Thursday, November 09, 2006

God's Politics?

I don't mean to keep flogging the same horse, but man I find Jim Wallis frustrating! A couple of recent occasions for new ire:

1. On the flight over to Belgium, I caught up listening to some of Krista Tippett's Speaking of Faith podcasts, including a conversation with former Republican Senator and Episcopal priest, John Danforth on "Conservative Politics and Moderate Religion" (I think I would prefer moderate politics and conservative religion, but don't hold me to that). Danforth has been shilling his new book Faith and Politics in which he seems to conclude that if someone takes a "position" on something, and claims that it is God's position on something, then one is being "divisive"--and being divisive seems to be the cardinal sin for Danforth. If one quips that Jesus was pretty decisive, I'm guessing that Danforth would say 'that's different' because Jesus was God (though he's an Episcopalian priest, so I can't say for sure). In any case, while I'm all for humility (and goodness knows we need more of it in public discourse [and I am the chief of sinners]), such castigations of "divisiveness" strike me as, in fact, false humility--which doesn't help anyone. Danforth is just a popularized version of John Rawls. (While I'm a bit hesitant to make the link, because of guilt by association, intellectual honesty compels me to note that Ramesh Ponnuru's review of Danforth's book in the National Review gets this point right.)

But Danforth's wishy-washy-ness helped to highlight (again) how much Jim Wallis is playing the same game as the Religious Right--they just disagree about specifics. While Wallis is as critical of the Religious Right as anyone--and the Right is clearly the target of Danforth's book--anyone who writes a book entitled God's Politics is working with the same tools. Wallis' constantianism of the left is (or should be) just as much a target of Danforth's critique as Dobson and Falwell.

2. And now, after the Democrat's (seeming) sweep of the mid-term elections, Jim Wallis is claiming that it was the Christian left who were the deciding factor in giving the Dems victory (see also Christianity Today's nice online piece, "Declaring Victory"). Wallis is still jealous, I guess, about all the press's causal claims about the role of the Religious Right in '04. But this evokes a couples responses.

First: Really? But is there any data to support this claim? Exit poll questions were asking this? Methinks there's some serious over-estimation going on here, tied to a certain over-estimation of Wallis' own importance.

Second, there is a remarkable irony about Wallis' posturing. At one point Wallis says this: "When Democrats can run authentically as persons of faith, they can beat back the idolatrous claims of the Religious Right that God is only on their side." This from a guy who has the audacity to write a book called God's Politics. I think the "only" in this quote is superfluous, and masks the fact that Wallis thinks that God is on his side.