A new kind of evangelist?

A new kind of evangelist?
It’s refreshing to see the record participation of voters during the primaries. It gives this oft-cynical Xer slightly more hope for the country, as people care and weigh in to choose the next president. It makes me wish that I lived in a state that had caucuses, to hear a healthy back-and-forth about candidates and to cast a vote within this spontaneous community. (MSNBC did an audio slide show of a Washington state Democratic Party caucus that was held at my old middle school.)

Though I’d like to (and often did) endorse a candidate publicly, I won’t anymore. I do have a preference, and I did vote. But I’m inspired by the likes of William Wilberforce (who never joined a political party) or Martin Luther King Jr. (who never endorsed a candidate). They stood in the prophetic tradition, avoiding the endorsement of a party or candidate, but always calling these parties and candidates to a higher standard. It was a corrective voice that stayed away from the halls of power, and instead wore camel hair clothes and a leather belt.

Jim Wallis is doing the same thing today.

I went to see him speak a few days ago at the San Diego Hall of Champions. He was introduced as “the evangelical that I can stand the most” by the president of the Catfish Club. And Wallis spoke to a mixed crowd including liberals, evangelicals, the “spiritual but not religious,” and I’m sure many more shades of spirituality.

He said that America has a deep hunger for a connection between spirituality and social justice. That just makes sense. He doesn’t believe that politicians are our hope, because they were voted in by the majority. And the majority doesn’t have to change, because they’re in power. Instead, he said that any lasting change in this culture didn’t happen through Washington politics, but through social movements. And these social movements, according to Wallis, were almost always led by people of faith.

He received a standing ovation.

He makes evangelicals look good. I saw him on the Daily Show, and comment after comment on the website exclaim what a breath of fresh air he is to this country and culture. In the end, he’s making Christianity sound a little better to a culture that finds our faith’s taste a bit bitter, and that might encourage more people to bet their lives on the leadership of its founder.

In this way, isn’t Jim Wallis a new kind of evangelist? He helps people see that faith and politics could and should mix, but it could mix in a humbler, more prophetic way. Instead of seeking the interests of a minority, he seeks the common good. And as I wrote before, he and his organization, Sojourners, do not endorse a candidate. For no matter who’s in power, they always want to be on the outside — yet always speaking in.

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By the way, I highly recommend his book God’s Politics. If I could find a candidate that held these positions, then he or she would get my vote every time. But that person doesn’t exist. You can read my review here.