Jim Wallis was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night promoting his boldly title book "The Great Awakening". His interview reminded me on how much I actually disagree with him even though we share the banner of progressive Christianity.
His first point is that we have moved to a post-Religious Right dominated politics. He's already declared the Religious Right over. Jim is way too premature in making such a declaration. Our friends at Talk 2 Action continue to monitor the politics and activities of the Religious Right. Its certainly changing with the deaths of Kennedy and Falwell and the diminishing role of Pat Robertson. I think the conclusion though is that the Religious Right is alive and well, and still a powerhouse voting bloc in the West and South for the Republican Party. With so many sub-par Republican candidates this year, the Religious Right has been divided on whom to support. However, Huckabee's win in Iowa demonstrates when they do coalesce around a candidate, the Religious Right can win, at least in the South, Midwest and Plains.
Wallis also spoke about a new generation of religious folk who have concerned themselves with Darfur, AIDS, poverty and other issues beyond the narrow lense of abortion and gay civil rights. He always uses language that is inclusive of all Christians, but he's really only speaking about and to Evangelicals. The fact is that mainline Protestants, Jews, many Catholics, and other religious folk have never stopped advocating for a full range of social justice issues. Wallis should be more specific about whom he is representing because their have been exciting changes within some pockets of the evangelical movement. But he shouldn't act as though he represents everyone. He represents a narrow band of the religious spectrum who are progressive and Evangelical.
What perhaps was must frustraing was when Wallis was asked "are we trying to build a Religious left?", his answer was flatly "no". We're not trying to be left or right but going deeper, to what he calls a "moral center." Speak for yourself brother. I think what we need is what Barack Obama is calling a governing progressive majority. The fact is that most Americans are progressive. Overwhelming majorities support health care for all Americans, increased support for education, are against tax cuts for the rich, want to pull out of Iraq, and want to stop environmental destruction and global warming. Folks have been told that they are conservative, but when you ask them on the issues, our country can build a progressive majority. To do so, will require religious progressives to organize and not shy away from letting the world know that you can be progressive and religious.
Wallis doesn't seem to want to take the mantle of religious progressivism, positioning himself as a centrist. Most folks have Wallis tagged as a liberal, why not embrace it? Why not make an attempt to build work with religous and non-religious progressive to build the progressive majority that Barack Obama wants? Perhaps he's been inside the beltway too long, but I think his approach lacks