Abductive Columns

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

God's Politics: An Interview with Jim Wallis

My conversion text is the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus said, “As you’ve done to the least of these, you’ve done to me.” I don’t hear Bush ever talking about the Sermon on the Mount; I just don’t hear it. I’m hard pressed to think of teachings of Jesus that are being talked about in the White House.

Jesus didn’t speak at all about homosexuality. There are about 12 verses in the Bible that touch on that question. Most of them are very contextual. There are thousands of verses on poverty. I don’t hear a lot of that conversation. Fighting poverty’s a moral value, too. There’s a whole generation of young Christians who care about the environment. That’s their big issue. Protecting God’s creation, they would say, is a moral value, too. And, for a growing number of Christians, the ethics of war—how and when we go to war, whether we tell the truth about going to war—is a religious and moral issue as well.

What you really don’t hear [from Bush] is Jesus saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Or even more, how many sermons have we heard since Sept. 11 on the text, “Love your enemies?” It hasn’t been a very popular text since Sept. 11. Well, we should at least have a debate about what Jesus meant by blessed are the peacemakers and love your enemies in a world full of terrorism and tyranny.

I remember Bill O’Reilly one night was yelling at me about Iraq. I said, “Bill, what would Jesus do? Can you imagine him climbing into the cockpit of a B-52 and dropping a load of bombs over Baghdad?” And Bill said, “Well, Jesus would surely want to protect the American people.” And I said, “Really? What about the Iraqis?” “Well, well, them, too.” Once you start talking about this in a religious frame, it’s troubling.

The Republicans will not hold [Bush] accountable to the biblical prophets when they think all the issues are about abortion, and the Democrats don’t even know the language. He gets away with it. There’s got to be a progressive religious response to Bush that says, “We don’t quibble with your piety, but we challenge your theology.” There is no American exceptionalism in the Bible. The Gospel is uneasy with empire—except American empire?
God's Politics: An Interview with Jim Wallis


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