Jim Wallis (born June 4, 1948) is a Christian writer and political activist. He is best known as the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine and as the founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Christian community of the same name. Wallis is well known for his advocacy on issues of peace and social justice. Although Wallis actively eschews political labels, he describes himself as an evangelical and is often associated with the evangelical left and the wider Christian left. He works as a spiritual advisor to President Barack Obama. He is also a leader in the Red-Letter Christian movement.
Wallis was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Phyllis (Morrell) and James E. Wallis, Sr. He was raised in a traditional evangelical Plymouth Brethren family. As a young man Wallis became active in Students for a Democratic Society and the civil rights movement. Wallis graduated from Michigan State University and attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, where he joined with other young seminarians in establishing the community that eventually became Sojourners. The journal Sojourners originated in Deerfield, Illinois as The Post American in 1971.
Wallis wrote in 1974 that, "The new evangelical consciousness is most characterized by a return to biblical Christianity and the desire to apply biblical insights to the need for new forms of sociopolitical engagement."
"Christ's life, death, and resurrection have brought victory over 'the powers.' He shattered the myth of their absolute authority by demonstrating his freedom in relation to them. He challenged their rule and would not submit to them. Indeed, the fallen powers were so exposed and threatened by Christ's actions that they acted in collusion to kill him. The cross symbolizes that freedom in which death is swallowed up in victory. Christ's resurrection vindicates his manner of life and death, seats his victory, and allows others to live freely and humanly in the midst of 'the powers' by their 'being in Christ.' This must be the proclamation and witness of the church of Jesus Christ. The church is a new force in history which is a sign to 'the powers' that their dominion has been broken. The very presence of a body of people who exercise their moral independence is an essential element for Wallis because 'without a visible and concrete demonstration of independence, all the church's outward attacks upon the institutions of the world will be doomed to failure.'"
Writing in Sojourners in 1980, Wallis said, "Proclamation of the gospel, charismatic gifts, social action, and prophetic witness alone do not finally offer a real threat to the world as it is, especially when set apart from a community which incarnates a whole new order. It is the ongoing life of a community of faith that issues a basic challenge to the world as it is, and offers a viable and concrete alternative. The church must be called to be the church, to rebuild the kind of community that gives substance to the claims of faith."
Wallis has been quoted as saying, "I would suggest that the Bible is neither “conservative” nor “liberal” as we understand those terms in a political context today… It is traditional or conservative on issues of family values, sexual integrity, and personal responsibility, while being progressive, populist, or even radical on issues like poverty and racial justice." Speaking to a conference of clergy from the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool (The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire, UK, 23 June 2009) Wallis said, "The press don't get it - they say, 'Have you replaced the religious right with the religious left?'" Rather, he says that his Christian commitment does not allow him to align with any political wing - on some issues, his views would be counted as coming from the left, on others, from the right. "Don't go left, don't go right: go deeper."
Wallis was invited by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) to give the Democrats' weekly radio address on Saturday, December 2, 2006. He spoke about the importance of moral leadership in Washington, and touched on a variety of social concerns. In February 2007 he wrote in Time about the post-Religious Right era and the resurgence of mainstream Christianity, with evangelicals "deserting the Religious Right in droves". Wallis has served on the Advisory Council to President Barack Obama's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He serves as a spiritual adviser to President Obama.
In addition to President Obama, Wallis has developed personal friendships with former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. In his 2010 book Rediscovering Values, Wallis writes, "I consider Rudd one of the most hopeful young political leaders in the world today, a committed Christian who seeks to apply his faith to his public service; we consider each other good friends."
In discussing the 2004 American presidential elections, Wallis said "Jesus didn’t speak at all about homosexuality. There are about 12 verses in the Bible that touch on that question. Most of them are very contextual. There are thousands of verses on poverty. I don’t hear a lot of that conversation." Some time between 2008 and 2013, Wallis changed his mind and began to support same-sex marriage. In 2008 he made the following remarks: "I don't think the sacrament of marriage should be changed. Some people say that Jesus didn't talk about homosexuality, and that's technically true. But marriage is all through the Bible, and it's not gender-neutral. I have never done a blessing for a same-sex couple. I've never been asked to do one. I'm not sure that I would." However, in an interview in 2013, Wallis declared his support for same-sex marriage, and said "Marriage needs some strengthening. Let's start with marriage, and then I think we have to talk about, now, how to include same-sex couples in that deeper understanding of marriage." In both statements, Wallis advocated respectful biblical and theological conversations between Christians who disagree on this issue, as well as focusing on other important issues such as poverty.
