Author Jim Wallis at the Heritage Foundation

On Monday, May 16, I watched the webcast from the Heritage Foundation called, “God and Party Politics: A Conversation.” Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners, represented the Left, and Joseph Loconte, Heritage’s William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society, represented the Right. Both said the other misconstrued their words a bit.

Wallis opened by saying “religion should not be ideologically predictable” or loyal to a political party. He called himself “a nineteenth century evangelical,” praising Charles Finney for devising the altar call and using it as an opportunity to sign people up for an antislaveryy campaign. “The Right,” he said, “needs to broaden its thinking on values.” The most surprising of his statements was that Americans had the resources to end world poverty, if we only had the moral and political will to use those resources.

Loconte argued that Wallis was wrong to promote direct applications of Old Testament commands to the U.S. He said that Israel was a theocracy, and God made the rules for them; but the U.S. is a secular democracy, so some kind of translation must be made if a truth in the Old Testament is to be applied to our country. In this way, Loconte said, Wallis and the Religious Left were using a “literalist,” even “fundamentalist,” interpretation of the Bible, something the Right is often accused of.

I think Wallis made some good points, but I find that political liberals can make plenty of good or seemingly good points which don’t pan out in the end. For instance, Wallis opposes the intervention in Iraq, but claims to support intervention “to save civil rights” in general when the time is right. I fear that the time is never right when real opportunities come. To this, Loconte said that it isn’t the government’s role “to turn my neighbor’s cheek,” giving no practical help to the one who suffers injustice. The government’s role, as I understand it from Scripture, is to promote mercy and defend justice.

Wallis went on to say that most of the world’s evangelicals agreed with him on the Iraq war.