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Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street and The Call To Conversion

READ JIM WALLIS FOR YOURSELF

I was on the Beck bandwagon, off the bandwagon, but now back on the bandwagon.  I think I was among the first to sign a Facebook petition with Bread for the World, a bi-partisan Christian citizens group that works on legislation against hunger and poverty, against the dumb comments by Glen Beck (who, now famously, had said that if your church talks about social justice you should quit that church ASAP, since social justice is not part of the gospel.) I twittered and Facebooked that BFW call to reject Beck's foolishness.  Bread for the World is a fine organization, and a good illustration of our conviction that God's reign---Christ as Lord!---must be professed and lived out in every zone of life.  Even in politics, we are called to be good citizens and pray and work for the cry of Psalm 72: "Give the king thy justice, O Lord" for we know (Isaiah 1:10) that the Lord hates unjust legislation. And, amongst other things, good laws help ensure each gets their due, including the poorest among us.  (See The Rising of Bread for the World: An Outcry of Citizens Against Hunger by Art Simon (Paulist; $16.95) for a wonderful study showing how BFW does that.) Jesus' first sermon is an allusion to the Year of Jubilee, which surely had public, economic, even political implications.  Being social creatures (that is how the Holy Trinitarian God made us) who live in the world of society, culture, governments, policies, international banking and business, it is just silly (it is beyond silly) to suggest that we should only help people privately, through charity.  Yes, public justice is part of what God intends for his world. Glen Beck is just wrong.

(As are some who have listed our bookstore as a dangerous place, for this same reason.  They have gone on record saying that if verbal evangelism isn't done first and foremost, even relief efforts like saving children from the rubble in Haiti is wrong, and anyone who supports such efforts is approaching heresy.  They believe in burning books, too, so you can imagine how spooked we were by their toxic religion and false accusations against us.  I would imagine they like Glen Beck.)

Still, I determined not to write about the Beck fiasco, not to re-tweet any of the many twitter comments I've seen, not even watch the spoofs on youtube.  I thought it would run its course and that would be that.

Then Sojourners got involved, my old friend Jim Wallis asked to appear on Glen Beck's show, and Beck got scary-weird talking about how the "hammer was going to pound over and over" on Wallis and his "cute little organization."  If you don't know (and God bless you if you don't) about this, it was truly bizarre, as Beck made these ridiculous quasi-accusations and threats to Jim and the Sojo gang.  I am embarrassed for my friends who like Mr. Beck; this was so ugly and over-the-top odd.  Is he often like that?

Still, the showdown was a bit too sensational for me, and while I've got every back issue of Sojourners since the earliest Post American days, I don't think they are always correct, and not always the most insightful or Biblically faithful. Mostly, I was bored by the prospect of a Jim vs Glen smack-down, which seemed just too predictable.

rediscovering values.jpgAnd then I recalled how much I truly like most of Jim's books, including the new one Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street---A Moral Compass for the New Economy (Howard Books; $24.00.)  It is so hopeful and insightful, so reasonable that even a popular conservative speechwriter and pundit (Mike Gerson, who I respect immensely) writes of it:

"One does not need to agree with Jim Wallis on everything to find Rediscovering Values insightful and timely.  In our current economic struggles, Wallis sees an opportunity, not just for recovery, but for a renewal of important, neglected ideals.  This is a needed voice." 
Or, hear this from Leith Anderson, now the President of the conservative National Association of Evangelicals, who says:

"Agree or disagree---Jim Wallis touches your heart, stretches your mind, and challenges your values.  He thunders like an Old Testament prophet, yet he is gentle and gracious. With a heart for people and a dream for a better tomorrow, Jim Wallis looks tough times in the eye and talks of hope."

