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June 30, 2010

Station Pulls Out over Wallis


Lifest 2010, a Christian music and preaching festival, has one less sponsor today. A Christian radio station felt the need to pull out because the festival featured Sojourners founder Jim Wallis on its slate of speakers.

The festival, scheduled for July 7-11 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, boasts more than 150 Christian artists, speakers, and comedians. Wallis will be Friday night’s keynote speaker. Over 15,000 people are expected to attend.

But this morning, the Oshkosh Northwestern reported that radio station Q90-FM had pulled its sponsorship because of “fundamental disagreement on the wisdom of bringing Mr. Wallis to Lifest.”

Q90-FM posted a statement on their website explaining that the station’s leadership felt Wallis’ political views, particularly those regarding social justice, to be “humanistic” and that Wallis and Sojourners are “seeking an unholy alliance between the Church and Government.”

“We agree with what is commanded through Paul in 1 Timothy 5, that it is our responsibility to take care of ‘widows and orphans’ and any who are unable to care for themselves,” the statement read. “We recognize that individually and as the Body of Christ we are not doing all we could as Jesus taught us to. But we do not believe the solution is the church partnering with the government in this endeavor” (emphasis in the original).

Wallis, who served on the White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009, has worked with Presidents Bush and Obama since 2000 on partnering faith-based initiatives with government programs.

“I was an early supporter of the initiative because I believed that partnerships between the faith community and government in alleviating poverty were both necessary and appropriate within the framework of the Constitution,” he wrote for the Huffington Post in 2008.

Q90-FM says that government involvement in faith groups and private charitable initiatives could inhibit faith groups from their primary mission.

“The movement in our nation toward the forced redistribution of wealth through taxation ensures this—when the government controls where the money goes, freedom to express the gospel of Jesus Christ will eventually be eliminated legally, as it has with every Church and State merger since 371 AD,” the statement read.

Other religious leaders have come out against Wallis’ presence at the festival.

“I do not believe this is a man that should be emulated by young people,” the Rev. Kathi Rose of Evangel Worship Center in Menasha, Wisc., told the Northwestern.

Some Christians on the Web have been more strident.

“Travesty at Lifest - Patents: Don’t Send Your Kids,” declared the Lighthouse Trails blog on June 19.

“Let’s just say that progress has been made since the time that guys like Wallis hung out in camouflage attire at backwater conferences held at run down hotels,” wrote Ingrid Schluter on Crosstalk Blog.

The festival blog says Lifest organizers have received “several calls and e-mails from parents and pastors” asking about Wallis after an area pastor sent a letter to “churches, ministries and individuals” about the situation. In a post written on Father's Day, they announced that they would leave Wallis on the schedule.

Bob Lenz, president of Life Promotions, which puts on Lifest, told the Northwestern that they invited Wallis in order to promote dialogue.

“We think Wallis, although there may be differences in opinion on some of his politics, is a great person to listen to and has a real message for the church and for kids alike,” he said.

Update: Wallis' comments in reaction to the Lifest controversy appeared this morning in the Appleton Post-Crescent. "We believe the church and the government are able to best fulfill their roles when they function separately and apart from institutional intrusion," Wallis said. "However, that does not mean we believe in the separation of values from public life." Though they say they have had two conversations with Wallis, Q90-FM stands by its statement.


Amazingly sad and I believe, amazingly Glenn Beck sounding. SO so.


>>"Let’s just say that progress has been made since the time that guys like Wallis hung out in camouflage attire at backwater conferences held at run down hotels," wrote Ingrid Schluter on Crosstalk Blog.>>

Really? I'm glad that CT is reporting on such reactionary absurdity in general--since it functions as it's own harshest critique--but I'm not sure that repeating such fundamentally ignorant comments as these is journalistically responsible. You could at least maybe find caricatures that bore some resemblance to reality--such as Wallis' earlier days as a long-haired hippie peacenik--rather than some kind of militia member. Where do they get this stuff? Seriously, at least you could help these fundy haters to keep their preconceptions straight.

Thanks to the event promoters though for not bowing to those whose allegiance to the likes of Glenn Beck seems to trump any willingness to entertain political diversity within the body of Christ. Those who use scripture as their guide will recognize that Jesus himself had representatives of several factions within his own disciples. Wallis may disagree with others on the role of government, but consistently affirms that Jesus is Lord.

