Wallis, on the first time he heard about Dr. Martin Luther King.
Jim Wallis: I’m the author of “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and Why the Left Doesn’t Get It”. And I’m the Editor-in-Chief of Sojourners magazine.
Well I was raised in this very evangelical church where it was our whole life. It was all week long, not just on Sunday. And when I got to be about 14 or 15, I began to ask these questions. I was listening in my city. I was reading the papers now and paying attention. And I wondered how come we lived the way we did in white Detroit and life seemed so different in black Detroit just a few miles or blocks away. We never had a black preacher in our church. I had never been to a black church. And who was this minister in the South named King? What was he up to? And then one night . . . one fateful night this elder in my church said to me . . . he said, “Jim you have to understand. Christianity has nothing to do with racism. That’s political. Our faith is personal.” I think that’s the night that I left in my head and my heart, and I was gone altogether in a couple of years. I found my way back to faith, but I didn’t have words to put around that experience then. I do now. And my words would be these: God is personal but never private. And I find a public God in the Scriptures who cares . . . The prophets talk about land, labor, capital. They talked to princes, and rulers, and employers, and judges. They talked about widows, and orphans, and those workers – those left out and left behind. So this is a God who is personal. Yes, He wants a relationship. He knows everything about every one of us and wants a relationship anyway. But the reason is to sign us up for God’s purposes in the world. That’s the whole purpose of conversion, transformation – to sign up and join the big things God is doing in the world.