Read The Soul of Politics: Beyond "Religious Right" and "Secular Left" by Jim Wallis Free Online
Book Title: The Soul of Politics: Beyond "Religious Right" and "Secular Left"|
The author of the book: Jim Wallis
ISBN 13: 9780156003285
Edition: Mariner Books
Date of issue: September 15th 1995
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 8.65 MB
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Reader ratings: 7.5
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"To benefit from domination is to be responsible for doing something about it," writes Wallis (p. 108), referring to his responsibility as a white male in a culture that privileges whiteness and maleness. He describes how he awakened to the problems of poverty and racism: asking, as a young man, why his family's white church did not associate with local black churches (pp. 88-89), and later noticing, when arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience, that the jail intake cards had been pre-filled to indicate black hair and brown eyes. (p. 95)
Wallis's work has been especially attuned to the problems of street violence and gangs. His lifelong activism on behalf of poor people is faith-based in origin:
"One zealous seminarian in our group decided to try an experiment. He found an old Bible, took a pair of scissors, and then proceeded to cut out every single reference to the poor. * * * When the seminarian was finished, that old Bible hung in threads. It wouldn't hold together; it fell apart in our hands." (p. 178-180)
For Wallis, Christian concern for the poor becomes the heart of a worldview that requires him to beware of greed and consumerism in his own personal habits.
"Another bumper sticker I've seen is the one that reads, 'Live Simply, So Others May Simply Live.' That slogan gets close to the heart of things. We are all connected. As long as some can talk only about their materialism, others can talk only about their survival." (p. 169)
He believes that equality of race and sex can best be achieved through people of diverse races and both sexes collaborating on projects for social change. "Both men and women need to learn the responsible use of power--power that is shared and offered in service of justice...Gender partnership is essential to social transformation." (p. 147) Similarly, "[racial] equality will come from partnership in a shared struggle more than through integration for its own sake. (p. 218)
Wallis falters, in my opinion, in attempting to formulate a position on abortion. Pregnancy seems to pit women's rights against unborn children's rights, and he acknowledges that this is an agonizing choice. He suggests that the values of life and feminism should not be "posed as conflicting choices," but he does not fully develop a framework in which they do not conflict. "Backing women into desperate corners by criminalizing desperate options is not a good answer," as he puts it, but what is a good answer? He also quotes Joyce Hollyday's dream of a world in which "abortion is unthinkable." (p. 131) This troubles me, not from a cynical perspective that reads such an outcome as desirable but unlikely, but from a logical perspective that perceives it as impossible in principle and therefore not even necessarily desirable. Yes, many women are spurred by poverty and social stigma to terminate their pregnancies, and yes, we should combat the poverty and stigmatization so that these situations are not responsible for desperate choices about life, health, and hope. But there are other reasons some women do not wish to carry pregnancies to term, including the desire to maintain a certain hormonal profile, not to endure childbirth, or not to bring a particular baby into the world. As long as women take in an interest in the specifics of their own bodies and the specifics of their progeny, abortion will always loom on the "thinkable" horizon. To hope that abortion will somehow become "unthinkable" by women, so that men of faith like Wallis will no longer have to struggle with the conundrum, seems to unfairly put the philosophical burden on women and to transform the moral question into an impossible cognitive task. If abortion is a challenging question for men, it is at least as challenging for pregnant women. The conclusion that would make more sense in the context of Wallis' book is not that women should stop thinking about complex moral deeds, but that men and women should think collaboratively. This would place redemptive value in the work we do today in the moral gray area, instead of idealizing some distant utopia where the gray area has already been magically overcome.
Aisde from that one dissatisfaction, I found this book especially helpful in formulating how to think beyond the American dichotomy of "liberal" vs. "conservative".
"As social critic Cornel West points out, the 'liberal structuralists' and 'conservative behaviorists' are both right and both wrong. To speak only of moral behavior, apart from oppressive social realities, just blames the victim; and to talk only about social conditions, apart from moral choices, is to keep treating people only as victims." (p. 24)
Speaking of moral behavior and social conditions, while pressing for change together with people of other genders and colors, is something we can achieve.
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Read information about the authorJim Wallis is president and CEO of Sojourners and editor in chief of Sojourners magazine. He is a bestselling author, public theologian, national preacher, social activist, and international commentator on ethics and public life.
Wallis has written ten books, including the New York Times bestsellers God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It and The Great Awakening, and is a frequent speaker in the United States and abroad.
He has written for major newspapers and appears frequently on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, on shows such as Meet the Press, Morning Joe, Hardball, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The O’Reilly Factor, and on NPR.
He also teaches at Georgetown University and has taught at Harvard University.