Wallis very convincingly makes the case that our financial crisis is not a matter of numbers, of misunderstood economic theory, not even of a few bad eggs and their gratuitous greed.  It illustrates a moral crisis of our culture, and, as such, it demands spiritual answers.  We are living into and out of the wrong story, and it must be replaced with a new, better Story.  As Wallis makes clear, our deepest and most ecumenical faith traditions call us to care about the common good (social justice, included) and that from our personal lives to our work lives, our banking and shopping to our voting and politics, our family habits and our recreation, we have to live differently, based on gospel values.  To do that, we must have our deepest commitments change.  To use the language Jim used to use more passionately as a younger, radical evangelical, we need converted.

I still think Jim's most substantial and helpful book is his classic Call to Conversion: Whycall to conversion.jpg Faith is Always Personal But Never Private (HarperOne; $13.95).  With the exceptional popularity of his God's Politics book and group guide Living God's Politics a few years ago, HarperOne quietly re-issued his late-70s classic, edited, expanded and up-dated for the new century.  I am happy to say it is one my all time favorite books.  I've read out loud from his section on Christ as Lord countless times, and greatly appreciate his chapter on community.The chapter on peacemaking is important and clear, and the one chapter on poverty nearly says it all. Check out the "Bible and the newspaper" cover design, alluding to the famous Barth quip. I really do recommend it.

We will offer it at a special sale price, too (see below.)

The new one Rediscovering Values is wonderful, too, in part because it is so sensible, so clear, so interesting. (I dare you to read his part about playing baseball with his boys and not be touched. I have been challenged each time I've read his piece about our calendars and schedules being "moral documents.")  He has a good, if brief, chapter on the meaning of work, and it is evident that his view of culture transcends the simple polarities of liberal or conservative.  I think this "moral compass" will speak to anyone who has pondered not only how we got in our economic mess, but how we might get out of it.  That is, not just "get out of it" and back to "normal" but how to re-imagine what "normal" is.  Do you know the old Bruce Cockburn song--about these very themes of economics and injustice, standards of living, corporations and state violence--called "The Trouble With Normal"? (Listen here (studio) or here (live). Of course, the famous line answers---"it always gets worse!"

We must not desire to go back to normal, the economics and worldview and way of life that gave rise to the crisis of recent years.  This time can be a time of reappraisal, and Rediscovering Values is a guide to the conversations we simply must have if our culture is not going to "always get worse." We can use this window of time, and this book, as an opportunity to ask some hard questions of ourselves.

From the biggest forces on Wall Street to the very lifestyles in our homes and neighborhoods, we must repent.  And live in, as the Lutheran liturgy nicely words it, "in newness of life."

* * *
I also got fired up to post on this (after previously determining not to) when I read this important report and rebuttal that Jim wrote.  Beck accuses Jim of being a Marxist, and he seems to imply Dorothy Day was a commie, too. (He does this by playing fast and loose with some audio tapes, like Jerry Falwell used to do with Alan Boesak and Desmond Tutu in the anti-apartheid struggle.)  If you click on that link, you will hear a live audio of a conversation between Dorothy and Jim. Have you read her autobiography, The Long Loneliness?  It is a classic, you know.

When I think of how Sojourners introduced me to Dorothy Day, to Oscar Romero, to John Perkins, to Phil Berrigan, to John Howard Yoder, all solid Christians who suffered much for their faith, and how my life and faith has been edified by the long-standing call to conversion and justice by Sojourners, I wanted to again go public with my frustrations with Beck's immoral and dishonest accusations and applaud Jim's reply.  I hope my conservative friends who esteem Beck will hold him accountable.  He is just out of line, dead wrong about the Bible, and wrong about Wallis. And wrong about the way he's doing it all.

Best, though, is skip him, and read Wallis for yourself.  Since he is dedicating so much time this week to spreading misinformation about Wallis, I know you know people who have heard this, and who may wonder.  It is important that some of us have these books under our belts, ready to be loaned out.  Why not form a study group--maybe Beck fans and Sojo fans,even-- and discern for yourself.  Is Rediscovering Values consistent with a Christian perspective?  Can it be a "moral compass for the new economy"?  How about The Call to Conversion?  Have you heard that call lately?