"Radio Station Pulls Festival Funds over Wallis Invite" Liberals don't hesitate a minute to be very selective about which groups to give their money. Nor do they apologize when denouncing others' political persuasion. As for Wallis - I wouldn't walk across the street to see him let alone hear him speak.

Hung out in camouflage attire at backwater conferences held at run-down hotels?

Srsly? The only thing missing from that statement was the word, ilk, as in "Wallis and his ilk."

For Q90 to say they don't think politics should have a place at Lifest 2010 and withdraw their sponsorship over it, is a very political statement. Wallis doesn't agree with our views, therefore we shouldn't sponsor the festival, is also a short-sighted statement if its intention is to protect children.

Wouldn't it be better to engage and be there to explain to the people at Lifest their differences with him?

"To those who use scripture as their guide will recognize that Jesus himself had representatives of several factions within his own disciples."

Yes, the disiples were of various backgrounds, but Jesus expected them to forsake their various agendas and embrace his, the Gospel. Jesus' rebuke of Peter after Peter told Jesus he must not be killed being the most dramatic example. Whether they were of the Zealot faction or legalists similiar to the Pharisees and despite the fact that they all wanted Him to set up an earthly kingdom, Jesus expected all of them to follow and preach the Gospel. After Pentecost, they were unified in their message. After questioning Paul concerning his message and missionary activities, the original disciples gave their stamp of approval to his preaching.

Wallis has a perfect right to preach the politics he preaches. But it is perverse to say that it is explicitly or implicitly Christian. It is secular humanist, perhaps at times with some Bible verses as decoration.

Wallis is certainly controversial, and his views are far from mainstream. But if we are going to have the unity in the Body that Christ prayed for we all need to show more charity towards those with whom we disagree. Wallis needs to show this same charity towards the Religious Right, his favorite group to attack, but conservatives also need to recognize that they do not have a monopoly on faith and politics.

Please understand our pulling out of Lifest this year has nothing to do with right or left wing politics. It solely has to do with a dangerous trend of a "partnership between faith groups and the government. When the government controls the purse strings, they will make it illegal to share the salvation gospel of Jesus. We fully agree the Body of Christ needs to step up and do a better job helping the poor--we are simply opposed to Sojourners' call for a greater partnership between faith and the government. One need simply look to Canada and Europe to see pastors being charged with hate crimes for speaking out on homosexuality as a sin. Yes, we are mandated by Christ to love all sinners--and we are ALL sinners--but to also confront believers with their sin with love, conviction and help.

Mike LeMay
general Manager
Q90 FM

Lifest is not a platform for a "conversation". The keynote speaker does not offer a "dialog". The keynote speaker offers a "message", after which there will perhaps be some sort of response elicited from the audience hearng that message. If Wallis wants to encourage conversation, he should speak to theoolgy students in coffee shops, not to impressionable tweens and teens at a summer music festival. Just sayin'.

The festival has the right to invite whatever speakers they wish. And advertisers have the right to support or not support. But this is a political decision. It might be the right one. But you cannot claim this is a freedom on religion issue and at the same time claim it is not about politics. Freedom of religion is inherently political. Just admit it and move on. Extra points for rejecting political speakers that happen to be more on the right in the future.

I think it was a pretty poor decision to choose Wallis as a speaker. Having said that, although I would not go to an event where Wallis was a speaker, I consider him a brother and I would enjoy sitting down with him and discussing some of these issues one on one.

Dear Mike LeMay, I am assuming that by your statement "It solely has to do with a dangerous trend of a "partnership between faith groups and the government." that you would you have withdrawn from Lifest if James Dobson or his likes were on the speaker lineup. His and those like him have an a agenda that is similar to Wallis's except from the more conservative side of the spectrum.

Why the need for separation (Withdrawal)? Of course that word is best reserved for Fundamentalists unless this event should be renamed Fundest instead of Lifest.

I am assuming that none of the kiddies will be forced to listen to Wallis or any of the other speakers for that matter. One is entitled to disagree with Wallis but I hear that hours of deprogramming will be provided by Glenn Beck at no extra charge.

