God's Politics

God's Politics

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by Jim Wallis

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New York Times bestseller God's Politics struck a chord with Americans disenchanted with how the Right had co-opted all talk about integrating religious values into our politics, and with the Left, who were mute on the subject. Jim Wallis argues that America's separation of church and state does not require banishing moral and religious values


New York Times bestseller God's Politics struck a chord with Americans disenchanted with how the Right had co-opted all talk about integrating religious values into our politics, and with the Left, who were mute on the subject. Jim Wallis argues that America's separation of church and state does not require banishing moral and religious values from the public square. God's Politics offers a vision for how to convert spiritual values into real social change and has started a grassroots movement to hold our political leaders accountable by incorporating our deepest convictions about war, poverty, racism, abortion, capital punishment, and other moral issues into our nation's public life. Who can change the political wind? Only we can.

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God's Politics

Chapter One

Take Back the Faith

Co-opted by the Right, Dismissed by the Left

Many of us feel that our faith has been stolen, and it's time to take it back. In particular, an enormous public misrepresentation of Christianity has taken place. And because of an almost uniform media misperception, many people around the world now think Christian faith stands for political commitments that are almost the opposite of its true meaning. How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American? What has happened here? And how do we get back to a historic, biblical, and genuinely evangelical faith rescued from its contemporary distortions? That rescue operation is even more crucial today, in the face of a deepening social crisis that cries out for more prophetic religion.

Of course, nobody can steal your personal faith; that's between you and God. The problem is in the political arena, where strident voices claim to represent Christians when they clearly don't speak for most of us. It's time to take back our faith in the public square, especially in a time when a more authentic social witness is desperately needed.

The religious and political Right gets the public meaning of religion mostly wrong—preferring to focus only on sexual and cultural issues while ignoring the weightier matters of justice. And the secular Left doesn't seem to get the meaning and promise of faith for politics at all-mistakenly dismissing spirituality as irrelevant to social change. I actually happen to be conservative on issues of personal responsibility, the sacredness of human life, the realityof evil in our world, and the critical importance of individual character, parenting, and strong "family values." But the popular presentations of religion in our time (especially in the media) almost completely ignore the biblical vision of social justice and, even worse, dismiss such concerns as merely "left wing."

It is indeed time to take back our faith.

Take back our faith from whom? To be honest, the confusion comes from many sources. From religious right-wingers who claim to know God's political views on every issue, then ignore the subjects that God seems to care the most about. From pedophile priests and cover-up bishops who destroy lives and shame the church. From television preachers whose extravagant lifestyles and crass fund-raising tactics embarrass more Christians than they know. From liberal secularists who want to banish faith from public life and deny spiritual values to the soul of politics. And even from liberal theologians whose cultural conformity and creedal modernity serve to erode the foundations of historic biblical faith. From New Age philosophers who want to make Jesus into a nonthreatening spiritual guru. And from politicians who love to say how religious they are but utterly fail to apply the values of faith to their public leadership and political policies.

It's time to reassert and reclaim the gospel faith—especially in our public life. When we do, we discover that faith challenges the powers that be to do justice for the poor, instead of preaching a "prosperity gospel" and supporting politicians who further enrich the wealthy We remember that faith hates violence and tries to reduce it and exerts a fundamental presumption against war, instead of justifying it in God's name. We see that faith creates community from racial, class, and gender divisions and prefers international community over nationalist religion, and we see that "God bless America" is found nowhere in the Bible. And we are reminded that faith regards matters such as the sacredness of life and family bonds as so important that they should never be used as ideological symbols or mere political pawns in partisan warfare.

The media like to say, "Oh, then you must be the religious Left?" No, not at all, and the very question is the problem. Just because a religious Right has fashioned itself for political power in one utterly predictable ideological guise does not mean that those who question this political seduction must be their opposite political counterpart. The best public contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable or a loyal partisan. To always raise the moral issues of human rights, for example, will challenge both left and right-wing governments that put power above principles. Religious action is rooted in a much deeper place than "rights"—that place being the image of God in every human being.