BLOG SPECIAL
Call to Conversion: Why Faith is Always Personal But Never Private
regularly priced $13.95
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Rediscovering Values
regularly priced $24.00
sale price $17.00
ORDER HERE
(takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page)

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10 Comments

Interest that this theme's come up here. I was just reading over at the Atlantic about Andrew Sullivan's "The Conservative Soul". Have you read or heard about it? He's coming from a complicated position to say the least, but it sounds like he's investigating similar territory to the Wallis' book.

Thanks for commenting. Yes, I've followed Sullivan for years...quite a known character, previously on the right, a bit less so now, it seems. Very interesting times, these days.

I'd like to challenge you to be careful in how you describe those of us who believe, as you say, that "we should only help people privately, through charity." We are not silly people, nor are our views silly. You may disagree with our views, but please don't put us down by using dismissive terms.

There are good people who sincerely believe that God wants what I think you mean by the term "public justice" but who also believe that publicly funded justice (i.e., tax dollars distributed by government officials) is the wrong way to go about achieving that kind of justice for the poor and oppressed. We may also believe in a role for governments in establishing justice, but it's likely a different role than that envisioned by Jim Wallis. Again, we're different, not silly. You might be interested in reading about the work of the Acton Institute (www.acton.org), for instance.

Julia,

Thank you for your fair comments. I'm glad you wrote and I appreciate your remarks. I think you are on to something, but I think I failed to be clear what I meant. I respect and often appreciate the work of the Acton Institute; I have favorably promoted their recent DVD curriculum, which is fantastic.

They tend to be quite conservative, suggesting that big government projects should be avoided where possible, but they are not utterly libertarian. It seems silly and irresponsible to be anarchist and Gnostic, as if taxes or roads or policies or government action is somehow all dangerous or beneath Christian concern. To suggest that real history, and real policies, don't effect people, is silly, and beyond silly to being dangerously irresponsible in my view. I am sure you aren't the sort of person I meant.

For instance: one can argue pro or con about whether a certain government policy will help or hinder tens of thousands of small farmers; to not care, though, or think we are above that policy debate is what is silly thinking in my view. Foreign aid to this or that country will effect millions of people; we can disagree if it is helpful or not, but if they are doing it, to just say "I'm going to write a check to a private charity" and not try to stop the bad laws from being passed, is very ineffective. Building roads or schools or weather stations, giving tax incentives to certain kinds of businesses, hiring the handicapped or passing zoning laws to allow expanded Wal Mart parking in a residential neighborhood, investing in cures for disease or determining where railway lines will be built or if there should be regulations of toxic polluters--all are concrete facts of the modern world and each day these kinds of governmental and legislative policies will be made, one way or the other. YES, we should help the poor through charity. And non-governmental agencies do that best. But what about the stuff that individual charity can't do: fund schools, build levees, fight wars, rebuild infrastructure, determine zoning laws, rule about freedom of religious expression in the workplace? To suggest that we ought not care about real policies in God's real world is beyond silly, it is sinfully irresponsible. Helping people through private charities is good. Other, complicated stuff happens in Congress and, for better or worse, it is a fact of modern life.

We can surely disagree about different views of what constitutes just policies, which are the right ones, which comport with Christian convictions, which are most helpful or have unintended consequences. But to imply that private charity can solve the world's problems is, I really do believe, and I hope you do to, an immature notion that no responsible citizen can reasonably hold. Private donations to church relief agencies or neighbors helping neighbors can't build a just legal system in post-war Iraq: I'm glad my government is paying lawyers to teach them how to have fair trials there. Private organizations can't move Thailand to injure that sexual trafficking is prosecuted: I'm glad our government is investing in training and enforcement against modern slavers. Aren't you? IJM and other private NGOs can help people face to face, but cannot do what only governments can do.

