So, I went to see Jim Wallis today.
People are always telling me that I would really like him, so I've been pretty diligent in checking him out. I've looked over his web site, I've read his book ("God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, 2005), and today I went to hear him speak.
His basic message is that "politics is broken" and that we need to be governed from a "new moral center." He said that for some time the religious vote had been co-opted by the Religious Right and that what we needed was a genuinely Christian politics that was neither right nor left. He said that it was immoral to argue about trivialities like homosexual marriage when we need to address real issues like global warming, the moral scandal of poverty, and genocide in Darfur. He had a few other things to say:
• "A Gospel that isn't good news for the poor isn't good news at all."
• "Budgets are moral documents."
• "We need to find common ground by going to higher ground."
The chestnuts were falling thick and fast, weren't they? And that's pretty much the problem I've had with him. He's all bromides about what's wrong with politics and no actual program of how to fix it. So, when it came time for questions, I put it to him. "I've read your book, I've heard you speak, and I still feel that I don't know what your program is. What measures, exactly, do you favor?"
Now, he's a nice guy, well meaning, sincere, and he really believes in what he's doing. And so he threw out three issues that he wanted to see addressed:
1] Abortion is a divisive issue with people of faith on both sides of the issue, but we can all agree that it would be a good thing to decrease the number of abortions. So he favors better access to birth control, easier adoptions, more support for single mothers.
2] The British government has vowed to reduce poverty by 50% over the next ten years. We should do that.
3] We need immigration reform since the present system is broken.
There he is, ladies and gentlemen, Jim Wallis on the record trying to bridge the gap between right and left and lead us up to higher ground. Is this really a new path, or just more Bourgeois Liberalism? Let's see ...
Abortion: Okay, reducing abortion is a laudable goal, one that just about everyone would sign on to. But these measures: aren't they all liberal measures? Where are the conservative measures like parental consent laws, bans on late-term abortion, or rigorous enforcement of statutory rape laws (as a high percentage of teenage pregnancies are caused by older men)? And, aren't all of these measures like pushing on a string? Aren't they all let’s do this and then hope that people don't have abortions?
Poverty: Yeah, poverty's bad and, hey, I'm against it. But so is welfare. Wallis isn't very clear here and that makes me suspect that what he's calling for is more government hand-outs (like that aforementioned "support for single mothers"). Being working class myself, I favor full employment as a cure for poverty. That's right: government public works and make-work programs. I think this is much more in line with the Biblical injunction "if any man will not work, neither let him eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10) than doling our way out of poverty.
Immigration: Oh, sure, we need "reform," but what kind of reform? I found this on the Sojourners web-site:
The current U.S. immigration system is still broken. Families are still in jeopardy, workers are still being exploited, and the border is far from secure. As Christian churches, organizations and leaders, we are more committed than ever to holding our politicians accountable to the values they profess: values of family integrity and economic progress.
Now, again that's pretty opaque, but does it feel like they want to close the borders and enforce the law, or does it sound like they want to give my job away to an economic refugee from the Third World?
To conclude: I have always found that whereas conservatives are blind to issues of social justice, liberals are blind to issues of personal sin. Poverty, for instance, is caused both by an unfair economic system that exploits the working classes and personal irresponsibility. Conservatives never acknowledge that the system is stacked against the worker, while liberals never admit that even in a perfect world numbers of people are simply shiftless and don't deserve to be prosperous.
Which pattern does Jim Wallis fit?
I think it's clear. Far from advocating a third way "above right and left," Jim Wallis is simply a bourgeois liberal of the old school who has dressed up the same old tired nostrums in Christian garb.