Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who is Jim Wallis?

I heard something that stunned me today and though the source was credible I initially refused to believe what I had heard. I went home and did some research (God bless Google) and found out that everything I heard was true. I am presenting this because I feel like there are a lot of people who don't know much about Jim Wallis and need to. Let me paint my perception of Jim Wallis with you so that you can experience my reaction when I came across this information....

I first heard of Jim Wallis because he is the editor of Sojourners, a magazine whose mission is "to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world." (Taken from their website) He is certainly interested in social justice and while I have never read any of his books, he is a regular contributor to Huffington Post. In his articles he always came across as a believer who was thinking aggressively about some issues where the modern day church was really struggling. I always felt he was a little vague at times but I found it refreshing to know that were believers of influence thinking about some of these issues. But I was also intrigued by his methods and demeanor. He certainly came across less preachy than many baby boomers, something which I noticed immediately.

I should mention that there were some red flags that went up. The first was was his style of writing which I earlier described as vague.....this is to say that more than once I felt he put many words on paper but failed to really say anything of substance. Soft is another word that comes to mind....
My second red flag was this: why is Huffington Post allowing him to write? (I personally believe that in order to best understand our nations politics you need to read news that is biased on both sides. Huffington Post has a liberal slant which nicely offsets the conservative one that is found on Drudge Report, my other main source of news and commentary. Out of curiosity if any of my readers disagree with me about those sites and their slants I would be interested in talking with you about that. Please contact me via this site, facebook, or my cell if you have it.)  Being that Huff Po is liberal it didn't to make much sense  that they would give him such good billing? Like a newspaper, news websites show what or who they deem important by where the story is placed in relation to other articles. Jim Wallis is esteemed by Huff Po and not only do his articles always appear near the top but they often stay there for a few days; though not as long as Arianna's! Trying to answer this question during the 08 election I googled him, found his site, and read about his background....

Jim Wallis was raised in an evangelical family in the Midwest. As a teenager, his questioning of the racial segregation in his church and community led him to the black churches and neighborhoods of inner-city Detroit. He spent his student years involved in the civil rights and antiwar movements. While at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, Jim and several other students started a small magazine and community with a Christian commitment to social justice which has now grown into a national faith-based organization. In 1979, Time magazine named Jim Wallis one of the "50 Faces for America's Future."  Jim lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Joy Carroll, one of the first women ordained in the Church of England and author of Beneath the Cassock: The Real-life Vicar of Dibley, and their young sons, Luke and Jack. He is a Little League baseball coach.

I was initially drawn his questioning of racial segregation in his church, I always wonder what my response would have been in that time because it is difficult for me to to comprehend that time period. As a military kid my neighborhoods and schools were highly integrated, whites might have been the minority in my middle school.  I also noticed that he attended TEDS while doing his graduate work, which I must confess I found to be quite some relief. I know a number of people who have been there and think very highly of most of them. But reading about his wife's ordination I also understood why many liberal theologians felt comfortable around him. I later saw Obama name him to a faith board.....I got to the point where I was trying to decide if he had struck a good balance between faith and politics but I never really reached a conclusion, I just went on with my life.

Tonight I was watching a video called Agenda. There were some parts of it I was uncomfortable with, it was pretty much seeking to link Karl Marx with the founders of many liberal organizations and groups that hold significant influence today as well as that impact on President Obama. Some names were thrown out that did not shock me....John Dewey, Bill Ayers, Jim Wallis???????????????? They said his name and began talking about his fight for social justice, as well as what social justice means. They said a few things about his background and I immediately began googling to find the facts and knew immediately they were true. I stayed pretty silent during the brief discussion because I was processing this and went home to do more research about him...this is what I found.

-His thoughts on what it means to be born again...
The Great Awakening, p.60

-He attended Michigan State where he was president of a group called Students for a Democratic Society. This was a political activist group founded by Bill Ayers, the simplest definition for the group I found was that they were Anti Anti-Communism! This group later disintegrated and its most aggressive leaders formed a group called the weatherman, a terrorist group that claimed “The goal is the destruction of US imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism.”

-Sojourners was not the original name of his magazine, it was actually called Post-American. It stated social justice was achieved through distribution of wealth and government-managed economies.

-In 1983, the organization, “Accuracy in Media” published a lengthy book on the far left policies of Wallis and his organization, documenting 53 political positions of Sojourners on such issues as Israel’s right to exist, terrorism, socialism, capitalism, human rights, etc – and compared their positions on these subjects with those of the Soviet Union. In all 53 position statements, it was found that Sojourners’ views were completely in line with the views of hard line Soviets.

-He was actually born Jim Wallace and later changed his name. Don't know why, just thought it was interesting. At least it isn't Metta World Peace.

-In July 2010 Marvin Olasky wrote in World Magazine that in 2004 Sojourners had received   $200,000 from billionaire George Soros, a financier of left-wing groups that push for abortion, atheism, bigger government, and other causes. Wallis denied it saying  “It’s not hyperbole or overstatement to say that Glenn Beck lies for a living. I’m sad to see Marvin Olasky doing the same thing. No, we don’t receive money from Soros.” He then insisted  “We don’t receive money from George Soros. Our books are totally open, always have been. Our money comes from Christians who support us and who read Sojourners. That’s where it comes from.”

When Olasky wrote that he already had a PDF copy of the gift which he acquired from the  website of the Open Society Institute, of which Soros is the founder, funder, and chairman. In addition there were gifts of $25,000 in 2006 and $100,000 in 2007. Also interesting were the reasons given for the donation as listed on the OSI website. In 2004 they listed  "To support the Messaging and Mobilization Project: Engaging Christians on the Importance of Civic Involvement." In 2007 it was  “to support the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform campaign.”

So how did Wallis respond when confronted with the truth? "Sojourners communications manager Tim King has now acknowledged that Sojourners received funding from George Soros. King released a statement from Jim Wallis in which Jim says he “should have declined to comment” until he had checked the facts. Now that Jim has, he sees there were grants “from the Open Society Institute that made up the tiniest fraction of Sojourners’ funding during that decade—so small that I hadn’t remembered them.”

But........Olasky said that, according to documents World obtained, Sojourners had a $275,000 deficit in 2002 and a $57,000 deficit in 2003. In the audit, it says that Sojourners had "incurred a significant amount of net losses" and had "adopted a strategy to generate additional sources of revenue and to reduce expenditures."
"It looks like that grant came at a critical time in 2003–2004 and that seemed to be an economic turning point," Olasky told CT. "If you're in the red and someone comes up with $200,000, especially a billionaire, you tend not to forget that."

-I don't understand this obvious cover up because no crime was committed. I think Wallis understands that the target audience of his magazine would be uncomfortable when hearing that news. It is also interesting to note that those records disappeared from the OSI website very quickly.

Conclusions? Many people will be concerned and research his background and shady friends but I am more concerned about the present than the past. This is a man of significant spiritual influence in our modern culture and the question I have is: should this be? I am especially concerned because I believe he appeals most to younger believers interested in this concept of social justice yet who may be lacking in discernment. I would enjoy it immensely if this blog led to some dialogue about Wallis or Sojourners.