Wallis is listed as a supporter of the Consistent Life Ethic, a philosophy that includes opposition to abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty. In a 2008 interview with Christianity Today, Wallis expressed strong support for abortion reduction, adding that "I don't think that abortion is the moral equivalent issue to slavery that Wilberforce dealt with. I think that poverty is the new slavery. Poverty and global inequality are the fundamental moral issues of our time. That's my judgment." A 2008 Newsweek article states that "Jim Wallis devoted a significant chunk of his latest book, 'The Great Awakening,' to outlining his views on abortion. The evangelical leader wrote in favor of 'protecting unborn life in every possible way, but without criminalizing abortion.'" Wallis added, "Everybody tends to agree that preventing unwanted pregnancies is a good thing. I'm saying, let's take it to the next step and say that abortion reduction is a good thing too. It's about providing options—not taking away a woman's right to choose, but making things like adoption easier."
In August 2009, he signed a public statement encouraging all Christians to "read, wrestle with, and respond to Caritas in Veritate", the social encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI. A few months earlier, it was speculated that Wallis might have been chosen for the post of Vatican ambassador, but theologian Miguel H. Diaz was selected instead.
Wallis supported President Obama's health care legislation, and reportedly signed a letter urging that the legislation be passed even if it did not contain language explicitly banning federal funding for abortion. In 2009, Wallis made the following comments regarding Sarah Palin within the context of the health care reform debate in the United States: "Sarah, you're the one who is acting in an 'evil' way. After listening to your policy pronouncements during the campaign, many Americans decided, generously, that you weren't ready yet for high political office. Others thought you just weren't very smart. But this statement last week really does clear up the question for me. You are speaking like a demagogue in the worst tradition of those who knowingly distort and deceive, for their own political purposes. You want to stoke people's worst fears and then, hopefully, they will look to someone like you to be their leader. You're not stupid after all. You know that neither President Obama, nor anyone else in this health-care debate, would deny health care for your parents or child, and that none of the ideas being debated would suggest that. But people are confused and concerned, so you see your chance to prey upon their misunderstandings. Politics for people like you is really all about you, your fame and power, and your taste of it during the last election has revealed what kind of politician you truly are. Please don't invoke your 'Christian faith' anymore and embarrass the people of God even further. May your efforts to scare Americans during this important debate fail. May your political future also fail, and may your star fall as fast as it rose just a few months ago -- because we now know who you really are."
In 2010, Wallis admitted to accepting money for Sojourners from philanthropist George Soros after initially denying having done so. When conservative writer Marvin Olasky pointed this out, and that Soros also financed groups supporting abortion, atheism, and same-sex marriage, in a WORLD magazine column, Wallis said Olasky "lies for a living"; he subsequently apologized to Olasky for the comments. In 2011, Wallis acknowledged that Sojourners had received another $150,000.00 from Soros' Open Society Foundation.
In 2010, expressing concern about the growing polarization in American politics, Wallis and other Christian leaders signed on to a document entitled "A Covenant for Civility."
Wallis made supportive comments regarding the Occupy London movement in a blog post entitled "Occupy St. Paul's: Thanks Be to God." Regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement, Wallis wrote, "The Occupiers' desire for change and willingness to take action to do something about it should be an inspiration to us all."
Wallis has been arrested 22 times for acts of civil disobedience. He was involved in antiwar activism during the Vietnam War, and wrote in 1974 that it was a "brutal, criminal war." Wallis has received criticism for calling the United States "a fallen nation" in his 1976 book Agenda for Biblical People.
Writings and awards
Wallis' writings are regularly published as op-eds in major media outlets. He is also the convener of Call to Renewal, an interfaith effort to end poverty. He has written a wide variety of books including The Great Awakening. Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America (2008), God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It (2005), Faith Works: How Faith Based Organizations Are Changing Lives, Neighborhoods, and America (2000), The Soul of Politics: Beyond "Religious Right" and "Secular Left" (1995) and Call to Conversion (1981, revised 2005).
In 1995, Jim Wallis received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award.
For his work in advocating for peace and social justice in urban America and for his role as founder of Sojourners Magazine and the Call to Renewal, Jim Wallis was awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience award in Sherborn, Massachusetts, on June 2, 2000.
Wallis is married to Joy Carroll who was one of the first female priests in the Church of England and upon whom the title character in the BBC sitcom The Vicar of Dibley was partially based. They have two sons. Wallis has coached their Little League teams.
- Agenda for Biblical People, Harper & Row (1976) ISBN 978-0-06-069236-0.
- The Call to Conversion, Harper & Row (1981) ISBN 978-0-06-069242-1, HarperCollins (Rev. ed., 2005) ISBN 978-0-06-084237-6.
- The New Radical, Lion Books (1983)
- Waging Peace: A Handbook for the Struggle to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (editor), Harper & Row (1982) ISBN 978-0-06-069240-7.
- The Soul of Politics: A practical and prophetic vision of change, Fount/HarperCollins (1994) ISBN 978-0-15-600328-5, Tandem Library ISBN 978-1-4177-0619-8.
