« What Broader Agenda? | Main | A Post-Election Chat with Ralph Reed »

November 5, 2008

Jim Wallis on Holding Obama Accountable

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, plans to hold president-elect Barack Obama accountable for his commitment to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. I spoke with Wallis last night, and here's his take on the evangelical vote, working with an Obama administration, and abortion.

"The important evangelical vote this time is the black church. Black churches are evangelical. They're voting overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. The most important evangelical vote is the black evangelical vote, not the white evangelical vote. When we talk about the evangelical vote, you've gotta talk about evangelicals of color.

"There are a lot of evangelicals who are willing to engage with an Obama presidency on global poverty, the environment, Darfur, on trafficking, on war and peace in Iraq. The life issue has been defined very narrowly. I voted the way black evangelicals vote for a very long time. It's wonderful to see black evangelicals leading the way this time. The abortion rate does not go down. I think we have a serious chance for an abortion reduction, and I think we have a serious chance with an Obama administration.

"Barack Obama will be held accountable on a serious commitment to abortion reduction. He called for that, his campaign platform said that, and he should be held accountable to that. He needs prayer and accountability, support and pushing, both at the same time."

Comments

Since Obama has won, let's move forward and work with him to reduce the level of abortions! Keep in mind, Obama isn't the one who commits these acts. There needs to be programs/ministering set up for these women who do this! They do have other options of help. Also, did the Evangelicals hold Bush and previous administration accountable for the increase of abortions in previous years? Why is this just starting now to hold a President responsible for the acts women commit against God and their souls. Also, you are right reference the African-American community. We seem to be in the shadows when counting Evangelicals! We play a major role in working with President elect Obama to reduce abortions and other concerned issues.

I don't think that Obama would have even been the democratic candidate without the help of ACORN. His campaign clearly cheated and I hope he goes to jail for it.

I couldn't have said it better! We'll be praying and watching!!

"Black churches are evangelical." Sorry but black churches are NOT evangelical, not in the sense where moral issues are argued with dubious intentions to divide people. Not in the sense where evangelicals pick and choose what the the moral cause of the year is. Not in the sense where the moral lapses of right-wing candidates are conveniently ignored or treated far more gracefully than your left-wing opponents. For many years you wanted no parts of us and your support of our causes were limited at best. So don't try to lump us in with you now that our influence is once again prevalent as in the 60's. Remember when MLK had to write letters FROM JAIL to northern white evangelicals who wondered why he couldn't just "wait a little while longer" when they should have been demanding his release? NOW you all cry "Social Justice" because it's in vogue. Get over yourselves and seek to genuinely JOIN with Christians of other colors and cultures in real displays of Christian witness, not just to gain more lemmings of your self-serving agenda.
Caucasian evangelicals are desperately trying to cling to their self-described status as the standard bearers of the Christian faith and now they want African Americans to come along for the ride, but it’s not gonna happen.

Nice reporting here.

I think everyone else missed it.

Hold on.Accountable!!? Bush and company are the ones that should be held accountable for the mess they've made in foreign relations. Judgement day has come and the God has spoken.

I confess that I voted for Obama with fear and trepidation because I am strongly pro-life. But I resolved to do so because of the issues that I care about...the ones described by Jim Wallis--global poverty, Darfur, healthcare. Equally important, I voted for him because I heard that he was willing to move an inch on the abortion issue. I hope and pray that he will move inch by inch and he will understand that life at all stages, whether in the womb, or on the killing fields of Darfur is precious and needs protection.

Whenever I think of political evangelical Christians I am reminded of the passage in the Bible that speaks about prosperity: "He who covers his sin shall not prosper..." I say; 'He that covers his faith shall not prosper...' By focusing on government action to create morality in society when Christians are not witnessing, evangelicals are covering their faiths and they cannot hope for prosperity when they don't sow the seed of the Word of God.
The political evangelicals put too much emphasis and focus on government actions and what politicians can do to make society better instead of reaching out with the Gospel message that can transform people from within.
I see many churches closing. (Not Obama's fault.) I hear evangelicals knocking on doors for McCain and the Republicans. I see evangelicals fearful of crime, abortion, gays and Obama. I see churches running away from their own cities, claiming they fear crime and drugs. Where are they going to hide now?
It's unbelievable for anyone, left alone an evangelical to believe a politician would reduce abortion or crime, even if that was their election promise because "Righteousness exalts a nation... but sin is a reproach to any people." People of faith need to learn the lessons of Obama and go out campaigning, knocking doors, supporting ethnic pastors and immigrant pastors for Jesus and they, no doubt will prosper, see lives transformed and help people find Jesus.
Church closures in America is directly related to evangelism or the lack of it. What impact do Christians have on their neighbors when they no longer share their faith? What impact do they have on the 35 million visitors coming to the USA yearly as tourists? Yes, Christian must perform their civic duty and vote. This country is in a mess and if anything, it can only get better. But that will only happen when Christians begin to live the Gospel and share their faith. Evangelicals need to blame the church, not Obama because Obama cannot change the church but the church has the power to change. Obama or no Obama; the sky is not going to fall! Obama worked hard and achieved success. Evangelicals need to begin working hard for Jesus, sowing the deeds of the word and hey, that is the only way to beat the tide.
Torli Krua
uhrinews@yahoo.com

