Out of Context: Jim Wallis

This excerpt is taken from "Always Personal, Never Private" in the Summer issue of Leadership.

"When the status quo benefits you, your theology doesn't normally include changing the status quo. For most white, middle-class Christians, the world is working fine. So religion that includes social change doesn't matter. They want to leave things pretty much as they are."

Jim Wallis is the founder and editor of Sojourners, a magazine and community focused on the biblical call to social justice. To read the rest of the interview with Mark Dever and Jim Wallis in context, pick up the Summer 2010 issue of Leadership journal or subscribe by clicking on the cover in the left column.

July 23, 2010

Displaying 1–10 of 28 comments

trierr

July 27, 2010  10:26am

You are jerking our chains! Unfortunately, I know people who say all the things you were advocating (except the God and Mammon one) and truly believe it. If you read Luther closely, however, you can see that he integrated feudal thinking into his theology just as closely, or more closely, than many today do with Capitalism. In essence, this thinking will be with us, regardless of the "system".

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Doc

July 26, 2010  5:18pm

In summary, I guess it's us against them according to the pundits in Leadership magazine. God is an afterthought. Blame must be ascribed to a general group of middle class white people for injustice in the world. Who really has the power today to oppress? Never mind the real Enemy. "Leadership" should be renamed "dribble." Real leadership does not hide in the shadows of bi-partisanship. Leadership takes a stand. Blame & guilt is all the journal has to offer...All the while bulking up the credentialist-career track ministry emphasis. Publishing credits sure do look good on a resume, regardless of the content. (Sorry, too cynical perhaps.) And the poor will always be with us. Personal responsibility is an allergy to the addicted, regardless of the substance. The issue of need from thirst was well addressed by Jesus with a Samaritan woman afraid to go to the well when everyone else was there. With the truth in hand, she went straight away to her own people. It was no-one's fault, the truth made her free.

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muse

July 26, 2010  2:38pm

Sheerahkahn, you make a very good point about Jim Wallis and James Dobson being opposite sides of the same coin.

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muse

July 26, 2010  1:04pm

I don't know any white (or other) middle-class Americans who think the world is working just fine. I challenge Jim Wallis to show me a few.

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Phil

July 26, 2010  12:52pm

"Wow, sometimes I have to wonder if anon is just jerking people's chain. It's hard for me to believe a Christ follower would believe such things." I don't think you have to wonder anymore. He (or she) is pretty much just in full troll mode now.

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anon

July 26, 2010  12:40pm

"But making a profit in a legal way and with integrity is good - in fact, I'd say that it can be God-honoring." EXACTLY! It is why our American health care system is the most Godly in the world. People who whine about health insurance companies, for example, should move to Canada, where the quality of care you receive isn't based on your income or the profit you represent. It is hard to conceive of something more at odds with God's capitalism.

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anon

July 26, 2010  12:29pm

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's property" establishes capitalism and the principle of private ownership of the means of production. When government taxes me, it covets my property. Ergo, taxation is against God's law. And we all know that reducing taxes increases government revenues, again showing God's wisdom. If taxes were totally eliminated, our budget deficit would disappear. To the extent we need taxes, the rates should be inverted so that lower income people pay higher rates, creating an incentive for them to get better jobs, just as we do with health care. This is the Christian approach that "teaches a man to fish"

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Phil

July 26, 2010  12:20pm

I don't know that I would outright say that seeking to maximize profit is immoral or amoral. If you are a business owner with employees, maximizing profit ensures that you will be able to keep those employees in the long run. In fact if you don't maximize profit while it is available, you may find yourself in a bad position in the future. That isn't to say there are immoral ways of making a profit - certainly, there are immoral ways to do practically anything. But making a profit in a legal way and with integrity is good - in fact, I'd say that it can be God-honoring. Of course money can become an idol, and it has ensnared many people. Personally, I'd rather have a system that allows the occasional abuse than one that stifles growth and risk-taking.

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trierr

July 26, 2010  11:20am

Wow, sometimes I have to wonder if anon is just jerking people's chain. It's hard for me to believe a Christ follower would believe such things. Wealth distribution: Based on a 2006 report by the Fed, from 1989 to 2004, the top 5% wealthiest families increased their percentage of the wealth by 2%. This is also born out by a shift in the difference between the mean and median incomes in those time frames. There has been a redistribution of wealth at the same time as we have seen a decrease in regulation and regulatory enforcement, but it is in an upward direction. Therefore, I assume that anon must not be in favor of deregulation since it appears to have a causal relationship with the redistribution of wealth. But this is not the case. Saying that government regulation is inherently wrong implies that the invisible hand of the market will take on the roles for which the dynamics of power inherent in wealth make impossible. Proper regulation (and note that not all need be proper) places a check on these dynamics and allow markets to function efficiently. People make money off of inefficiencies, e.g. not knowing if a product is safe, or if they are really paying a fair price for something. The underlying assumption is that capitalism, when it seeks the highest maximum profit of capital, is moral or at worst, amoral. However, the uninhibited pursuit of wealth that capitalism promotes and therefore depends on puts it at odds with numerous biblical injunctions against greed and the exploitation of people. Therefore, capitalism, if God is consistent in his revealed nature, can not be ordained by God since it is opposed to some fundamental demands of the God who makes himself known through Jesus as portrayed in the Bible. Captcha: Wiesel prank

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anon

July 25, 2010  2:36pm

Without each business seeking to maximize profit, capitalism collapses. This is why government regulation of business is inherently wrong, for it restricts capitalism, which God ordained as our economic system. I don't want to move too close to cultural interpretation, but in ancient Israel you could not serve both Mammon and God for the economic systems were not fully developed. With money, just as with slavery, our understanding of the Bible's message has grown over time. Now we see that it is indeed possible to serve both God and Mammon with our fully-evolved capitalistic system. And from that we derive our Christian duty to oppose any governmental limitations on capitalism at both the corporate and individual levels. Let me give you a specific example: Had there been no regulation on BP, BP would have had to take responsibility for its own actions, and we would not have had this spill. Governmental intrusion on BP's right to maximize profit is the root cause of this disaster. And I don't think God is happy that our government has despoiled Creation by persecuting the oil companies.

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