“Gospel for the Common Good is almost a foreign idea,” said Jim Wallis of Sojourners, “that will be sacrificed on the altar of winning in this election cycle, by both sides.” The hope we have is in new generation of Matthew 25 Christians, who understand the gospel’s engagement with social justice.
Wallis gave the Stan Hallett lecture at Loyola University on April 11th, in support of scholarships for students of the MA in Social Justice and Community Development, a joint program of SCUPE and Loyola University. Stan Hallett, a guiding voice in the establishment of the program from its origins at North Park University was an urban planner, entrepreneur, professor, theologian, community organizer, political strategist, conflict mediator and environmentalist. He worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Saul Alinsky, and helped to organize important civic groups, including the Center for Neighborhood Technology, the Woodstock Institute, and the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group.
Jim Wallis had three key points in his lecture: to lift up the Common Good again, to commit ourselves to a civil discourse, and to work to find common ground, with even those who think differently. Wallis also reflected on the themes of his latest book, Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery (Howard Books, 2011).
Among the more specific political questions Jim Wallis raised are the following:
- The defense of those who are poor and vulnerable is the first rule of politics. However, neither of the political parties are committed to that. 62% of all the cuts in the Ryan budget comes from low-income people. He described how an ecumenical group of Christian leaders visited the president. “Our scripture doesn’t say, as you’ve done to the Middle Class, you’ve done it to me,” they said. White House staff person later confided, “if you didn’t press us and press us to pay attention to the poor, we may not have done so.”
- Undocumented immigrants fit in the biblical category of the stranger. But this administration has deported more people than the last one. Evangelical college students around the country is coming together on this issue. Richard Land (Southern Baptist leader on public policy) and Wallis can stand together on this.
- Until we break the power of money over politics we do not have democracy.Solutions is not what they do in Washington DC. Winning is what they do. We don’t have one person one vote. Millionaires who run casinos are the ones deciding if a candidate is viable.
Jim also spoke of themes from his book Rediscovering Values:
- The World is our parish, said John Wesley. St. Paul’s cathedral in London had the parish come to them in the form of occupy movement. Although some priests wanted them to stay and work with them, the Cathedral decided to evict them. A church in Boston had to pray about whether it was their responsibility that a kid got shot on the steps of that church. They decided that what happens in their parish is their responsibility, and that brought down the homicide level down by 70%. This is what happens if we think of the world as our parish.
- To illustrate the meaning of Good Samaritan story for today, Wallis spoke to what happens in the Congo, where war lords are making money on the minerals that are required to manufacture your parts for your cell phone. Your cell phone is your significant other. But who is your neighbor? Today, that’s any body in the supply chain in the goods you buy.
- How do you love your enemies today? We had been telling CNN to please tell the other stories rather than those that are divisive and destructive. They finally did. When a church In Memphis realized that a Muslim Center was coming to the neighborhood, they put up a sign, “Welcome Memphis Muslims.” And when for a variety of reasons the mosque was not built on time, the church let them use their building for prayers. When CNN broadcast the story, and the repercussions were felt in Pakistan. Someone from Pakistan called the pastor of the church and said that they they were stunned when they watched the show. One said, I think God is speaking to us. Which works better, asked Wallis, drones or building relationships. The way they do foreign policy is a waste of money. Government should be much smaller. It should not be doing empire stuff.
- The best conservative idea is personal responsibility.Our personal choices, our lives, relationships, marriages, children, money, vocations etc, are critical for the common good.The best liberal idea is social responsibility. I am my neighbors keeper. So I must ask what are my neighbor’s needs. Why are these two idea in mortal combat? How do we combine the two by looking at the ethics of personal and social responsibility. From ideological warfare to common good.
- Productivity has risen dramatically, but the benefits of productivity are going to the small percentage. Wages are going down for most people. These are not just economic facts. They are religious issues, ethical issues.Wall Street people come to us like Nicodemus at night. Things are falling apart on the inside and they use words like greed and selfishness. They are not getting any kind of spiritual counsel from the clergy.
- Global Values council of the world economic forum. Davos wants a social covenant. Young CEOs like it. They fell like we need a new social covenant.
- How do we restore healthy household. Idea of people in a household cooking healthy food, having a time to eat together, say a brief prayer, and ask each other, how was your day?
And in conclusion Jim Wallis asked:
Will there be a post candidate politics? This is what young people are today looking at, because they are committed to movements based on values. How do you understand leadership in movements? How do we look past politics to the kind of movement that creates justice. These are the questions today’s young people, the new generation of Matthew 25 Christians are asking, he said.