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Rev. Jim Wallis and Tony Perkins on CBS News

September 22, 2006, 1:06 pm | Posted by FPL

Last night on the CBS Evening News, Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council were highlighted in a report on the diversity within the evangelical community. It was a strong spot for those working for justice and the common good. Jim was his usual affable, articulate self while talking about the progressive history of the evangelical community and the diverse political priorities its members have today.

On the other side, Tony Perkins spoke with the lack of charity that one expects from Religious Right leaders out of step with mainstream America. When the interviewer pointed out that Rev. Wallis sees himself as squarely in the middle of the evangelical community in America, Tony responded:

‘Well, you know what’s usually in the middle, it’s dead cats and skunks that have been run over.’

What’s the chapter and verse on that one Tony?

This only underscores how out of touch with mainstream America the Religious Right has become. As Faith in Public Life’s recent polling compilation demonstrates, most Americans consider themselves religious centrists. Hopefully Mr. Perkins doesn’t plan on running us all over along with Rev. Wallis!

19 Responses to “Rev. Jim Wallis and Tony Perkins on CBS News”

  1. Johnny says:

    Thanks for posting the video!

    I have to say, I was disappointed with the skunk remark. I think we can do better than demean each other…

  2. Jim Wallis proved that he is promoting himself, not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “I want to start a social movement”. Very disappointing.

  3. I’m a little surprised Geoff; would think Wallis’ usual line about ‘don’t go left, don’t go right, go deeper’ would appeal to you. Are you implying that those who start social movements are by definition relegating the Gospel to second priority below their personal social quest? Or that because his quest is so focused on public policy that you have doubts about its spiritual seriousness?

  4. Geoffrey says:

    I have heard too much from Wallis over the years – too many attempts to “start social movements”, usually centered around himself – for him, or anything he says to have any appeal for me. To me, he is a publicity-hungry media whore. His “us vs. them” approach, his book with its ridiculous, unBiblical title, and now saying “he” wants to “start a social movement”. (A): It seems to be all about Jim Wallis, not the Gospel first, last, and only; (B) the political dimension of the Gospel is not a program for social change, and it is not a front for any ideology. I am a progressive in my politics, and while I do not wish Wallis to remain silent (certainly not!), I do not see him as some kind of prophetic voice from the left. I want us – all of us, evngelicals and non-, to get beyond these stupid, ill-defined categories, and work together (as seems, in fact to be happening, with Evangelical shifts on the environment among the most surprising events in recent years) as Christians to fulfill the Great Commandment.

    I would never quesiton the spiritual seriousness of anyone, except perhaps myself, because of my own lack of discipline and seriousness about mosgt things. What I question is a certain, apparent, lack of integrity, from years of experience – all the photo-ops, news conferences, articles and books – all geared to set himself up as the alternative to the Christian Right, playing the game by their rules and always losing. I have been saying for years, we need to not even play, and that seems to be working, here and in the real world. Yet, there is this reverence for Wallis that to my mind is simply unwarranted. His attacks on people of faith with whom he disagrees, his simplistic, black-and-white view of the world, and now this statement. I want Christians not to start social movements, or even to talk about all we have done in the past. I want Christians to speak as Christians – not give statistics on hunger. Let the policy wonks do that.

    I am sorry, this is unusually viscious (especially part of the first paragraph) and rambling, but I won’t change it because, in truth, this is how I feel. Why should I be diplomatic? There are thousands, hundreds of thousands of clergy and laity doing the work of the Gospel – and no one interviews them, no one asks their opininons as they rebuild homes of Katrina victims, go overseas to volunteer as aid workers for church organizations, hug children orphaned by and dying from complications due to AIDS and HIV, visiting prisons. These are the real prophetic voices of the Church, these unknown saints and occasional martyrs.

    Now, this is really long, and even more rambling. I apologize again.

  5. Frank says:

    Geoffrey,

    You said, “There are thousands, hundreds of thousands of clergy and laity doing the work…no one asks their opinions…These are the real prophetic voices of the Church, these unknown saints and occasional martyrs.” You should then know that Wallis himself recognizes this as he has said many times, “We don’t just keep pulling bodies out of the river, we need to send someone upstream to see who’s throwing them in. We’re not lobbyist either.”

