Foreign Relations
At Riverside Church
On Jan. 7, 2010, Jim Wallis spoke at the launch for his book, Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street held at Riverside Church in New York, and organized by NY Faith and Justice. Also speaking at the event were Pat Purcell, Assistant to the President - UFCW Local 1500; Maya Wiley, Executive Director - Center for Social Inclusion; Tom Rodman; Lisa Sharon Harper and Obery Hendricks, Biblical Ethicist and author of The Politics of Jesus. The event was attended by approximately 300 people.
Co-sponsors of the event were: Coalition for Educational Justice, Judson Memorial Church, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Interfaith Center of New York, Latino Leadership Circle, Marble Collegiate Church, Metro Hope Church, New York Theological Seminary, NY Divinity School, Presbytery of New York City, The Harlem House, The Radical Living Community, Rainbow Push Coalition - 1000, Churches Initiative, Trinity Grace Church, Uth Turn, Voterbook Manhattan and World Vision.
Soros Funding Controversy
On July 17, 2010, blogger Marvin Olasky wrote that on October 22, 2004, George Soros's Open Society Institute had given Jim Wallis's Sojourners group a grant of $200,000 for the purpose of "Supporting the Messaging and Mobilization Project: Engaging Christians on the Importance of Civic Involvement". Since then Sojourners has received at least two more grants from Soros organizations. These include $25,000 in 2006 for the purpose of "helping to determine a new name and visuals for the merger of Sojourners and Call to Renewal", and $100,000 in 2007 "to support the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform campaign".
On August 9, 2010, Wallis stated in an interview that Olasky had lied, and that Sojourners had not received any money from Soros,
- "It's not hyperbole or overstatement to say that Glenn Beck lies for a living. I'm sad to see Marvin Olasky doing the same thing. No, we don't receive money from Soros. Given the financial crisis of nonprofits, maybe Marvin should call Soros and ask him to send us money. So, no, we don't receive money from George Soros. Our books are totally open, always have been. Our money comes from Christians who support us and who read Sojourners. That's where it comes from. In fact, we've had funding blocked, this year and last, by liberal foundations who didn't like our stance on abortion. Other liberal groups were happy to point out to them that our stance wasn't kosher on abortion, so our funding was blocked."
On August 18, 2010, Wallis issued another statement, acknowledging funding from Soros:
- "Recently, I participated in an interview about the future of Evangelicalism. The interviewer asked about a blog post in which an author made accusations about Sojourners' funding. I should have declined to comment until I was able to review the blog post in question and consulted with our staff on the details of our funding over the past several years. Instead, I answered in the spirit of the accusation and did not recall the details of our funding over the decade in question. The spirit of the accusation was that Sojourners is beholden to funders on the political left, which is false. The allegation concerned three grants received over 10 years from the Open Society Institute that made up the tiniest fraction of Sojourners' funding during that decade -- so small that I hadn't remembered them. Sojourners doesn't belong to the political left or right. Sojourners receives funding from individuals and organizations across a broad spectrum who are committed to our mission of "biblical social justice."
Stop the War on Prayer
- "We the undersigned call on believers of all faiths to join us in denouncing the dangerous 'War on Prayer' being waged in America. We believe it is time to shine light on the hypocrisy of politicians and pundits who expound on the freedom of religion for their chosen sects while seeking to tell our Muslim brothers and sisters where they can and cannot worship. Using a political podium to bully a religious community threatens one of our most fundamental freedoms."
Jewish Funds for Justice
On July 16, 2010, Jim Wallis was listed along with other leaders of faith and progressive communities, expressing support for Simon Greer and his organization, Jewish Funds for Justice - following Glenn Beck's May 28 comments. Greer had argued that "we are at our best as a society when we put humankind and the common good first." Beck had responded: "This leads to death camps. A Jew, of all people, should know that. This is exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany." The list of supporters was listed in a two-page feature in the Jewish Forward magazine.
On Dec. 14, 2005, Jim Wallis organized a protest outside a Congressional office building to oppose a House Republican plan for budget cuts in social programs. After refusing to clear the entrance to the building, Wallis and 114 other religious activists were arrested by U.S. Capitol Police.
December 4, 2013, saying their 22-day "fast for families" to demand Congress approve comprehensive immigration reform had gotten worldwide attention, former Service Employees Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina and his fasting colleagues ended their D.C. vigil by handing off the fast to a group of successors.