Not too long ago I was trying to get asylum for a group of detained Chinese dissidents who, if they were to be sent back to communist China, would have surely been tortured, persecuted, most likely killed. We felt something like those in "Shindler's List" trying hard save lives, keeping our friends alive against the government policies that would surely do them harm. There was a bill in congress that would have allowed fleeing forced abortions (as they do in China) to be grounds for asylum (as it was during the Reagan & first Bush administrations.) If we had gotten that billed passed, lived would be saved.

Some pious believers said we ought not be involved in politics. That is worldly, and asking the government to do stuff isn't Christian. That is what we were told. It was silly to think that we could help them without engaging the legal matters of public record; law, immigration rulings, court hearings, litigation, congressional votes.

Some of my friends were deported and killed. All because some Christians thought that governmental work was somehow beneath them.

You see, I am sure we both agree that there are some things that private charity does well. There are, though, some things that are, in God's world, distinctively political, dealing with the "public" common life, ruled by law. (That is why I used the term "public" justice rather than social justice, although the nuance is a fine one.) Determining laws about what asylum seekers are allowed to stay and which are not (for instance) is a distinctively political matter. Private charity can visit the prisoners, but only legislative work could set them free.

That is what I meant by silly. It is beyond silly, it is nonsensical, to think that governmental policies can avoided. The only way we could save our friends lives was to get legislation or other government rulings passed by the authorities. You could argue that the feds ought not be involved, but they were, and they are. That's a fact, right?

Those who say that political action is inherently bad are unaware, apparently, of what the Bible says about the high calling of the State, considered a good gift of God to us (see Romans 13, for instance.) Government ought not do everything--Acton is helpful, here, showing us that, and Jim Wallis mentions the Catholic notions of subsidiarity in the interview I linked to---but there are some things that government is called upon to do.

Every time I ride in an elevator I praise God that He in His wisdom gave us governments to hold the common good under the authority of law. I'm glad in our free society it isn't overwrought, but to suggest that the feds should do much strikes me as truly odd. Do you want your children riding ferris wheels or elevators that are not monitored by safety laws? Do you think it is unchristian to demand that the authorities monitor banks to make sure they aren't cooking their books? As I said, it really does strike me as a silly case to make, as a few do, that we can all get along if we are all just acting Christianly in our personal lives. Such piety is beyond silly, it is wrong.

You are correct that different Christians can respectfully disagree about what those things are. No responsible Christian, in my view, can say the government ought to do nothing. The Bible is clear about us paying our taxes, and even in a fallen world, God's common grace allows the government to do certain things that private groups simply cannot do.

The folks I to which I referred, that I think is fair to debunk and call a silly viewpoint are those who just are so heavenly minded that they don't care about real stuff of history, or are so libertarian that they pretend that government policies, international loans, foreign aid, regulations of the transfer of international funds and such don't really hurt or help people, that those matters just can be ignored, as if they don't matter. These things really do hurt and/or help people and it is our obligation, as we love our neighbors in this real world. to stand behind or to fight, those policies that help or hurt our needy neighbors.

Sometimes this may mean being against certain aid packages (knowing that smaller charities ot local groups may be more effective.) It may mean being against large scale government interventions (as big scale World Bank or IMF projects are often harmful to local folks and local economies they are trying to help.) So, if that is the case, and it is clear, we must fight against those projects. It is silly to think that this stuff doesn't matter. People's lives are at stake and to allow bad laws to hurt folks when we could have acted to prevent it, is a major moral problem.

If you advocate socially responsible citizenship through the policies and perspectives of folks like at Acton, you are not at all who I was poking at. We may (or may not) disagree about this or that policy or proposal, but I'd guess we agree that we are called to be faithful salt and light in the world, which sometimes includes being involved in personal care to a personal neighbor, sometimes it involves being active in private charities and relief groups, and sometimes, we can celebrate that our taxes are being used in good ways, when the government does something that only government can really do well.

God bless in your good efforts, and thanks for sharing your concerns about my rhetoric. Thanks for reading.