  6. Geoffrey says:

    With all due respect, Frank, the quote only further proves my point. “We don’t just pull bldies from the water . . .” tells me that Wallis sees himself as acting, rather than, as Paul said, Christ in him. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to rescue those who need rescuing.

    Wallis also sees other human beings as agents of spiritual destruction – “we need to send someone upstream to see who’s throwing them in” – rather than as fellow lost sinners in need of love they are enemies.

    This is the kind of rhetoric of which I am tired now, not least because I, too, used to use it. We need to ensure that our distaste for others’ politics does not blind us to the fact that the difference between others and us is one only of degree and not of kind.

  7. Frank says:

    Geoffrey,

    Seems to me you’re suggesting Wallis is suffering from some kind of selfish intention in which he doesn’t openly or forthrightly give the credit to the Holy Spirit. I observe all types within the clergy and try to see who might be the most genuine, levelheaded and committed towards spiritual renewal and social justice. In my opinion, one of those people is Rev. Wallis. I think he understands the awesome responsibility that comes with being one of our American religious leaders today. Don’t you think you’re being just a little bit too critical by pitting him up against “The Apostle Paul?” We are not blinded by enmity for our enemies. It troubles many of us deeply when we speak distastefully of others because our faith tells us that all humans possess a touch of The Divine. Also, I don’t think anyone wants to dominate a particular message the way other religious people clearly want to. If nobody speaks up for the rest of us then who will? Jesus was a peacemaker, not just a peace lover. He overturned a few tables.

  8. Geoffrey says:

    Once again, Frank, you demonstrate the point I am attempting to make. Wallis is a self-promoting media hound. Period. I am not suggesting he should be silenced, or not speak out on issues of injustice – we need all the voices we can get! I am not not suggesting that I disagree with the social and political positions he takes. On the contrary, I agree whole-heartedly! I don’t need to hear my words echo back from a book or idiot-box to feel vindicated in my own politics. My problem with Wallis is this: Wallis has been trying, and failing wonderfully, to become a left-wing mirror of the Christian right for close to two decades; this approach has not and will not work, yet he still plugs away. I suppose it is considered a badge of integrity to continue trying even though failure is almost guaranteed from the outset. I see it as stubbornness and a waste of resources. I also fail to understand the near-reverence with which he is held by many progressive Christians.

    I have no time for heroes, spokespeople, self-appointed or media-appointed leaders, or prophets. I have no desire to follow a leader who wants to start a social movement.

    You ask “If no one speaks up for the rest of us, who will?” My reply is simple – “YOU DO IT!” Do you think you need to be featured on “60 Minutes” and talk radio to be a voice of the Church?

    You say you find it troubling mwhen you have to speak “distastefully” of others. Then DON’T! Love them, listen to them, speak a word of peace and friendship to them. We are not God, we do not possess some truth denied to others, we are not the arbiters and vanguards of true Christianity.

    It is one thing to criticize the policy positions, and even theology, of others. It is quite another to “speak distastefully” of others. I question no one’s faith or integrity (not even Wallis’); my criticism here is one of guru-worship at its worst.

    As for compring Wallis to St. Paul, what better model than the wonderfully flawed, loudly humble apostle to the Gentiles?

  9. Frank says:

    We agree on one thing, the media. There are many individuals today who are self-promoting hounds. And when the whole system seems so superficial those individuals give everyone a bad name. However, NOT EVERYONE is a media hound, Geoff. Billy Graham must be a Howard Stern to you. As screwed up of an animal as the media is, it is still an important vehicle that can provide a lot of positive use. But, wow, among a few other things, you say, “guru worship?” Your take on faith seems very rigid to me. I hear Opus Dei could use your kind of vigilant religious aesthetics.

  10. Geoffrey says:

    Wow, Frank. I mean, really. Wow. I guess it’s easier to fling around names and blanket judgements than to engage another person. I stated quite clearly that my complaint about Jim Wallis was simply this – I have a sense that he promotes himself, over and over and over again (most recently quite explicitly) as desiring to start a social movement. He wants to be a leader. He wants tobe a prophet. Last time I checked, God called leaders and prophets. Last time I checked, the Gospel was the pearl without price in the possession of the Church. I suppose that makes me rigid, because I beleive that the Gospel is not the source of a social movement, but the Word that gives life and frees.

