Mr. Wallis Goes to Washington
In the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., a far cry from the palatial splendors of Embassy Row, stands a once-imposing structure that served as the Nicaraguan embassy during the Somoza regime. Here, at 2401 15th Street NW, the corrupt, U.S.-sponsored Nicaraguan government maintained a cozy relationship with State Department policymakers. Today, badly in need of restoration, this building is the headquarters of Sojourners magazine and the Call to Renewal, both headed by Jim Wallis, who in the 1980s was one of the leading figures in the Central America peace movement.
The irony seems too good to be true—like one of those factoids invented by Stephen Glass or Patricia Smith or Mike Barnicle, journalists for whom mere reality is not sufficiently dramatic. It is as if the former Soviet embassy had been converted into a Gulag Memorial Museum. Then again, maybe irony isn't the point. Maybe instead we are being offered a historical parable.
At the heart of this parable is the improbable triumph of good over evil. Where decadent tyranny once reigned, God's work is now being done. Faith in the ultimate victory of goodness has been a constant in Jim Wallis's life even as he has grown from standard-issue sixties' activism to the coalition building of the Call to Renewal (a network of African-American, evangelical, Catholic, Pentecostal, and mainline Protestant churches, working in concert with allies from both the public and the private sector to combat poverty and foster humane welfare reform). Wallis is just as uncompromisingly Christian as ever, but he is less angry, less self-righteous, and more alert to opportunities for common action with erstwhile ideological foes. It is a story rich with lessons for the terribly ...