Byron,
Hi. Long time, no see. I have to admit that, until he made these comments, I had come to admire Glen Beck. Yes, he sometimes struck me as being a little crazy, but I appreciated his dedication, during the Bush years, to exposing the hysterical, often hate-filled rhetoric that spewed from so many "secular progressives" against the Bush admin. in particular, and consevatives in general.

During Obama's presidential campaign, Beck did a pretty good job highlighting the toxic rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright (a guy who's good friends with Louis Farrakhan, and a believer in the loony conspiracy theory alleging that AIDS was concocted in a US government lab to eliminate blacks) and Bill Ayers' violent past, and raising the question of why Obama had been so close to those two individuals for so long, if he didn't agree with at least some of their positions. Once Obama was elected, and had appointed Van Jones as his "green jobs czar," Beck did a commendable job exposing Jones radical background, which included describing his political views as "Communist," accusing industry of deliberately dumping toxic waste into minority neighborhoods as a form of population control, and signing a petition lending his support to the "9/11 Truth Movement," the wacky movement that believes that the Bush admin. (or neocons, the Illuminati or some other shadowy organization), not Al Qaeda, orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks, forcing Jones to resign. Later in the year, another Obama admin. official resigned after Beck aired a speech where she named Mao Zedong as one of two historical figures whom she greatly admired, the other being Mother Theresa, which is a very bizzarre pairing, but I digress. Even though I thought Beck often went overboard himself, with increasingly sensational rhetoric predicting that the US was about to collapse the way the Soviet Union did two decades ago, and that Obama in fact wanted this to happen, I couldn't help but feel good that someone was finally holding the left to the same standards that the right has often been held to. People would rightly (pardon the pun) be outraged if a conservative listed Hitler as someone they admired or openly proclaimed themself as a "fascist," so why have some on the left long gotten away with associating with, or speaking admiringly about, Communists? Like Hannity, Rush, O'Reilly and the numerous other conservatve commentators, I saw Beck as someone who had the guts to stand up to the left's "secular progressive" wing, which has grown a lot bolder and influential in the Democratic Party since I first encountered them in college.

Nonetheless, I felt Beck finally crossed the line when made his bizzarre rant sliming Wallis and equating "social justice" with Communism or Fascism. In addition to conveniently overlooking Jesus' command for us to care "for the least of these," along with the countless cries from Old Testament prophets to the early Christians of the New Testament (perhaps this has something to do with the fact that he's a Mormon. Although the LDS claims to hold the Bible in equal value with the Book of Mormon, the Mormons I know put much more emphasis on the latter book), he apparently hasn't noticed that most evangelical churches, whose congregations likely include a lot of hhis listeners, have begun placing much greater emphasis on social justice lately. The fact that churches like LCBC (which I attend), Living Word, Willow Creek, Saddleback, et. al. have played prominent roles in providing relief and assistance with rebuilding following the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and other disasters, helped fight AIDS in Africa and elsewhere (an admirable turnabout from the 80's, when then=prominent figures like Jerry Falwell, Pat Buchanan and Randall Terry described HIV as "God's punishment" for homosexuals and others) and have raised awareness about human rights abuses in China and slavery and genocide in southern Sudan and Darfur are all reminders of how much Evangelical Christianity has changed in the past 20 years or so. It has long frustrated me when leftists have either ignored these efforts, or worse, have insinuated that they have ulterior motives, such as when they darkly implied that Bush's "Faith-Based Initiative" program was a step towards creating a theocracy. The last thing we need is a conservative like Glen Beck going on a misguided and misinformed crusade telling churches to disengage from these efforts and revert to a stodgy moralism (and we saw how effective that was in the 80's and early 90's).