Oh, please. If the protesters are really going to be consistent in their argument about how objectionable it is for Wallis and his group to try to influence government to promote help for the poor and social justice, then they should themselves abstain from seeking to influence government with regard to tax exemptions, marraige protection, abortion, gay rights, etc. What's good for the goos is good for the gander. But that's not going to happen. The argument doesn't hold water.

“The movement in our nation toward the forced redistribution of wealth through taxation ensures this—when the government controls where the money goes, freedom to express the gospel of Jesus Christ will eventually be eliminated legally, as it has with every Church and State merger since 371 AD,” the statement read,

I guess they should come out against Jubilee as described in the OT too. Clearly that was government intervention to redistribute wealth, and on a regular schedule to boot.

They have every right not to support Wallis, but let's not pretend this is some kind of spiritually superior or theologically nuanced decision. It's pure politics.

Can't we all just get along? There is no other name under heaven or Earth by which men can be saved. He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God.

As one who trends conservative, I admire Jim Wallis for his sincerity. From what I've seen, he tries to be consistent to the message of the Gospel. His voice should be heard, even if I don't agree with all he says. And, yes, it's a valid question to ask whether Q90 would object to, say, Chuck Colson. Saying that the issue is "an unholy alliance between church and government" begs the question: Any alliance? Including pro-family, pro-life?

It's really reaching to accuse Wallis of being a Marxist, even if he sometimes is all too human.

Not to mention that Accuracy in Media is hardly known for actual accuracy. It's just another sad and shrill conspiracy theory group. Who would ever take anything it says seriously?

Basil, with all due respect you are confusing "influencing the government" with "serving the government' I would oppose anyone coming who supports an economic alliance with the government, regardless if they are conservative or liberal. Regarding abortion, absolutely we need to influence government policy that currently allows more than 1 million innocent children to be murdered in the name of 'privacy". When the government controls funding, the gospel will be restricted or disallowed to be preached. No matter a right wing or left wing government, we are to work to influece law, but never to allow ourselves to be servants of the state. Our Founding fathers knew the government was the enemy of religion by its nature--that is why they set strict boundaries protecting the rights of individuals to worship or not worship, along with making sure no law would be passed imposing a religion on the people.

If the issue was simply politics, then let the guy come. But it isn't. This man's theology - in terms of both the body of faith and the life of faith - are more than troubling.

For his own words, check out this link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/may/9.52.html?start=4

Three issues here raise significant concern beginning with his equivocation on the issue of homosexuality within the church. Essentially he says churches should not take a definitive stance on this issue - but rather allow differences. Churches shouldn't divide on this, they should even allow the blessing of same sex couples and the ordaining of practicing homosexuals. This is a direct affront to scripture.

Second, he makes statements saying abortion, on a moral scale, didn’t rise to the moral level of the sin of slavery . Are you kidding me? Infanticide is someone not that significant??

What comes next though is even more troubling...and telling as it relates to Wallis' theology. What sin did rise to the moral equivalence of slavery in his mind? You got it: “Global [economic] inequality”. In other words, Wallis believes that for some people to have more money than someone else, it is morally wrong. And not only is it wrong, it is much more wrong than the killing of innocent children.

Wallis' statements demonstrate serious theological issues which underlie a moral compass seriously out of whack with Biblical truth. And we in the church are supposed to invite him in to speak to our youth, holding him up as a Christian teacher they are to look to for guidance? Get some discernment children of God!! What a shame that Life Promotions hasn't had the spiritual fortitude to cancel this guy in light of his skewed morality and theology.

I personally know Bob Lenz, who directs Lifest. What a great disappointment to see him allow this.

I also wonder whether there would have been as much protest over a conservative speaker -- and I'm concerned about conservative politics being held almost as an idol by some these days. Having said that - isn't this a music festival? Why are there ANY politically charged speakers? Give us music, and the Gospel - not liberal or conservative politics! And I say this as someone who leans right.