- The fast drew continued attention to the issue, and support from Democrats all the way up to President Obama, who visited the fasters in their tent at the foot of Capitol Hill on Dec. 1. But it did not budge the decision-makers it targeted: the anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic GOP majority in the U.S. House.
Medina "handed over" his fast to Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., and the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners. In a joint statement, Medina and his fellow fasters said "we fasted in the shadow of the Capitol to call attention to the human suffering caused by our broken immigration system. We believe we have raised awareness about families being ripped apart by deportations, immigrants dying in the desert and millions of people living in fear every day.
Medina and the other fasters, supported and escorted by their friends and colleagues - including SEIU President Mary Kay Henry - weakly walked to the center carpet behind the mike and sat patiently waiting for the symbolic end of their fast: Bread and liquids offered by two Catholic prelates, including Cardinal Emeritus Theodore McCarrick of D.C. They then left, with their escorts, for a medical checkup.
Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota, and Dae Jung Yoon, with the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium also struck.
- Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy
- The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post–Religious Right America
- God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It
- Faith Works: The Soul of Politics: A Practical and Prophetic Vision for Change
- Who Speaks for God? A New Politics of Compassion, Community, and Civility
- The Call to Conversion
- ↑ http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng101.html
- ↑ http://www.charlierose.com/guest/view/1173
- ↑ Sojourners website: Jim Wallis biography
- ↑ Mission Tracks, 1979
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 USA News: Evangelical Minister Jim Wallis Is in Demand in Obama's Washington, March 31, 2009
- ↑ Sojourners, September 1979
- ↑ http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng101.html
- ↑ Sojourners website: Staff
- ↑ Shadow World, 2008. By Robert Chandler, published by Regnery]
- ↑ Front Page: Barack Obama’s Newest Spiritual Advisor, March 17, 2009
- ↑ Family World News, February 2009, p. 7, cited in The Christian World View website: Jim Wallis: Obama’s “Red” Spiritual Adviser, March 26, 2009
- ↑ Dreadful conversions: the making of a Catholic socialist, By John C. Cort, page 319
- ↑ Information Digest, December 14, 1979, page 370/371
- ↑ DSA Keylist July 1982
- ↑ DSA Conference delegate list Oct. 12 1983 update
- ↑ New York review of books, Vol 34, Number 10, June 11, 1987
- ↑ Green Left, August 23, 1995, No. 199, Page 30
- ↑ Faith in Public Life website: About (accessed on Aug. 23, 2010)
- ↑ http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng101.html
- ↑ Berkeley Daily Planet, July 22, 2005
- ↑ http://blog.beliefnet.com/godspolitics/2008/02/defending-the-facts-on-obamas.html
- ↑ White House website: Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships
- ↑ Mobilization to End Poverty website: Speakers
- ↑ White House website: Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships: Final Vote Tallies on Non-Consensus Reform Report Issues
- ↑ Religion Initiative webpage: Religious Advisory Committee
- ↑ Sojourners Blog: Book Tour Diary: Riverside Church and Rock and Roll, Jan. 8, 2010
- ↑ Black Coffee Reflections blog: Reflecting on Jim Wallis in New York, Jan. 22, 2010
- ↑ NY Charities website: Book Launch: "Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street", Jan. 7, 2010
- ↑ Open Society Institute's 2004 IRS Return, page 255
- ↑ World Magazine: "Let's admit who we are", by Marvin Olasky, July 17, 2010 (accessed on August 27, 2010)
- ↑ Open Society Institute's 2006 IRS Return, page 125
- ↑ Open Society Institute's 2007 IRS Return, page 114
- ↑ 33.0 33.1 33.2 Patheos: Statement from Jim Wallis on Funding, Aug. 18, 2010 (accessed on Aug. 27, 2010)
- ↑ Stop the War on Prayer website (accessed on Nov. 25, 2010)
- ↑ Forward: Friday, July 16, 2010, pp 6-7
- ↑ Fox News: Capitol Police Arrest Activists Protesting GOP Budget Cuts, Dec. 14, 2005
- ↑ PW. Medina, other immigration reform fasters, step aside for reinforcements, by: Mark Gruenberg, December 4 2013