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Posted by on Oct 29, 2008

Jim Wallis on “Faith Priorities” – A Trusted Authority’s Reflections

Jim Wallis on “Faith Priorities” – A Trusted Authority’s Reflections

Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis

This article is quoted in full from Jim Wallis’ blog, God’s Politics. Wallis is editor-in-chief of Sojourners Magazine and a trusted authority. I received it October 23, 2008 in my email. I present it for your consideration.

My Personal ‘Faith Priorities’ for this Election 

In 2004, several conservative Catholic bishops and a few megachurch pastors like Rick Warren issued their list of “non-negotiables,” which were intended to be a voter guide for their followers. All of them were relatively the same list of issues: abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc. None of them even included the word “poverty,” only one example of the missing issues which are found quite clearly in the Bible. All of them were also relatively the same as official Republican Party Web sites of “non-negotiables.” The political connections and commitments of the religious non-negotiable writers were quite clear.

I want to suggest a different approach this year and share my personal list of “faith priorities” that will guide me in making the imperfect choices that always confront us in any election year — and suggest that each of you come up with your own list of “faith” or “moral” priorities for this election year and take them into the voting booth with you.

After the last election, I wrote a book titled God’s Politics. I was criticized by some for presuming to speak for God, but that wasn’t the point. I was trying to explore what issues might be closest to the heart of God and how they may be quite different from what many strident religious voices were then saying. I was also saying that “God’s Politics” will often turn our partisan politics upside down, transcend our ideological categories of Left and Right, and challenge the core values and priorities of our political culture. I was also trying to say that there is certainly no easy jump from God’s politics to either the Republicans or Democrats. God is neither. In any election we face imperfect choices, but our choices should reflect the things we believe God cares about if we are people of faith, and our own moral sensibilities if we are not people of faith. Therefore, people of faith, and all of us, should be “values voters” but vote all our values, not just a few that can be easily manipulated for the benefit of one party or another.

In 2008, the kingdom of God is not on the ballot in any of the 50 states as far as I can see. So we can’t vote for that this year. But there are important choices in this year’s election — very important choices — which will dramatically impact what many in the religious community and outside of it call “the common good,” and the outcome could be very important, perhaps even more so than in many recent electoral contests.

I am in no position to tell anyone what is “non-negotiable,” and neither is any bishop or megachurch pastor, but let me tell you the “faith priorities” and values I will be voting on this year:

1.  With more than 2,000 verses in the Bible about how we treat the poor and oppressed, I will examine the record, plans, policies, and promises made by the candidates on what they will do to overcome the scandal of extreme global poverty and the shame of such unnecessary domestic poverty in the richest nation in the world. Such a central theme of the Bible simply cannot be ignored at election time, as too many Christians have done for years. And any solution to the economic crisis that simply bails out the rich, and even the middle class, but ignores those at the bottom should simply be unacceptable to people of faith.

2.  From the biblical prophets to Jesus, there is, at least, a biblical presumption against war and the hope of beating our swords into instruments of peace. So I will choose the candidates who will be least likely to lead us into more disastrous wars and find better ways to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world and make us all safer. I will choose the candidates who seem to best understand that our security depends upon other people’s security (everyone having “their own vine and fig tree, so no one can make them afraid,” as the prophets say) more than upon how high we can build walls or a stockpile of weapons. Christians should never expect a pacifist president, but we can insist on one who views military force only as a very last resort, when all other diplomatic and economic measures have failed, and never as a preferred or habitual response to conflict.

3.  “Choosing life” is a constant biblical theme, so I will choose candidates who have the most consistent ethic of life, addressing all the threats to human life and dignity that we face — not just one. Thirty-thousand children dying globally each day of preventable hunger and disease is a life issue. The genocide in Darfur is a life issue. Health care is a life issue. War is a life issue. The death penalty is a life issue. And on abortion, I will choose candidates who have the best chance to pursue the practical and proven policies which could dramatically reduce the number of abortions in America and therefore save precious unborn lives, rather than those who simply repeat the polarized legal debates and “pro-choice” and “pro-life” mantras from either side.

4.  God’s fragile creation is clearly under assault, and I will choose the candidates who will likely be most faithful in our care of the environment. In particular, I will choose the candidates who will most clearly take on the growing threat of climate change, and who have the strongest commitment to the conversion of our economy and way of life to a cleaner, safer, and more renewable energy future. And that choice could accomplish other key moral priorities like the redemption of a dangerous foreign policy built on Middle East oil dependence, and the great prospects of job creation and economic renewal from a new “green” economy built on more spiritual values of conservation, stewardship, sustainability, respect, responsibility, co-dependence, modesty, and even humility.