Similarly, when the poor are defended on moral or religious grounds, it is certainly not "class warfare," as the rich often charge, but rather a direct response to the overwhelming focus on the poor in the Scriptures, which claim they are regularly neglected, exploited, and oppressed by wealthy elites, political rulers, and indifferent affluent populations. Those Scriptures don't simply endorse the social programs of the liberals or the conservatives, but they make it clear that poverty is indeed a religious issue, and the failure of political leaders to help uplift the poor will be judged a moral failing.

It is precisely because religion takes the problem of evil so seriously that it must always be suspicious of too much concentrated power—politically and economically—either in totalitarian regimes or in huge multinational corporations that now have more wealth and power than many governments. It is indeed our theology of evil that makes us strong proponents of both political and economic democracy—not because people are so good, but because they often are not and need clear safeguards and strong systems of checks and balances to avoid the dangerous accumulations of power and wealth.

It's why we doubt the goodness of all superpowers and the righteousness of empires in any era, especially when their claims of inspiration and success invoke theology and the name of God. Given the human tendencies of military and political power for self-delusion and deception, is it any wonder that hardly a religious body in the world regards the ethics of unilateral and preemptive war as "just"?

God's Politics. Copyright © by Jim Wallis. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Jim Wallis is the author of the New York Times bestseller God's Politics, which electrified Americans disenchanted with how the Right had co-opted all talk about integrating religious values into our politics by offering an alternative voice. Wallis is a leading figure at the crossroads of religion and politics in America today, the author of eight books, and the founder of Sojourners, a global faith and justice network. He is a public theologian, an internationally renowned speaker and preacher, a faith-based activist, husband, and father to two young boys, and a Little League baseball coach.