    I have no religious aesthetic that I am aware of (I wonder, quite honestly, what you mean by that in this context). I see religious progressives waking up, finding their own voices, working in hundreds of different ways all over the country, and I hear Wallis sounding the same, failed note over and over again. I hear the demonizing of fellow Christians with whom we disagree. I hear a desire for worldly power and prestige and influence. I find that to be, frankly (no pun intended), unChristian.

    I wrestle with my faith each day, most of the hours I am awake, and usually I lose. I abjure others to renounce combativeness because I know it exists, and has existed in my own heart and faith life, and I see it for the error it is. I suppose I am “rigid”, in this sense – I know that my actions can never, and probably will never, equal the desire I have to do what I am called to do.

    As for Opus Dei, I don’t think they take United Methodists, especially male spouses of female clergy.

  11. Frank says:

    This is aside from Wallis for the moment. “I see it for the error it is.” Geoff, I think your desire overwhelms you and that is why you dwell on human error. “I know that my actions can never, and probably will never, equal the desire I have to do what I am called to do.” Geoff, one can only be called to do something when they experience IT, not by reading or practicing IT. Maybe you are experiencing IT and you won’t allow yourself to acknowledge IT (“I wrestle with my faith each day, most of the hours I am awake, and usually I lose..”) Even Paul knew that others would experience the Holy Spirit to a different ‘degree’ than he. Guard against illusions and be a faithful servant to God, but you have no responsibility to take the bad actions of others on your shoulders simply because they exist. Let your joy be joy.

  12. Geoffrey says:

    What is IT? Faith? Hope? Gas? Honestly, I’m not sure I understand your concern, as much as I appreciate it. What I was attempting to convey was not a lack of “joy” – few who know me would accuse me of that! – but rather to convey that what you see as rigid, I see as a goal; what you saw as a “religious aesthetic” I experience as the desire to be who and what God wants me to be, and usually failing at it. I take responsibility for no one’s failings but my own, because they are more than enough even for me! I point out these errors in others preciely because they are errors, not just my errors, but wrong ways of being, of loving, of living. I take my faith seriously; I ask nothing less of others. Perhaps I am, as you say, rigid.

  13. Frank says:

    “IT” is what you said that you are called to do. I don’t think you need to worry if you are being what God wants you to be.

  14. Geoffrey says:

    We seem to have wandered away from the topic. I suppose that’s good, because, in truth, I hate criticizing, especially those with whom I agree 90%. Another trap I have fallen into – like manyh on the left, it would seem I would sacrifice the good in search of the perfect. Except, my only criticism is this – part of Jim Wallis’ agenda is promoting Jim Wallis. I guess that’s what I don’t like. I also wonder at the awe and respect lavished upon him by so many Christian progressives. That’s all, really. Some of his recent comments have upset me, but I certainly do not wish him ill, or to remain silent, or not to work for the goal for which we are all working.

    As for being what God wants me to be . . . that will remain a work in progress. Thank you, though, for the thought and word that silenced much ranting in my head.

  15. Frank says:

    I’m glad we agree on 90%, Geoff. That’s not a bad thing. But since we wandered away f/ the topic a little bit I was wondering if I could wander a little more. This has nothing to do with anything we’ve talked about over the past couple days but let me ask you a simple question. What does being “self-righteous” mean? What do you think of when you hear that word? If anyone else would like to answer that I would enjoy hearing your responses.

  16. Frank says:

    I’m glad we agree on 90%, Geoff. That’s not a bad thing. But since we wandered away f/ the topic a little bit I was wondering if I could wander a little more. This has nothing to do with anything we’ve talked about over the past couple days but let me ask you a simple question. What does being “self-righteous” mean? What do you think of when you hear that word? If anyone else would like to answer that I would enjoy hearing your responses.

  17. Geoffrey says:

    To me, it’s a phrase that could mean many things. In popular usage, it’s an epithet tossed at people who seem to promote themselves as morally superior to others. It could also mean, in an equally epthithetical way, one who promotes him- or herself over and above the cause to which that person is committed. Finally, it could be used descriptively to simply give an indicatino of a person’s attitude.

  18. Frank says:

    Can you give an example of how it might be used descriptively to simply give an indicatino of a person’s attitude? Like in a sentence maybe.

  19. Frank says:

    I guess what I’m curious about is what you say here: “person’s attitude.” Would this mean that the attitude would be more negative than positive?