5.  Every human being is made in the image of God, so I will choose the candidates who are most likely to protect human rights and human dignity. Sexual and economic slavery is on the rise around the world, and an end to human trafficking must become a top priority. As many religious leaders have now said, torture is completely morally unacceptable, under any circumstances, and I will choose the candidates who are most committed to reversing American policy on the treatment of prisoners. And I will choose the candidates who understand that the immigration system is totally broken and needs comprehensive reform, but must be changed in ways that are compassionate, fair, just, and consistent with the biblical command to “welcome the stranger.”

6.  Healthy families are the foundation of our community life, and nothing is more important than how we are raising up the next generation. As the father of two young boys, I am deeply concerned about the values our leaders model in the midst of the cultural degeneracy assaulting our children. Which candidates will best exemplify and articulate strong family values, using the White House and other offices as bully pulpits to speak of sexual restraint and integrity, marital fidelity, strong parenting, and putting family values over economic values? And I will choose the candidates who promise to really deal with the enormous economic and cultural pressures that have made parenting such a “countercultural activity” in America today, rather than those who merely scapegoat gay people for the serious problems of heterosexual family breakdown.

That is my list of personal “faith priorities” for the election year of 2008, but they are not “non-negotiables” for anyone else. It’s time for each of us to make up our own list in these next 12 days. Make your list and send this on to your friends and family members, inviting them to do the same thing.

For another article presenting Wallis’ views on issues facing American voters, see

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Posted by on Oct 28, 2008

Jim Wallis on “Faith Priorities” – A Trusted Authority’s Reflections

Trusted Authority – Megan McKenna – On Voting


Theologian/Storyteller, Megan McKenna

Theologian/Storyteller, Megan McKenna

Today – one week before voting day for President of the United States – I’d like to offer a note I received in June from theologian, storyteller Megan McKenna. A friend had asked what her “rules” for choosing a candidate for political office would be. This was her response.

Dear folks,

Here is something I wrote in response to a question. It’s a place to start. Enjoy and feel free to comment and send me any of your thoughts. I’m sure I’ll be using it more and more as time goes on. Blessings, Shalom, Megan

Here are my rules (so to speak) for voting … rough form. They are more developed when I speak them.

I. Vote for the person you think will do the least amount of harm (war, nuclear weapons, new weapons, death penalty, economics, housing, health insurance, etc.).

2. Vote for the person you think will allow you and others with you to do the most amount of good (correcting and undoing the gutting of the Constitution, rights, freedoms in the US, etc. from the last 8 years), as well as work for legistation against the death penalty, for housing, decent wages, immigration (welcoming the stranger since we were all in that group once unless we are native Americans), universal health care, dialogue with other nations (trying to pull our international reputation out of where it is today because of Iraq/Afghanistan/torture, aggression, pre-emptive strikes, alliance with Israel, refusal to dialog with Iran/Sudan/Cuba/Palestine, etc.).

3. Remember – none of them [candidates and political parties] is interested in the kingdom of justice for all and peace (the peace of Christ – nonviolent resistance to evil) and life ever more abundantly for all.

4. Do not vote one issue … no matter what it is. There are 6.8 billion people in the world, nearly 2/3 of them living at subsistence level, in need of clean water, basic food, shelter, medicine, education, dignity, freedom from violence, the freedom to migrate and a hope for their children. There is also the destruction of the earth and the greed of the few/major nations like us and the G8 over-using natural resources and thinking only in terms of profit, nationalism/and a war that in the last 8 years has, on an average wasted over $800 billion a year on wanton destruction of Iraq (a country the size of New Jersey) and Afghanistan (already in the 11 century when we started bombing). Yet we do nothing in regards to Burma (Myanmar) the Sudan, Zimbabawe or any other country that is beset by dictators/military regimes, etc.

5. VOTE… If you don’t, then you are even more responsible for what happens. Not to choose is to choose – we are all accountable for what happens in this country.

6. Vote for the person who will think long term – Supreme Court justices, economics, and especially in regards to other countries, internationally. We have little or no respect around the world – because of torture, lies, Guantanamo, immigration practices, arrogance towards others, rendition of citizens, the ignoring of our own Constitution and laws and our inordinate living (consumption of oil, resources, food, etc.). At home – the housing, mortgage crisis – people need their homes back, they need universal medical insurance and education that is not tiered according to race/economics.

7. Pray, read the scriptures. Who would Jesus, in the power of the Spirit who calls God Our Father (all of us the beloved children of God, blessed and loved, no exceptions), vote for? And get involved with others. Make your choice. Look at and know what needs to be confronted and dealt with – the Middle East question of Jerusalem/Israel/Palestine, 2 states, the wall; the ongoing wars and how to get troops out and how to dialog so that war is not considered an option ever – no matter what. And look for integrity, honesty, truthfulness.

That’s it … in a nutshell. Each “rule” or thing to remember could be elaborated on with the principles of justice, social teaching and the gospel.



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