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God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
CAPPMAN More than 1 year ago
God's Politics, by Jim Wallis, is a book about applying Christian ethics and morals into government and politics.The book is structured by informing readers of the political problems and what needs to be done politically and religiously in order to fix these problems. I enjoyed the book because I learned so much from reading it. As a Christian, reading this book helped inform me on the religious issues out there today that need to be confronted. I would recommend this book to any Christian who has any interest in knowing what is going on in the political world. I would also recommend it to some politicians; I think it would be a good reminder for them about why they are in office.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I've read by Mr. Wallace. I heard him speak in chapel as an undergrad but have since lost track of him. Until I saw this book reviewed in the NYT. And to tell the truth, it's a much needed one, especially in today's political climate where the Right Wing has hijacked Christianity (as the November elections show). This can be off-putting, especially to people who are Christian but who have more progressive insights it can also be off-putting to those who, while professing no religious belief, are longing for transcendence. The fact is, God isn't a Republican, God isn't even a Democrat: God is bigger than all that. This is Wallace's point. God's Politics shows how both the right and left need to put themselves under the microscope: the right because of its emphasis on 'family values' and tax cuts to the neglect of social justice, the environment, and the poor the left because it thinks that religion is irrelevant and not worth thinking about. What's needed is a return to the religion of Jesus and the prophets. This is where compassion, justice, and mercy rule one's life and thus will drive one to transform the world. Again, there's a huge emphasis on the poor, racial reconcilliation, the environment, and social justice for war-ravaged countries. The final chapter deals with hope and cynicism, which is ultimately the two issues we must choose between. If any transformation, healing, renewal, etc is going to happen in America, its citizens must opt for hope. Whatever one's religous stance is, people can struggle (it won't be easy) to build a better world and, hopefully, make it the world G-d wants it to be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would question if you have even read the Bible because it does not sound like you have any background in the area. Read Acts 2:42-47: 'They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.' Now, I don't know about you, but what more clearly could be said other than there was income sharing in that? Moreover, I think communism has been given a connotation that not many people understand. Communism in essense is not necessarily a bad thing, but humans who are corrupt take a hold of that and extort it to become bad. Now, I am not saying that I agree with communism nor am I not thankful to live in America, I am very thankful for that. I suppose my point to be made is that Jesus loved everyone and as believers we are called to have things in COMMON 'notice how close that word is to something else?' and give to the poor. While I think that Jesus does call some people to make more money than others, He has called them to use that money for good and to give it away because ultimately, that money isn't theres. It states in the Bible that everything belongs to God anyways, it's not ours. God is love and loves all, and what has gone wrong so much in this country is how religion and politics get so distorted that it's hard to tell the two apart. THe only thing that matters is a relationship with Jesus. Period. It doesn't matter if you are right winged or liberl or like bill o'reilly or have had an abortion or are gay. A relationship with Jesus is all that matters and those in power who claim to be right because the Bible says so need to get off their soap box and start telling people about Jesus.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wallis, although he attempts to excoriate both Republicans and Democrats, is clearly more of the liberal sort. This being said, I enjoyed the way he chastised those who would use the Bible for political purposes despite the fact they misquoted much of the Bible. He does a great job of presenting his case until he gets to gays. He made a statement well into the book that indicates he's not as tolerant as he pretends to be. He favors 'civil unions' but he seemed to steer clear of the concept of marriage for gays. I think if he's going to be accepting of everyone, he cannot exclude a group because HE doesn't agree with who they are. As Jimmy Carter stated recently, Jesus never talked or criticized gays, that has been a more modern invention. Mr. Wallis needs to rethink his whole approach if he wants us to believe he's truly accepting of all people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jim Wallis is truly a gift to America, this book is a blessing to all those who hunger for political leadership grounded in authentic Christian faith. Share this book with your pastor, Sunday School teacher, youth group and congressperson. May this book be a bestseller, while it challenges the secular left and the religious right.
180786EF More than 1 year ago
Gods Politics gives an interesting opinion on what happens in Washington DC and then it's relativity to religion. The author did not shy away from difficult and touchy topics like birth control and abortion. He balances his own religious and political views well in order to keep the authenticity of the book However, at times his writing style annoyed me. He was constantly repeating himself to the point it was aggravating. At times it felt like he was stuffing ideas down your throat. That being said, the book did make me open my eyes that politics aren't all that anti-Christian like you're often lead to believe.The book was also very fair in critiquing both political parties equally, showing that there is religious bias in both parties. Overall, I would give it 3 stars because it has good ideas, but the writing quality is poor.  
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Guest More than 1 year ago
