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"Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left doesn't get it."
Jim Wallis
Book Report With Commentary

The second subtitle: A New Vison for Faith and Politics in America resonates throughout the book. Politics and religion are both out of kilter in our day. Will the 2006 election repudiating Neocon and religious Right policies aiming at world dominance be a turning point? We can only hope so.

Jim Wallis is a rarity in that as an evangelical Christian, he recogninzes not only the excesses of the current administration, but of those in his own religion. Moreover, the cures he suggests fit well with those advocated on this website as well as elsewhere.

For example, while he makes it clear that faith leads to morality when properly practiced, he acknowledges that people who are not members of a church or proclaim no faith are also moral. He moreover preaches separation of church and state, but at the same time advocates there is a place in government for faith. He warns the Democrats not to make the same mistake the Republicans did in trying to co-opt religious leaders and their communities for their own political agenda. In that position he is prescient, as his book was published well before the 2006 mid-term election.

Wallis in one sense is more fundamental even than the Fundamentalists. He reads the scriptures for what they say as a whole. So he is a strong advocate for strengthening marriage and family life; he also supports gay civil rights and legal protection for same-sex couples. He deplores narrow definitions of morality that can become divisive political footballs. On the one hand, for example, he deplores the fact that Mr Bush supports family values while invading Iraq and denies those very values to Iraqis who have died because the US is in Iraq. Wallis asks: where is the morality of the latter act? The morality in the Bible is mostly about the poor. But Mr Bush is systematic in keeping the poor away from better lives. Even his much touted "No Child Left Behind" has yet to prove anything other than perhaps that schools are encouraged to meet standards by decreasing enrollment. States seeing the flaws have refused federal funding. Mr Bush's immigration policy also works against a better life for many, even for the American electorate, as immigrants will take jobs most American citizens do not want. The hotel and restaurant businesses would be hard-hit if Mr Bush has his way on immigration.

Positions Wallis takes are markedy superior to those of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. Wallis believes it is time for religion to learn from history if the proponents are serious about improving the future of humanity. [We would say the same to secularists.] That history includes our own "deep injustices:"

  • Displacing the Native Americans via genocide.
  • Slavery.
  • Racial and gender discrimination.
  • Labor exploitation.

After candidly acknowledging these facts, Wallis suggests that we then celebrate progress in:

  • Civil Rights
  • Women enfranchisement

To the above we would add education, progress toward a materially better, longer and more confortable life afforded by technology, the child of science. We are a progressive nation. Unfortunately, the US is out of step with its own history just now; it is retrogressing. Nevertheless, we have much to be thankful for. All sectors of society could strive to recognize the very real contributors to easing the plight of humanity.

Jim Wallis is truly a breath of fresh air. We recommend his book, "God's Politics," strongly.


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