The issue of issues today is how can we rediscover the unity that actually exists between each and every one of us, but which--for millennia--has been obscured by the fear of the other that we all also share? Unfortunately, historically, the pathway to political power has always been the promise to defend US from THEM, or, even more, to force THEM, in some fashion, to serve US, since WE (in our own minds) are so evidently superior to THEM.

One good thing that we can certainly count on from Barack Obama is that for the next four years we will at least be listening to the rhetoric of unity instead of the rhetoric of evil empires. Nevertheless, though this is a good thing, it is not enough to acknowledge some good in your enemies. More than this, we must all also learn how to acknowledge the evil in ourselves. As hard as the first is, the second is massively harder. Nevertheless, this is what makes a genuine Christian. Those who cannot do this are Pharasees, no matter how loudly they proclaim Jesus as Lord.

In this light, we should begin by acknowledging that Osama bin Laden and the forces he represents are NOT such a serious threat to our security that we should follow the Russian--and even Genghis Khan--into a quagmire in Afghanistan. Rather, we should begin by admitting that we have become victims of terrorist attacks because we have been trampling down the forces of genuine democracy and reform in the Near East at least since the CIA organized the overthrow of the truly democratically elected government of Mossedeq in Iran in 1953 because he wanted to nationalize their oil. And we should admit that the Palestinians have a right to a state of their own and that the Israelis should dismantle all illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory. And we should acknowledge that we helped to create Saddam Hussein in Iraq and that we supported him throughout the Iran-Iraq war--even to the point of providing him with satellite photos of Iranian positions so he could better target is poison gas attacks, and to turning a blind eye when he launched poison gas attacks against the Kurds.

Of course it should be stressed that none of this is to say that WE are the evil empire. It is say that we, like all peoples, are a mix, capable of good and evil, and that far from our own shores, where few American voters are seriously watching, we are every bit as capable of evil as the next guy.

The Russians were the victims of continual terrorist attacks so long as they attempted to occupy Afghanistan. As soon as they pulled out, these attacks stopped. We need to be able to admit that 9/11 was ultimately a response to our own actions in areas of the world we have no business enforcing our agendas.Our true power lies not in our helicopter gunships and our mercenary armies--aka Blackwater--but in faithful adherence to the ideals that all men are created equal, and that government should be of, by, and for the people.

Like all peoples, we, all too often, fall short of our ideals. We need to acknowledge that this is the reason we are not always as dearly beloved by others as we think we should be. Instead of continuing to fight two hopeless wars, five and ten thousand miles from our shores, let us instead SHOW the world what a genuine democracy might do in terms of creating a just and sustainable economy that truly offers hope to all. If we do this, we can be certain that no one will want to bomb US, any more than we will want to bomb THEM.

Absolutely right on! We must remain true in our commitment to love God, love and serve others, which definitely includes sharing God's love and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must also keep before us the fact that this world is NOT forever...our focus must remain on doing all we can this side to reinstate righteousness in our immediate spheres, but to never lose sight of the fact that a new heaven and new earth is the ultimate end.

Todd is right to castigate the White church for past sins of commission and omission. If Black Christians want to turn away from the label "Evangelical," I can understand the reasons. But the election of Obama should signal a new day for Christians to come together around the issues we care about in ways we never have before. It took a lot of White, Hispanic, Asian AND Black people to elect Obama. He's going to mess up. He'll be tempted to do the politically expedient thing, rather than the right thing. We need to pray and hold him accountable together. Let's atone for the past by moving forward together, rather than maintaining division.

As a very politically aware evangelical Christian in Britain, I despair more and more of those who call themselves evangelical in USA.
Evangelical actually means "belonging to the Gospel," but these people certainly don't preach the Gospel of Jesus.He spoke of compassion, peace, love, forgiveness, care for the poor, but these people promote war, division, greed, selfishness, condemnation, support for the rich.
Apart from Jim Wallis, all these commentators on evangelical votes mean WHITE so-called evangelicals.They are so steeped in racism that they don't even see it.
Big on prejudice of every sort and zero on understanding and compassion, they are the enemies of the true Gospel.