As for Wallis, I have admired the man since you first introduced me to Sojourners when I first entered your shop nearly 20 years ago. At the time, Sojourner's was a refreshing alternative to the aforementioned stodgy moralism that still dominated so many Evangelical churches back then. While I respected these churches' genuine concern about the decline in family values and the growing efforts of secular progressives to evict God from the public square, I was deeply disturbed by their seeming indifference to the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Their dedication to the pro-life cause was seriously compromised by the mean-spirited, judgemental rhetoric of people like Terry, and their frequent ostracism of single mothers and opposition to programs intended to help them, smacked of rank hypocrisy.

Thankfully, I have had the priviledge of observing a sea-change in Evangelical Christianity since I first became born-again, and I can't help but think that people like Wallis, along with Tony Campolo and his son, Bart, have helped play a role in this. It wouldn't surprise me if present-day leaders like Rick Warren were influenced by their emphasis on social justice, especially after seeing how ineffective and misguided the earlier approach was. Even Jerry Falwell, in the last decade or so of his life, tearfully apologized for his earlier smearing of Desmond Tutu, support for South Africa's apartheid regime and past homophobia.

Nonetheless, I have been kind of disappointed with Wallis and Sojourner's as of late. After initially giving his blessing to Bush's "Faith-Based Initiatives" program, stating that he believed the latter's "Compassionate Conservativism" to be genuine and denouncing the virulent hatred that so many left-wingers began spewing towards the man and his admin. alomst immediately after the 2000 election (and I can even cite a few examples from as early as late 1999), wallis largely ceased criticizing the left after the 2004 election. Although I understand that his, and Sojourner's opposition to the War on Terror (which I consider including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other military operations around the world directed at Islamic militants, plus non-violent resistance movements in countries like Lebanon, which succeeded in driving out Syrian troops in 2005) was based on an interpretation of the scripture as calling for non-violence and pacifism, I was deeply troubled by their seeming indifference to the hate-filled rhetoric and tactics of many of the demonstrators (calling for Bush and/or Cheney to be assassinated, dragging or burning flags, spitting on and physically accosting soldiers, veterans or anyone who disagreed with them, defacing the capital, war memorials and even a 9/11 memorial, and singing praises of dictators like Castro and Hugo Chavez and even portraying Saddam Hussein as a victim of US imperialism), and they were disturbingly tepid about the fact that many rallies were organized by groups like International ANSWER, United For Peace and Justice and Code Pink, all of which have close ties to Communists and other left-wing extremists who have defended the Chinese government's massacre in Tiannamen Square and openly lamented that the Communist hardliners that briefly desposed Gorbachev in 1991 were unable to keep the Soviet Union from collapsing. While Sojourner's did organize rallies that were separate from the more controversial ones, I was really bothered by the fact that they were not more critical of the far left extremists who played such a dominent role in the movement.

Also, like the more extreme and/or secular elements of the anti-war movement, I don't recall hearing Wallis present a realistic alternative for rebuilding Iraq and stamping out the insurgency if we had acceded to the demands for an early withdrawal. A low point came in the spring of 2007, when he wrote an editorial calling for an investigation into whether Bush, Cheney or other administration members may have cimmitted war crimes. This made Wallis barely distinguishable from the whacky "Bush lied" elements of the movement, overlooking the fact that the Iraq survey Group and others showed that the only thing that prevented Saddam from acquiring new WMD's were the sanctions placed against his regime by the US and other allied nations, which many on the left, including Wallis, had long opposed. Furthermore, the Survey Group found that Hussein had every intention of reconstituting his WMD programs once the sanctions were lifted, an increasingly likely scenario in the early 2000's thanks to the UN's "Oil For Food" scandal and
building pressure from France, Russia and China, all of whom had pending oil deals. Given the surge in oil prices in the past several years, laregly due to burgeoning demand from China and India, as well as declining production in Alaska, the North Sea, Mexico and other prominent, non-OPEC regions, there is little doubt that Saddam would be well onto his way acquiring new WMD's had he been left in power, and would likely be in an arms race with neighboring Iran. Instead of being accused of starting a war on false pretenses, Bush would likely face heavy criticism for not removing Saddam while he had the chance. As for the charge that the Bush admin. condoned torture, investigations conducted by the military and others, including Rory Kennedy, no friend of the Bush admin., concluded that the actions at Abu Ghraib were the result of poor oversight and short staffing caused by the government's failure to anticipate the insurgency and lawlessness that erupted following the ouster of Saddam Hussein and the disbanding of the Iraqi army. Deplorable as it was, this torture was not sanctioned by the Pentagon, White House or other government institutions, but by a few renegade soldiers, who have since been tried and sentenced for their crimes. As for Guantanamo Bay, most of those guys are hardened terrorists, several of whom have rejoined Al Qaeda or the Taliban following their release. Also, the "enhanced interrogation" techniques carried out against them, including exposure to loud music, hot or cold rooms, pushing them against a wall designed to give way and even waterboarding, barely qualify as torture, and are certainly nowhere near the brutality of the techniques employed by Saddam's toadies or the barbarians of Al Qaeda, the Taliban or Iraqi insurgency.This was a very reckless, poorly thought-out piece for Wallis to write, and seriously undermined his stated afforts to restore civility and end the partisan rift plaguing our nation.

