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Lions Roar : September 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2006 55 moral value, he says, along with taking care of the environ- ment, deciding when it makes sense to go to war, and whether it’s moral to torture someone. This is what he means when he talks about “God’s politics”: what God’s priorities for the world would be, as we understand them from scripture. In the book he writes, “God is not par- tisan... When either party tries to politicize God, or co-opt religious communities for their political agenda, they make a terrible mistake. The best contribution of religion is not to be ideologically predictable nor loyally partisan. Both parties, and the nation, must let the prophetic voice of religion be heard. Faith must be free to challenge both Right and Left from a con- sistent moral ground.” He gives an example of what he means by thinking that goes beyond right and left: “Someday, a smart Democrat will figure out how both pro-life and pro-choice people could join together in concrete measures to dramatically reduce the abortion rate by focusing on teen pregnancy, adoption re- form, and real support for low-income women.” Although he eschews secularism, Wallis is also at pains to emphasize that the moral values he espouses must also appeal to those who are “ag- nostic or spiritual but not religious.” Addressing the conference, Wallis excoriated bad religion, which “pulls out our worst stuff—divisions, fears, hostilities, angers, hatreds.” He went on to say that “the answer to bad reli- gion can’t just be secularism; it has got to be better religion.” He is daring in taking on the religious Right. While some spiritual progressives would like to avoid any of the sexuality issues and focus only on economics, justice, and peace, Wallis wants to take the Right head-on about their bread-and-butter issues: “For ex- ample, they say they’re pro-life. Well, if I am an unborn child in America, and I want the support of the religious Right, I better stay unborn as long as possible, because once I’m born, I’m off the agenda. No health care. No child care. No nothing. You can’t just be pro-birth; you have got to be pro-life too.” These attacks on the Right garner the most enthusiastic ap- plause and whoops from the spiritual progressives crowd, but when he says that “Neither party in this country has a pro-family agenda,” the response is much, much lower on the applause-meter. In a conversation right after his speech, Wallis indicates that the people he was just speaking to are largely the old Left, moved by their own spiritual convictions, but that he himself is not a leftist. His own constituency is larger; it includes the spiritual progres- sives, but a much larger component comes from “young people on Christian college campuses who would never self-identify as religious Left.” He says, “The Right has lost control of the agenda on these campuses. I’ve been to thirty evangelical Christian cam- puses in the past year, and I can tell you, the agenda has moved. It is HIV/AIDS, Darfur, human trafficking, the environment.” He is also making headway among the megachurches. “One young pastor in Grand Rapids with 10,000 people in his congre- gation talks to me all the time now,” he says. “You would never say he was on the Left, but the frame he fits in is much larger now. I went on TV with Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, right after the last election, and poverty was not on his list of ‘non-negotiable’ moral issues. At the World Economic Forum in Davos a year later, all he talked about with me was poverty, and he never once asked me what I thought about gay marriage. The monologue is over. More people are ready to come together now about what they have in common and leave other things at the door, and work on them more slowly over time.” REVEREND DEBORAH JOHNSON, or Rev D as she is some- times known, can work a room. She is all about finding out how “We’re being extremely naive if we think we can just get away with blaming it on the Bush administration. What we really have to ask is, How much are we willing to change?” REV. DEBORAH JOHNSON ➢ page 100 PAULSCHRAUB