I, too, hold President-Elect Obama accountable for putting in place polices that will reduce abortions. Where in tarnation was all this "accountability" talk when President Bush was residing in the White house all these 8 long years? Where were all these anti-abortion warriors then? Apparently, being a white evangelical is enough and it proves that when you have those characteristics, nothing else--work, or deeds, are necessary.
Isn't that pathetic?

Torli Krua - That was an AWESOME summation of TRUTH!! The church has fallen short! Our focus is on everthing except what it should be on; preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ! This is why we are so AFRAID like the world of the things that are happening! The Presidents focus should not be on rescuing the middle class with social and moral programs, that should be the churches job! I've always thought that churches that are not effective or productive in evangelism, outreach and missions, should be HIGHLY taxed! You'd be surprised how many churches are not doing that; talking about everything but Jesus! Instead it's on "how many" people are coming instead of how many "souls". This is sad. The world is the way it is because of lack of focus by CHRISTIANS (our immoral conduct, attitude, behavior and so much more)!! God help us all!!

Todd - Nov 5th....... I have no clue what you just said! But it didn't sound NICE! Please, let's move forward! No more mud slinging! We are Christians! One body, One faith and One baptism! I beg of you, let's move forward! Satan is about division. God is about UNITY!!

Gina,

No matter what labels we put on ourselves, our calling is supposed to be in Christ. To me that means that no matter what they have done we are to respond to all of God's children in love, forgiveness, acceptance. We are not to have agendas but to follow where Christ, not any political leader, leads. We will not know true unity in His Church, which is what Christ prayed for in John 17, until we learn to see each of our brothers and sisters as God's perfectly loved children, in spite of what they have done. That is how God forgives and loves, and how we are commanded to forgive and love. The black churches now have the opportunity to either learn from the excesses and mistakes in the way that the religious right has chosen to exercise its faith in the political arena or to repeat those mistakes in finger pointing, recrimination, exclusion, and disunity. Assuming your statements about the white evangelicals are true, where is the rejoicing when a sinner has come home? Jesus said they will know we are his by our love for one another. Why don't all of us in black and white churches try that for a change? I think that is what Rev. King would want, and I know that is what Jesus commands.

Thomas,
You should first admit that you have been smoking too much weed, man.

Then you should actually look into the Al Qaeda reasons for attacking the West (goes back to the Crusades and the expulsion of Muslims from Iberia).

Then you should admit that the Palestinians were given a state--it's called Jordan.

Then you should remember a place in Russia called Beslan--where pro-Muslim terrorists attacked long after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Then you should learn to stop parroting lefty talking points.

As a Registered Nurse, I cannot understand how anyone can condone murder which is what abortion is. By two months, a baby's heart is beating. Why give women the right to murder their own children? There are many individuals ie couples who would love to adopt unwanted children. I pray that America's abortion rates do not go up in the interest of embryonic research......Why is there such little talk about the combination of these two? The ONLY thing that brings comfort to me with an Obama Presidency is how wonderful and precious his own two children are. I will be watching them as I hold Obama responsible for making abortion rates go down. What a pity that he condones murder as in abortion. Also, I am very tired of seeing people be so cruel to each other on these posts. I believe everyone has a right to speak their mind but NOT attack their Brother or Sister. A real Great Book states, "Do unto others as you would want done to you" in essence. I hope all who read this are blessed.

Yes, Obama is going to reduce the number of abortions. That's why Planned Parenthood so ardently supported him and NARAL gave him a 100% rating. PP, the largest abortion provider in the country, which makes tens of millions of dollars in profit on abortion every year, desperately wanted Obama to win because they knew he'd hit them right in their cash cow.

Riiiiight.

I agree we should hold Obama accountable - I am prolife and I supported because I prefer his approach towards reducing abortions and his promised funding of faith-based initiatives due to his community organizing with churches.

That said - the history lessons I've taken on the white evangelical church shows it is the one that has historically supported racism, anti-latino and immigrant sentiment and wholeheartedly supported the Bush war against arabs proclaiming it was God's will to kill 93,000 iraqis. The pastors sit silently when cops kill unarmed black men. And by the way, there's been at least 3 Republican presidents since Roe V Wade - why didn't they overturn it? Pardon me if I don't trust "the white evangelical" church.

Can anyone tell me of one proabort politician that has ever done anything to reduce the number of abortions? And Mr. Wallis is a fool to think Mr. Obama will do any differently. Supporting/voting for B.O. "...constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil." (Rev. Jay Scott Newman) Way to follow Jesus, Mr. Wallis.

It is utterly asinine to pretend that Obama has ever been serious about reducing abortion, considering the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Indeed, the battle has already begun.