Today more than ever, many people are hungry for spirituality and community. But the most powerful and meaningful spirituality shows itself through action. Jim Wallis is the charismatic preacher, activist, and leader of Call to Renewal, a dynamic new movement that is uniting politics and spirituality to ignite social change and overcome poverty. In his timely, exciting new book, he shows us how we can enrich our own lives by serving our communities. Wallis believes that the making of the modern Christian, Muslim, or Jew is through action.
Wallis has correctly surmised that people long for an alternative to the blame-placing, cynicism-producing and often hate-filled debate between the Left and the Right about social issues. In this engaging and timely collection of sermonlike essays, Wallis, the pastor who founded Sojourners Magazine and the Sojourners community in Washington, D.C., tells story after story of people living out just such an alternative, and in doing so, shows that meaningful activism is possible, palatable, soul-healing and even fun. Arguing that the health of a society can be measured by the way it treats the poor, he chides conservatives and liberals alike for their failures in this area but also affirms their strengths and challenges them to work together toward values both groups share, such as child welfare. Wallis validates the most sensible ideas of liberals and conservatives, in the church and in politics. While he never shies away from harsh truths about the widening wage gap in the U.S., devastating poverty in the developing world and our wealth-obsessed culture's apathetic response, Wallis ultimately inspires as much hope as he does outrage. Hope, in fact, is a theme in this book, which sets it apart from the angry bulk of anti-poverty literature. Wallis sees this hope as a gift from God; he believes that one must have a spiritual well to drink from in order to maintain hope. His book is a welcome primer for any aspiring activist, regardless of spiritual inclination. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 1999
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Excerpt from Faith Works by Jim Wallis
Jim Wallis begins this book with a birth and a death, polar realities of the life experience. The faith he espouses combines them into an ultimate triumph of resurrection, a spiritual transformation that reverses the natural cycle to produce birth from death and a life of sacrifice -- "doing what is sacred." One dies to live, surrenders to gain. Our journey here is a mission of redemption and renewal.
Jim set out on his own mission when he began to question the comfort and isolation of his youth. His questions became a quest. To see where it's taken him, you need travel only a mile or so from the White House into a Washington rarely, if ever, frequented by the nation's movers and shakers. Here streets are littered, sidewalks stained, nights menaced. This is the Washington -- the America -- of the New Gilded Age. A few blocks from here champagne glasses tinkle, the powerful wheel and deal, and lobbyists count their takes as their accountants write off the larceny as a business expense. Here Jim Wallis has planted the little Sojourners community as if in a catacomb of Rome, so near to the heart of the Imperial City -- and so far. Day by day a little healing happens here, a life gets mended, small miracles occur. It is even rumored that Jesus comes here, looking nothing like the poster on the Sunday-school wall, the figure with the sad spaniel eyes and luminous radiation encircling his head.
No, the Jesus who visits Sojourners more likely appears as a fresh-faced intern, a harried editorial assistant, a volunteer tutor, even a homeless man. All things are possible.
This is where Jim Wallis works, but from here he ventures forth on long, body-numbing tours to speak, organize, cajole, listen, inspire, negotiate. One week, you will find him with the cowboy-booted Presbyterian guardian angel of the dispossessed on the Arizona border; the next, arbitrating among rival gangs in Kansas City; a few days later, orchestrating a meeting of North Carolina pastors and lay church leaders to make "welfare reform" work; and another week later, exchanging ideas in a theology class at Sing Sing prison, north of New York City.
His path takes him to Capitol Hill, too, but not to party with the good ol' boys whose hard eyes narrow as they divvy up their soft money. I have on my office wall a photograph of a Jim Wallis visit to Congress in 1995. Several men are shown handcuffed in the Capitol Rotunda. What's this? Have police finally arrested Ging-rich, DeLay, Armey, and Archer in the act of selling off the government to favored pals? No. The culprits in the picture, manacled to protect the Republic, are evangelical Christians who have come to mount a quiet protest where it is unlawful to do so without an official approval. They are members of the Wallis-inspired coalition, Call to Renewal, whose mission is to ask America to remember the poor. They hoped to challenge legislators who were that very day rewriting the welfare laws without once having invited testimony from poor people. These Christians know the poor personally. They run health clinics, day-care centers, employment, housing, and loan programs in impoverished neighborhoods. They have come to ask Congress to give their people a hearing. Beneath statues of Washington, Jefferson, and Martin Luther King, the evangelicals knelt and prayed. The police did their duty and arrested them. As the Christians were led away they sang, "Lead me, O Lord, to Thee. Lead me, O Lord, to Thee." Watching in amazement as the handcuffed believers were rounded up, a class of eighth-grade children from a Catholic school, on a field trip from Virginia, broke into applause for their witness.
No politicians were present, however, as the singing and handcuffed Christians were marched from the Rotunda. Francis X. Clines, there for The New York Times, wrote: "The demonstrators barely made a ripple." There was no mention of the event on the nightly corporate news.