- Who Speaks for God? A New Politics of Compassion, Community and Civility, Delacorte (1996) ISBN 978-0-385-31690-3, Random House (1997) ISBN 978-0-385-31693-4
- Faith Works: Lessons from the Life of an Activist Preacher, Random House (2000) ISBN 978-1-879290-23-5 (Rev. ed. with new subtitle: How to Live Your Beliefs and Ignite Positive Social Change, 2005)
- God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It HarperOne (2005) ISBN 978-0-06-055828-4.
- Living God's Politics: A Guide to Putting Your Faith into Action HarperOne (2006) ISBN 978-0-06-111841-8.
- The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America HarperOne (2008) ISBN 978-0-06-055829-1.
- Rediscovering Values: On Main Street, Wall Street, and Your Street, Howard Books (2010) ISBN 978-1-4391-8312-0.
- On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned (2013)
- Goodstein, Laurie (15 March 2009). "Without a Pastor, Obama Turns to a Circle of 5". The New York Times.
- Mangu-Ward, Katherine (April 11, 2005). "God's Democrat: the Church of Jim Wallis". The Weekly Standard (Washington, DC: News America Incorporated) 10 (28): 30–33.
- The Post American, June–July 1974, p. 3, cited in Leech, Kenneth (1992). The Eye of the Storm: Living Spiritually in the Real World. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-065208-1.[page needed]
- Sherry, Paul (July 1977). "Book review, Agenda for Biblical People". Theology Today 34 (2).
- Wallis, Jim (January 1980). "Rebuilding the Church". Sojourners: 11. cited in Sine, Tom (1981). The Mustard Seed Conspiracy: You Can Make a Difference in Tomorrow's Troubled World. Word Books.[page needed]
- Wallis, Jim (June 16, 2008). "The Bible is Neither Conservative or Liberal". God's Politics. Washington, DC: Sojourners.
- Wallis, Jim (2006-12-02). "We Need Greater Moral Leadership". God's Politics. Beliefnet. Retrieved 29 February 2008.
- Wallis, Jim. "The Religious Right's Era Is Over." Time.com, February 16, 2007
- "Evangelical Minister Jim Wallis Is in Demand in Obama's Washington". U.S. News.
- Hinsliff, Gaby. "Meet Jim Wallis, the Chancellor's religious guru" The Observer, 5 Feb. 2006.
- Wallis, Jim, Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street, Howard Books, 2010, p. 101.
- Sojourners : Special Features
- "Obama Pledges to Expand Bush Program to Funnel Federal Money to Religious Groups". 2008-07-02.
- "God’s Politics: Frist Fights Filibuster on Judicial Nominees in 'Justice Sunday'". 2005-04-26.
- "Religious Communities Mobilize for Peace". 2001-09-24.
- "Food Stamps Cuts". 1997-03-07.
- "A Different Kind of Christian Political Activism". 1996-12-25.
- Lumsden, Michal (March 10, 2005). "God's Politics: An Interview With Jim Wallis". MotherJones.com (San Francisco: Foundation for National Progress). Retrieved 2006-10-10.
- Kaleem, Jaweed; Wallis, Jim (April 5, 2013). "Jim Wallis Talks Faith's Role In Politics, Gay Marriage And Immigration". Huffington Post Religion. Retrieved 2015-06-10.
- Jim Wallis at Consistent Life Ethic Official Website
- Evangelical scholars call for broad discussion of Pope's social encyclical
- Whom Will Obama Choose for Vatican Ambassador?
- Bailey, Sarah (27 August 2010). "Wallis Apologizes to Olasky after Sojourners Funding Flap". Christianity Today.
- Bailey, Sarah (20 August 2010). "Wallis Admits to Soros Funding". Christianity Today.
- Wallis, Jim (6 October 2011). "Praying for Peace and Looking for Jesus at #OccupyWallStreet". Huffington Post.
- Wallis, Jim, "The New Regime," The Post-American, October 1974, p. 3. Cited in Angela M. Lahr, Millennial Dreams and Apocalyptic Nightmares, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 185.
- The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Recipients List
- "Theologian Jim Wallis to preach at Harbor Church". The Block Island Times. August 10, 2013. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
- Anthony Pappas (April 1989). Money, motivation, and mission in the small church. Judson Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-8170-1146-8.
- Donald A. D'Amato; Henry A. L. Brown (1 June 1999). Block Island. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 35–. ISBN 978-0-7385-3869-3.
- Carroll, Joy. Beneath the Cassock: The Real-life Vicar of Dibley, HarperCollins, 2002.
- Wallis, Jim. Rediscovering Values, Howard Books, 2010. Acknowledgements p. x.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jim Wallis.|
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Jim Wallis at the Internet Movie Database
- Jim Wallis collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Works by or about Jim Wallis in libraries (WorldCat catalog)