From Discover the Networks - www.discoverthenetworks.org
A self-described activist preacher, Jim Wallis was born into an evangelical family in Detroit, Michigan in June 1948. In the 1960s his religious views drove him to join the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement. His participation in peace protests nearly resulted in his expulsion from the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, a conservative Christian seminary where he was then enrolled. While at Trinity, Wallis founded an anti-capitalism magazine called the Post-American which identified wealth redistribution and government-managed economies as the keys to achieving “social justice.” He also railed against American foreign policy.
In 1971 Wallis and his Post-American colleagues changed the name of their publication to Sojourners, and in the mid-1970s they moved their base of operation from Chicago to Washington, D.C. Wallis has served as Sojourners editor ever since.
In parallel with his magazine’s stridently antiwar position during the Seventies, Wallis championed the cause of communism. Forgiving its brutal standard-bearers in Vietnam and Cambodia the most abominable of atrocities, Wallis was unsparing in his execration of American military efforts. Demanding greater levels of “social justice” in the U.S., he was silent on the subject of the murderous rampages of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge. Very much to the contrary, several Sojourners editorials attempted to exculpate the Khmer Rouge of the charges of genocide, instead shifting blame squarely onto the United States.
In 1979, Time magazine hailed Wallis as one of the “50 Faces for America’s Future.” That same year, the journal Mission Tracks published an interview with Wallis, in which the activist evangelical expressed his hope that “more Christians will come to view the world through Marxist eyes.”
Wallis blamed America entirely for the political tensions of the Cold War era. “At each step in the Cold War,” he wrote in November 1982, “the U.S. was presented with a choice between very different but equally plausible interpretations of Soviet intentions, each of which would have led to very different responses. At every turn, U.S. policy-makers have chosen to assume the very worst about their Soviet counterparts.”
To this day, Wallis remains fiercely opposed to capitalism and the free market system. In many interviews, he has stressed his belief that capitalism has proven to be an unmitigated failure. “Our systems have failed the poor and they have failed the earth,” Wallis has said. “They have failed the creation.”
In 1995 Wallis founded Call to Renewal, a coalition of religious groups united in the purpose of advocating, in religious terms, for leftist economic agendas such as tax hikes and wealth redistribution to promote social justice.
After the 2004 presidential election, Wallis acknowledged that he had cast a vote for the Democratic candidate, John Kerry. Owing to the popular post-election consensus among Democratic Party members that their defeat could be attributed to their party’s disconnect from religious voters, Wallis became an overnight celebrity within Democratic ranks. Democratic strategists and politicians turned to him as the man who could sell their party to the coveted religious demographic. In January 2005, Senate Democrats invited Wallis to address them in a private discussion. Meanwhile, some fifteen Democratic members of the House made Wallis the guest of honor at a breakfast confab whose subject, according to The New York Times, was devising ways to instill support for the Democratic Party into the hearts of the religious faithful.
On December 14, 2005, Wallis organized an event where some 115 religious activists protested a House Republican budget plan’s spending cuts (of about $50 billion over a five-year period) by refusing to clear the entrance to a congressional office building. “These are political choices being made that are hurting low-income people,” said Wallis. “Don’t make them the brunt of your deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility.” Wallis and his fellow demonstrators were arrested for their actions.
According to a March 10, 2007 Los Angeles Times report, in recent years Wallis has sought to re-brand traditional slogans of the religious right, like “pro-life,” to refer to such leftist agendas as working with AIDS victims in Africa or helping illegal immigrants in America achieve legal status so they can continue to live with their U.S.-born children.