The organizers of Lifest are bringing politics front and center with their placement of Jim Wallis on the bill – something that is of course perfectly within their rights to do. But I question the wisdom of this move since politics are always divisive. From its website, Lifest appears to be the typical Christian festival, which is to say that its purpose is to proclaim and celebrate Jesus Christ, for the edification of the saints and the calling of the lost. That is not Wallis’ message. His extreme Leftist worldview is essentially a proclamation that ‘salvation’, or more specifically, utopia will come via the State. Maybe I’ve got this wrong, and this particular festival draws a lot of Christians of the liberal persuasion. But if not, if he ends up speaking to the typical conservative evangelical demographic, then there will likely be few in the Lifest audience who will agree with what Wallis presents. And if he doesn’t carefully craft his speech toning down his usual quasi-Marxist rhetoric, he could get boo’d off the stage.

A humanist, oh the horror, the horror. Why not be a humanist if you believe that people are sacred and created in the image of God? What a bunch of losers. Wallis is one of the only people out there who's not some charlatan and scam artist - think Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell, and Ted Haggart. He's actually a man of integrity who doesn't make a living off trashing and diminishing other people, and taking money from unsuspecting and vulnerable persons.

I have to laugh at the poor historical research found in the statement that worship of Jesus always ends when the state commingles with religion.

Quite the opposite. Catholicism was the official state religion of France until the French Revolution, and people had no problem worshipping Jesus. The Anglican Church is still the official religion of Britain, and I see plenty of worship of Jesus there as well. Russian Orthodoxy was the official religion of Czarist Russia, and again, Jesus was amply worshipped there.

In fact, if you want Jesus to be woshipped, the best thing you could do is become a state religion and tie yourself closely with the government. Then you get all sorts of freebies and enforced church attendence.

I find it interesting that a discussion of Jim Wallis has turned toward state-sponsored religion. It is a favorite accusation of the Left that conservative Evangelicals like me are being theocratic when we advocate for laws protecting life and traditional marriage – we are forcing our morality on everyone. Maybe they have a bit of a point. But in leveling such a charge, Wallis and his ilk are being hypocritical, since their modus operandi is to use the Federal Government to implement their ostensibly Christian agenda. When they cite the gospel as the reason to, for example, redistribute wealth in order to eliminate poverty, are they not violating the rights of Americans who do not happen to believe the gospel? My point then is that both liberal and conservative Christians are trying to influence policy, laws, etc. toward what each side believes. And since that is the case, if Lifest does not disinvite Wallis, the next best thing would be to add, for balance, a conservative like Dinesh D’Souza or Richard Land to the roster.

>Churches...should even allow the blessing of same sex couples and the ordaining of practicing homosexuals. This is a direct affront to scripture.

A direct affront to your particularly narrow reading of scripture, perhaps, but your insistence doesn't make it so.

Would that same radio station be mad if Jim Wallis was lobbying Washington DC to end all abortion and gay rights?

I'm not a big fan of Wallis (the man seems to be far too much about himself, as his responses have demonstrated), and think he adds very little to the lineup -- especially compared to other left-leaning Evangelicals like Tony Campolo or Ron Sider who would be better speakers.

That said, it does seem to be pretty embarrassing to pull out over Wallis's political beliefs. Their Facebook page has pictures of people raising their hands to the US flag and links to the Family Research Council -- which links the Bible's calls to holiness to political power. How is this any worse than Wallis?

It appears the outrage is pretty selective.

On another note, why is Crosstalk/Ingrid Schluter being quoted on this? VCY is pretty much against everything Q90, Jim Wallis, or Lifest is about....they're all compromisers in the eyes of that group. Nothing any of them do is going to please the people at Crosstalk.

We went to Lifest ten years ago -- great lineup from Jars of Clay, SCC and many others -- and as I recall they had a speaker, a preacher I was unfamiliar with, and it just really broke up the flow and energy of the event, which already was clearly about honoring God and celebrating Jesus. I agree that politics -- be it Jim Wallis or Glenn Beck -- probably does not belong. That said, I respect Bob Lenz's desire to hear from different voices.

I no longer believe that Jim Wallis is a Christian, and I say that as a long time liberal democrat, who registered as an independent last autumn. Wallis exploits Christianity for political profit, he's a false teacher. I used to subscribe to Sojourners, but over the past few years, it became increasingly apparent that Wallis was actually promoting intolerance and hatred against anyone who did not embrace his extremist left wing ideology. He ignores real problems, and pays selective attention to the facts. I can well understand why others would not want young people to fall victim to him, as he is constantly seeking young people to exploit for the promotion of his agenda, because Wallis has driven away so many of those who used to respect him.