Finally, I wish Wallis would be more critical of the Obama admin. Aside from arguing (unrealistically, I think) that increased nation-building efforts would be more effective at fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan than troop surges, he and Sojourner's have been far too lenient on the new president. I have not read anything in the magazine or website about the fact that at least one of his "czars," John Holdren, has previously advocated eugenics, euthanasia and forced abortions and sterilizations, policies that sound like a chilling combination of Nazi
Germany and present-day China, the fact that Obama spent 20 years in Jeremiah Wright's church, but apparently still has not found a new one over a year after moving into the White House or the strong possibility that Congress will pass the so-called "Freedom of Choice Act," which would effectively repeal all abortion restrictions enacted in the past 30 years or so.

Meanwhile, the left's all-out drive to destroy Sarah Palin and her family, just as they went after George W. Busah, has also been met with silence from Wallis and Sojouner's. Like Bush, disagreement and criticism over public policy is one thing, but spreading vicious lies and rumors about the nature of the famiy's Evangelical Faith, and even speculating whether Palin's youngest child, Down's Syndrome-affected Trig, is really her grandson, is just digusting and reprehensible. I'm not accusing Wallis or other Sojouner's writers of doing this, but am deeply troubled by their silence on the issue.

Sorry from rambling so long, but I felt I had to respond. I would love to hear more insight from you on these issues. Iguess both Beck and Wallis are reflecting the increased polarization of our society. Don't get me wrong, I still think Wallis is a great guy, and Sojourner's a good organization. I just wish they would recognize that socially responsible Evangelicals, Catholics and other peoples of faith, whether right or left-leaning in their politics, are their true allies, while secular progressives seem them as, at best, temporary partners. From what I have read and heard,many secular progressives have just as much contempt for the religious left as they do for the religious right. I would like to see Christians and observant Jews form a united front on social justice issues and realize that it is the best way to confront our two biggest enemies, secular progressives and militant Muslims.

God bless,
-James

Also wanted to ask, who are the crazy book burners that have threatened your store? Is this Jim Grove's church? Fred Phelps?

I know there are far-right crazies out there as well. If the allegations that Tea Party protestors hurled racial and homophobic slurs at Congressional Democrats last weekend were true (and there's some debate about whether there were. The remarks don't appear on video footage of the protests, including some made by Jesse Jackson Jr.), then shame on them! They would be just as abhorrent as the anti-war demonstrators I mentioned earlier. However, I still find it disturbing that the media and liberal pundits are covering these alleged remarks in a way that implies that the entire Tea Party movement is bigoted, while the aformentioned left-wing extremism and hatred of much of the anti-war movement was largely ignored.

