February 6, 2008
Jim Wallis: Primaries Show Evangelicals Moving in a Different Direction
Sojourners leader believes candidates will have to gear their focus to issues like poverty and climate change.
Jim Wallis is still preaching that God is not a Republican or a Democrat.
The Sojourners president appeared on the Jon Stewart show January 22, and his book will be announced at #10 on The New York Times best seller list later this week. He spoke with Christianity Today about the election and his take on the candidates and the evangelical agenda.
[Barack Obama is] almost a public theologian. He really understands the relationship between religion and public life, faith and politics. [Hillary Clinton] was a Methodist youth group kid who got urban experiences in Chicago and she has had her faith formed by that. McCain struggles more to understand the evangelical world. He’s trying, but it’s not as natural to him. Barack and Hillary were having faith forums in Iowa and Massachusetts and gospel tours in South Carolina. McCain is also trying now to reach out to evangelicals.
Can you evaluate how the candidates will appeal to evangelicals on specific issues?
Probably Barack and Hillary making poverty more an issue than McCain appeals to evangelicals. McCain and Barack and Hillary care about the environment and climate change and McCain has bucked his own party on that own question. That’s something people notice and pay attention to. The way that Barack and Hillary are critical of the war in Iraq and U.S. foreign policy does appeal to a new generation of evangelicals. I think people are critical of the conviction John McCain’s view of the war in Iraq. I admire the way that he again stood up against his own party and his own president by taking a stance against torture.
George Bush took the majority of evangelicals' votes in 2008. How will the votes play out in this election?
You have to remember that George Bush has turned evangelicals away from the Republican Party. His presidency has been such a disaster, such a failure, it’s embarrassed a lot of Christians. Evangelicals now are going to listen to someone who ... is responsive to the issues that they most care about. That will include 30,000 children who died today because of completely and unnecessary poverty, and utterly preventable disease. A new generation really believes that Jesus probably cares about those children than gay marriage amendments in Ohio. Sometimes I almost have an image of some old men standing in the river and the water is flowing past them and their hands are up in the air and they’re saying ‘Stop, stop, there are only two moral values issues,’ and the water is rushing by them, a new generation is rushing right by them.