After the 20+ years of implications of everything from killing God to treason for what I believe this voice of sanity in the fray was like arriving at Grand Ma¿s on Christmas Day. A must read for all liberals & moderates to know they're OK and for all the neo-cons who wannabe.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I devour books, and this one I will read over and over again, mining for ideas. A longtime social and peace activist who is also an evangelical (but not 'Right-wing') Christian, Jim Wallis has written a book that every citizen should buy, get from a Public Library and READ...over and over again. It is not only filled with a lucid diagnosis of our social, cultural and political ills, it is crammed with ideas for building a habitable world for all people, and locating his rationale squarely within the tradition of the great social prophets, including Jesus of Nazareth. This book is a must read and re-read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a perfect book for any moral mom who only wants to raise moral kids. This book is more in the middle of the road for each and every one of us. Finally, someone with a right on target message that we all need. Buy it and offer others your opinion on it and share it as often as possible. God's Politics is a total MUST HAVE in every home.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best political books on the analysis of contemporary US politics. Jim Wallis successfully opened our eyes. In God's Politics, the author dissected the problems of the gross misinterpretation of Christian Ethic by the Religious Right and the Republican party, as well as the little attachment to religious discourse by the Democratic Party. Through his fair and balanced analysis of the two parties, Wallis made a strong conclusion and came up with suggestions on several things that should be done if we want to see a new dawn in political discussions. This is a must read for Americans and the rest of the world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jim Wallis has written an extremely readable, important and thought provoking book that all people with a moral grounding should read, whether they are people of faith, searchers or nonbelievers. Every page prompts readers to think deeply about American Politics in relation to their own values and choices and those put forth by the Republican and Democratic Parties. Even though you may not agree with everything the author writes, 'God's Politics' will make you think constructively and critically about the direction U.S. Politics has taken in recent years and the resulting current and future consequences for our nation and the global community. Once you finish this book, please pass it on to someone you care about. It is that important!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I watch CNN and hear the world's opinion of the United States,I cannot help but think Wallis' approach to life may be a way to rectify the problems we find ourselves in. This book should be read by politicians, teachers and anyone interested in our nation's well being.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is no more than a dramatic, inspirational speech. I agree with a previous reviewer who said the book lacks substance. I think we all know that Jesus preached that we should care for the poor and be peacemakers. And it is nothing new that the left tends to be inept regarding religion while the right has hijacked it. But it is these old ideas that he constantly regurgitates, without really providing anything new. He seems to conclude that if everyone worked toward biblical ideals, we would all get along and agree. Yet he provides no support. Even his 'support' from the Bible is lacking. He quoted precious few verses and failed to address alternative interpretations even of those. And for those less accepting of the Bible, he did not make a very strong case for why religion should be taken more seriously (except that it would bring in more votes). He neglects to address counterarguments, but only provides conclusory assertions. He fails to articulately define his conceptions of social justice or peace. I can't imagine how this book would be convincing to either side. He would have done well to address the problems of the left and right separately, provide objective support for why they have taken particular positions, and then analytically counter their arguments. Instead the book is a convoluted mess. If you are looking for arguments, rather than mere conclusions, this is not your book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jim Wallis' book God's Politics is a complete sham. I'm a progressive, liberal, and know how appealing it is to be a so called moderate. Don't get me wrong, this book might be for you as it was for the previous readers but there is a reason why this book fell off the bestsellers list so quickly - it has no substance. Anyone can tell you why we need more moderation, more tolerance, more dialogue in politics, religion and ethics - that isn't new or original. What is needed is a more pronounced articulation of justice. Justice is not defined by moderation or by popularity. Jim Wallis is not very different from the evangelical right wing preachers who self-aggrandize their base following with 'half-baked' arguments. Let's end poverty, or let's end abortion. The sheer superficiality of the middle and right is mind-boggling. Maybe the liberal, left is no better. Bottom line: we need to get on the ball, hold our government to higher standards, get more organized, active, and informed. God's Politics ain't going to cut it. He could have made the same points in a book have its size. If you really want to understand something about God's politics read real books by Abraham Heschel, William Sloane Coffin, or even Bill Moyers. These are the heavyweights. All the credit to Jim Wallis for his 15 minutes of Warhol fame, but if you want to understand God's justice you will have to look deeper and further. God's Politics is just an exploitation of our divided times. There is a deeper, longer tradition in America and the Bible which never tried to 'toe the line.' When we fought to end slavery, people took a side when we fought for women suffrage, people took a position we we fought to end segregation, end the War in Vietnam, people took a side. The middle of road approach is 'nice,' but it tells us nothing about the true nature of politics or ourselves. Politics is polemical. Whether you are Christian or not, people need to wake up and realize that playing it safe, being in middle won't accomplish any thing. Real leaders, real people stand up for what they believe in. They don't critize both sides and say I don't stand for anything. Stand for something!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Wallis GP uses the Bible to justify his communist leanings. He is totally anti-American and would love to see our country lose its identity. No where in the Bible do you find Jesus calling for income sharing. The never identified the prophets that made the quotes used nor was the Book, Chapter and Verse used! In fact the prophets talked about the people falling away from God or some evil that the King did. Only one prophet mentioned race and that was to kill all those who were not Jewish! Maybe he did not name them because they were not Biblical Prophets. I would not recommend this book to any Christian or true American who loves their country. Unless you want to read a new version of a Communist Manifesto!
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are a few things I think were left out of this book. Ok, many things. For anyone who know their bible, the government is not mentioned as far as the support of the poor. It is the responsibility of the church to care for the orpahs, the widows etc. I thing that the thought that it falls on the politicos to care for them is sorely misjudged. As for the faith of Jesus being pro-rich etc, that is nonsense. Jesus rebuked a rich man for wanting to follow him, but not wanting to give away all his worldly posessions. This book is sadly ill conceived.