Evangelical Left icon Jim Wallis of Sojourners is deeply distressed that the Obama Administration has become less than messianic. A growing conservative electoral resurgence must also disturb the political prophet, as he mournfully noted that “long-time senators are leaving public office,” unwilling to champion Wallis-style statist causes in a hostile climate.
Having assumed that the Kingdom of God would break forth in a plethora of left-leaning legislation, form Obamacare, to cap and trade, to liberalized immigration, some on the Evangelical and Religious Left now wonder what went wrong. Many probably join Wallis in feeling “lament” and “emptiness” during this ostensible “national and global crisis.”
Wallis is so troubled that he is exploiting Lent, a season for Christian reflection and self-denial, to launch a “Daniel’s Fast” of vegetables and berries. The biblical Prophet Daniel fasted when he could not eat the ritually unclean food of pagan Babylon, where he was captive. Evidently, with Obama’s agenda now stymied, Wallis believes he must resort to similar spiritual exigencies.
“I believe our nation is in deep trouble,” Wallis fretted in a recent column, describing his worries. “Politicians in Washington can’t get health-care reform done. Comprehensive immigration reform is a crying issue of social justice for millions of our most poor and vulnerable families; but it may not even come up in Congress this session, for fear of unleashing a demagoguery that would make the battle over health care look tame. Enormous debts and deficits keep piling up, and a bipartisan commission to try to solve the deficit threat to future generations was just rejected — because it was bipartisan.”
Then there are “those endless wars,” and “billions of dollars in bonuses being paid to top bank executives.” Wallis admits: “Sometimes things get so bad that you really don’t know what to say or do.” So he is turning to fasting, just as he did during the first Gulf War in 1991, when he “experienced similar feelings” of discouragement. Wallis recalls that Jesus taught not to fast to impress others, but evidently he believes the political implications demand ignoring, or at least reinterpreting that instruction. After all, “hunger strikes and public fasting have served as powerful and prophetic witnesses in spiritually-based social movements throughout history.” Maybe Wallis sees himself as a Gandhi-like martyr, whose fasts and sufferings can bring down an empire.
Of course, Wallis would like his fast to attract others as part of his ongoing, unending political mobilization for statism, pacifism and disarmament. “I have also decided to invite other religious leaders and clergy, students and young people, and other people of faith (or no faith) who also feel so led, to fast for clarity and direction in this Lenten season, hoping that we can support one another and perhaps find some common discernment about the way forward.”
Translation: Having believed that he was apparently like the Prophet Nehemiah, leading the chosen people in rebuilding the walls of the sacred city after a long exile, Wallis now fears that his brief hour of political glory is passing. Last year, Wallis triumphally described attending Obama’s inauguration and receiving White House phone calls, as though he sat in the pilot’s seat of a new and even more expansive Great Society. In a only a few months, Wallis has mournfully seen his chief legislative dreams seemingly blocked and now unpopular, with the nation’s political energy having shifted to the opposition. Although he does not directly admit it here, Wallis doubtless is grieved that Obama is not a fellow pacifist and has instead launched a military surge in Afghanistan with “endless casualties and endless time frames.”
Wallis complains that “both parties and successive White Houses have become trapped into a primarily military response to the real threats of terrorism.” He rarely admits to his pacifist absolutism, fearing political marginalization. So typically he complains that all wars are unwinnable and solutions instead can be achieved through dialogue, reparations and apologies. “Are we killing more terrorists than the number of new ones who are being recruited?” he rhetorically asked, in usual fashion, then answering his own question. “We all know the answer to that is no, and that we are losing ground every day; but nobody in Washington is allowed to ask what would be the best policies to keep more people from becoming terrorists in the first place.” He concluded: “the math of terrorism is against us.” But of course, even if the math were favorable, he would still oppose any U.S. military effort. And his canard that military resistance to aggressors only fuels more aggressions, with victory always elusive, is of course disproven many times by history.
Trying further to wax prophetically, or maybe just aping William Jennings Bryan, Wallis insisted that the “risky and greedy behavior of a handful of huge Wall Street banks brought on the financial crisis that led to this deep recession.” Didn’t the financial melt-down start with federally backed mortgage guarantees to millions who could not afford them? The crisis was compounded but did not necessarily begin with Wall Street derivatives. Naturally, Wallis the populist prophet prefers the imagery of top-hated, “shameful” Wall Street bankers feathering their own lavish nests at the expense of common people. What religious leftists can never understand or admit is that everyone, both high and low, is motivated on some level by profit and self-interest. Just and successful economic systems channel self-interest into the larger interest. But utopians like Wallis, ignoring their religion’s own teachings about fallen humanity, always dream of coercive kingdom where justice and equality are brutally enforced.
Wallis confusedly asked, obviously perplexed why America has not fully embraced statism: “How do we clarify the issues? How do we offer an alternative vision? How do we change the direction of our country, which is leading us to more confusion, pain, and suffering?” He wants to blame a “vitriolic and toxic” lack of civility in America, instead of widespread public displeasure with his own Big Government agenda. Wallis insists that his political fast of fruits and vegetables is an appeal to mercy from the Almighty. But what if God does not necessarily share Wallis’s vision of endless state expansion? Maybe the political prophet will receive a surprising revelation during his fast.