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Jim Wallis is an evangelical Christian reverend known as a writer and activist. He founded Sojourners Magazine in 1971 and currently serves as its Editor-in-Chief. His most recent book is The[…]

Wallis believes that he is a 19th century evangelical.

Well I’m a 19th century evangelical born in the wrong century.  Because back then, evangelicals led the movement to abolish slavery.  They led fights for women’s suffrage, for child labor law reform.  They were evangelists and abolitionists.  They were revivalists and reformers, and they took their faith into the world.  Charles Finney was the evangelist of his day, the Billy Graham of his day.  And he invented the altar call to sign up his converts for the anti-slavery campaign.  So clearly it was an activist movement.  And Charles Wesley and John Wesley and the famous Jim Wallis: William . . .  the century beforehand ended the slave trade in Britain – the same kind of movement.  So it used to be a radical thing.  In fact, the word “evangelical” comes from the rood word “evangel” which means good news.  And the text where it appears is in Luke chapter 4.  Jesus’ first gig; His first sermon; His opening riff; His mission statement in Nazareth, his hometown.  And He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news” – the evangel – “to the poor.”  To the poor.  So right from the outset, Jesus said this whole thing is gonna be good news to poor people.  So that’s where it comes from.  Now how do we get from there to when I’m over in Europe, they’re amazed that American religious voice doesn’t think God isn’t American, too, and probably only a Republican who cares only about abortion and gay marriage.  How did this happen?  This distortion, this high judging of the gospel by a religious right?  This book I wrote called “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It”, the subtitle says it all.  Well a lot has changed now in the last couple of years.  When someone steals your faith you take it back.  And millions of people have taken their faith back from a narrow, parochial, partisan kind of use and abuse of religion to something that can be much more transformational that isn’t religious right or religious left.  Left and right are political categories, not religious ones.  They won’t fit us.  So we have to talk about, you know, what does the gospel say?  What . . .  The kids wear the bracelets, “What would Jesus do?”  That’s a fair question.  So a whole new generation is widening and deepening the agenda now.  And I think some very big things are in store.

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