Questions for “God’s Politics” by Jim Wallis of Sojourners
John C. Rankin (September 17, 2009)
I have made many attempts to talk with Rev. Jim Wallis of the Sojourners Community and Magazine in Washington, D.C. Even to visit him in D.C. for a half-hour meeting. He is pro-life on the one hand, but on the other, favors top-down government answers to social issues. But in the end, I had no success in making contact.
Via one of his staffers, I submitted questions I have for his book, God’s Politics, hoping for some kind of answer, but it never came. Here they are:
- The title is a declarative – does this mean Jim views the content of his book to actually equal God’s politics?
- Jim states that “God’s politics is therefore never partisan or ideological.” Yet the subtitle of the book says: “Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.” This strikes me as partisan – namely, first, it is a declarative, indeed, passing judgment in saying that “the Right Gets It Wrong.” Now, the language of Right and Left is penultimate political language, each with its own baggage. Thus, does not addressing the Right and Left in the context of a declarative on God’s politics take the penultimate and make it ultimate? And second, by saying that “the Left Doesn’t Get It,” is this not a penultimate partisan statement in favor of the Left? Namely, the Left is not wrong, as is the Right, rather the Left is just short of its worthy goal, as it were.
- Is there any theological structure to Jim’s thoughts, such as an understanding of the covenants and the kingdom of God? All I see are some selected biblical references, even a tally of verses at one point (methodologically post-biblical by definition), and only the briefest background in a few cases.
- Is there any economic philosophy in place that has solid biblical exegesis behind it, and universal hermeneutical applicability? The Jubilee is profound, but Jim’s treatment of it only touches the surface, and he employs it only toward a singular present day political issue, e.g., third world debt in the context of government policy.
- This leads to another concern, namely, the issues addressed in the book are contextually temporal. Namely, to what extent do temporal political issues modify what is meant by “God’s politics” instead of vice versa?
- What are Jim’s thoughts on the covenantal conflict between Samuel and Saul? That is, between a federation of 12 tribes governed by a local and peripatetic judge, with no national capitol/shrine, under Yahweh as King through the Law of Moses; versus the pagan envy that led to Israel’s lust for a human idol/king who indeed enslaved them to his own ego? It seems that Jim continually resorts at first instinct to government, even big government, for solutions, despite disclaimers on private/public partnerships.
- On pp. 67-68, Jim declares that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, alongside Al Qaeda and the Taliban, are “theocrats who desire their religious agenda to be enforced through the power of the state.” Where is the evidence that Falwell and Robertson ever worked outside the rule of law as rooted in the unalienable rights of the Declaration and the checks and balances of the Constitution, including the last clause of Article VI? There are a few Reconstructionists and other extremists to be found here and there – is Jim making such a causative linkage? On what terms can Jim make them into de facto moral equivalents to murderers who are self-defined Islamicists?
- And accordingly, what is Jim’s understanding of biblical theocracy and Qur’anic theocracy?