Finally, what do you think of the Health Care reform bill? Do you think the executive order Obnama signed is really sufficient to prevent federal funding for abortions, or is it a toothless gesture, as some conservatives allege? Having wrestled with insurance companies myself, I agree that something has to be done to fix our health care system. However, I don't believe that a massive new bureacracy, which balloons our already huge deficit even more, is the answer.
-James

James,

Thanks for reading that. They are very strict fundamentalists with a very distorted understanding of the true gospel, and they suggest that many great Christian writers aren't Christians (conservative evangelicals, even, people like Dallas Willard or Eugene Peterson.) They are on line, not around here, although one of them used to do business here. They used to be sweet and caring and full of outreach and grace. Not they just post daily blogs about who is and isn't faithful, blaming people like me for leading people astray. To be clear, they've posted about book burning, but they never "threatened" me, although it felt threatening. As I said, it was spooky, as we corresponded daily for a month. It is a network of folks, like a cult, who just feel they have to expose untruth and in so doing end up misquoting authors, making caricatures of their "enemies" and actually lie about others. Scary, sad, and draining. Do you remember that time we got death threats from the KKK under our door? That was local, real, and scary. But somehow, these so-called brothers and sisters were more hurtful, since their concerns seemed laudable.

You and I have disagreed at times, James, but you've been a faithful friend and I am glad for your efforts to be consistent, fair, and engaged. Hope your doing well, in Christ, for His glory. Hope you can stop in next time your around town...

I find it frustrating when those of us who claim to be against name calling and judgment and blaming engage in just the same kind of activity. I can listen to Glen Beck and read Jim Wallis and still be a thoughtful, caring, and dedicated Christian who does not deserve to be dismissed or labeled simply because I might not agree with another. I have heard things from both those men that make me uncomfortable, but I would be the last one to try to decide who has a distorted view and who is "right."

Thanks for the reminder to speak with charity and kindness, always. Agreed. I have not heard Jim lie about Beck, though, or use the sort of outlandish accusations and harsh tones that Beck has. That "hammer will fall throughout the night over and over" was kinda scary, wasn't it? Wallis never uses that kind of violent imagery or threatening rhetoric that I know of.

I hope you didn't hear me do that, either. I went to lengths to explain to the person who asked why I used the word "silly" to describe those who think that we can avoid politics. I hope my tone explained things was pleasant, and I was sincere in my affirmation of Julia and her recommendations of the Acton folks. Those that read my blog know that we recommend a pretty wide diversity of books and that I am known for trying to read various sides, and not being pigeon-holed. I know Wallis in his post and in his book affirms that we can disagree about things; nobody would want to label somebody badly for having thoughtful, fair differing opinions. (Heck, I change my mind every other day about some issues.)

We do need to be civil. I hope I am. Please show me if I'm not.

However, I'm not sure why you said that last line. Why would you be the last one to try to decide? In a way, that is exactly what we are called to do: ferreting out the truth, listen widely and wisely, and make determinations. That is why I offered Jim Wallis' books, so people can read them for themselves and make up their mind if what Beck has said about him seems true or not.

Of course, you could say you don't care to do that, which is fine, but it isn't like we can't figure it out. Beck says Jim is a Marxist. Jim says he is not. Beck says social justice is a perversion of the Bible. Wallis quotes oodles of Bible verses to show otherwise, and draws on various church leaders of various eras and denominations to show that Beck is way off base.

There is really nothing complicated about it. I want to be nice, but Beck is dead wrong. He has lied about Wallis and we ought not be "agnostic" about that, but should demand he tell the truth, about Wallis and, more importantly, about the Bible. I wrote in my review that I don't agree with Jim or Sojourners on everything either, so I certainly don't label anybody for having different views. I will label Beck not for having conservative views (I stock some of his books in the shop here) but as a liar for spreading misinformation about Wallis. And I will say he was rude and weird in the way he did it---that hammering stuff, calling his supporters "cute" with such sarcasm, those threats of "coming after you." . We should all be offended by that.

Thanks for your wise, seasoned reflections! Let's hope the conversation can continue with both grace and truthfulness. Tim