I have collated what I believe are some key thoughts from the first few chapter of Jim Wallis' book God's Politics Why the Right gets it wrong and the Left doesn't get it.
I write this post now, because it is not before, but after an election that the real work of governing begins.
I haven't even read half the book, so I'll reserve judgment. However, thus far he is saying that the progressive distaste for religion is historically short sited, (Martin Luther King Jr., Woman's Suffrage, etc...) and from his perspective, dead wrong as he himself is an evangelical. The conservatives on the other hand, while extremely adept at speaking the language of faith, are myopic in their understanding of the Hebrew scriptures and their relationship to the Biblical mandate for social justice.
What I appreciate most about the book so far is its intelligent, nuanced and insightful critique, of both the left and the right. Many people are saying what Wallis is saying, but few as well or as thoughtfully as he does.
We need more than critique, we must ask what’s wrong, but also what the answers are?
Instead of trying to strike an elusive balance between private piety and the social gospel, we must go to the heart of prophetic religion in which a personal god demands public justice as an act of worship.
Saying no is good, but having an alternative is better. Protest is not enough, it is necessary to show a better way. The aim of effective and transformational protest should be to illumine a society to its need to change. In other words, protest must be instructive rather than destructive. It should at its best, point the way to an alternative rather than just register the anger of its demonstrators. The power of protest is not in its anger, but in it’s invitation to something better.
Those who seek alternatives to war, must not underestimate the problem of evil in the world… it must be admitted that the peace movement sometimes underestimates the power of evil… (In the run up to the war in Iraq), the public perception was that the peace movement was not determined to appose Saddam Hussain or remove him from power. So those who did clearly propose to deal with Saddam Hussain appeared to be stronger than those who didn’t. When a peace movement appears to be soft on the problems that war claims to be able to solve, alternative solutions will seem week. To avoid or prevent war, we must have answers that effectively deal with the problems and threats, but are better than war.
The conservatives are right when they say that cultural and moral issues of family break down, personal responsibility, sexual promiscuity, and substance abuse are prime reasons for domestic poverty.
The liberals are right when they point to the need for adequate nutrition, health care, education, housing, and good paying jobs as keys to overcoming epidemic poverty.