Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jim Wallis: Man on fire!

Those who read this blog know that I consider Jim Wallis to be a sort of dangerous clown. This week, Wallis has launched into a series of anti-war screeds in light of the recent comments by Gen. Petraeus that the surge is showing modest signs of success and should be continued. Today, Wallis lashes out (absurdly) at the people who post in his comment sections (one Kevin Sawyer included). Read the whole thing here . Selects excerpts and responses below.

The fragile security improvements are not sustainable without a political solution, which is simply not forthcoming.

This is an intriguing statement in light of his advice that we should pull out and exercise diplomacy, which is, of course, an attempt to forge a political solution.

And contrary to some comments on this site, I have suggested several times an alternative strategy that would have to involve serious international intervention and regional engagement to secure Iraqi security and stability

Serious international intervention and regional engagement being the easiest thing in the world to come by of course. The beauty of hypotheticals is that you get to determine your own outcome. In Wallis' hypothetical, the whole world, including Iran, chips in to make Iraq a better place. Right.

the kind of bold, strong, and creative multilateral strategy that is completely obstructed by the ongoing unilateral American occupation.

Naturally, Wallis thinks his own plan was bold strong and creative. I found it derivative and implausible, but different strokes I suppose.

But exercising American responsibility without U.S. control is not likely to occur on the Bush watch. So we can only look and hope for a future change of direction.

I want a presidential candidate to run on a platform of American responsibility without U.S. control. Yikes. Thank God we have a president who takes control over that which we are responsible.

But let's turn from politics to theology and, even, ecclesiology.

Why start now, Jim?

The vitriol against Christian Iraq war dissenters from the handful of neocon war promoters who regularly clog the comments to this site forget both.

This from the guy who states that the monologue is over. Notice how the "neocon war promoters" (because that's what I do for a living) are not labelled as Christians. GOD IS NOT A REPUBLICAN because he is a Democrat, after all. Wallis sounds exactly like Pat Robertson here.

Both the teachings of Jesus (remember: "blessed are the peacemakers" and "love your enemies")

Well, that settles this question, doesn't it? How does this apply to sectarian violence? Are we supposed to lovingly allow them to keep killing each other? I'm glad we took this little field trip to the religious veneer.

and the rigorous criteria of the "just war" from Augustine and others in the Christian tradition clearly leave believers with at least a presumption against war.

Not the most scholarly take on just war theory from the Harvard Prof. but okay.

And the ignominious origins and now disputed rationales for this war in particular, along with its enormous human cost, clearly put the burden of proof on the war's supporters much more than its critics

Ignominious origins? And what are those ignominious origins, Jim? Right, President Bush lied us into a war for political gain and oil. Oh, and all those Senators went with him. But they didn't read up beforehand, so trusting were they of this ignominious new president.

that is, if we are to be Christians about all this, and not just American nationalists or neoconservative apologists for American hegemony in the world.

If we wanted American hegemony, we'd occupy China, not Iraq. Hasn't Jim Wallis ever played Risk?

That brings me to a second point -- about the body of Christ and our loyalty to the global Christian community. Outside the borders of the United States of America, a vast, vast majority of the world's people are steadfastly against the American war in Iraq and the foreign policies of the U.S. in general.

So, to disagree with them would be disloyal? Do they have any loyalty to me? That argument doesn't turn both ways, does it? Of course not.

Because of my work and transatlantic family ties,

Here's where Jim talks about himself for awhile. "Blessed are the self-important" after all.

So if the international body of Christ generally doesn't support America's war in Iraq, or U.S. foreign policy generally, what do some American Christians know that the rest of the global Christian community doesn't?

This is a disingenuous comment. If the majority of Christians worldwide disagreed with him, he wouldn't be appealing to their authority.

Is the rest of the church just wrong?


Do we have access to information that they don't have? (Actually, they have much more access to information and different perspectives than most Americans have, which is a big part of the problem.)

Of course, while we American troglodytes toil in ignorance, the rest of the world gets the straight scoop from the BBC.

Personally, to be frank, I think it is because far too many American Christians are simply Americans first and Christians second.

This from a man who has never, in any single one of his writings that I can find, mentioned the need to repent before Christ for our salvation. Really, we should be Democrats first of all, and also whatever religion floats your boat so long as you vote the right way.

Many American Christians are simply more loyal to a version of American nationalism than they are to the body of Christ. I want to suggest that the two are now in conflict, and we must decide to whom to we ultimately belong. That's the real issue.

Translation: Agree with me or you are not a Christian.

No thanks.


Anonymous Thom said...

Well, considering that Bush still appeals that fighting in Iraq makes America "safer" and yet Gen. Petraeus stated quite plainly that this argument cannot really be made (keeping America safe had little to do with his testimony-which makes sense, Iraq was never a strong or legitimate threat to the U.S. and it really is now about not having the appearance of dropping the ball in a mess we made and were ill prepared to fix).

But certainly, Wallis fails to stay true to certain ideals he lays forth, so that even when he makes a fair point (that some American Christians are "American" first), he undermines the point with clear devotion to a side.

I do believe that Christians are called to have only one true allegiance, and that is to Christ. National identity has no meaning for a Christian no matter where they live. I've been told the Bible does not forbid patriotism, but when there is no evidence in the Bible that national identity should mean much to those in Christ, especially in light of verses such as Galatians 3:27-29. But this does not truly seem to be what Wallis is trying to say.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...


Where did Petraeus say that the argument cannot be made that the effort is making the United States safer? He is a general, not a policymaker. He offered no commentary on that question.

The problem with Wallis' "America First" point is that what he really means is that those who disagree with him are inherently putting American before Christ, essentially accusing us of breaking the most important commandment (at best) or not being Christians at all (at worst).

You are correct that national identity has no meaning for Christians. But patriotism does not necessitate blind allegiance to our country. It can also manifest in the respect we have for our ideals as a nation, relative to other nations.

When people accuse others of not being "patriotic", what they are really saying is that people reject our democracy at a fundamental level. In this sense, the criticism is warranted.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Thom said...

Well actually...when asked if the war was makin America safer he declared, "I don't know." And while Bush says it IS, I have not seen any evidence that Iraq is keeping America safe. We've still had some homegrown attempts at terrorism (admittedly, by pretty inept terrorists) her in the U.S. So we are not really "fighting them there instead of here."

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...national identity has no meaning for Christians."

I'm missing something-- are you saying Christians should deemphasize their patriotism? From your blog I have a hard time believing you believe that. (I disagree, if that is what you mean, but I think I'm misreading.)


8:45 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...


I think we are dealing with two different definitions of patriotism. The first is allegiance to country, which, broadly written, is idolatry. Under this light, the establishment of our own nation was a rejection of patriotism.

The second definition of patriotism is one that respects how our democracy functions, and professes allegiance to our flag in the name of that for which the United States stands. To be unpatriotic is to reject this framework outright.

My point was that the charge of anti-patriotism generally refers to the latter definition, while Wallis and friends pretend that it refers to the former. That is how we wind up with Wallis' obnoxious "Americans first" argument.

11:59 PM  
Blogger Baron von Bauerick said...

Of course Wallis never played Risk. Did Bush put everyone on Papua New Guinea and build up? Of course not....

11:02 PM  

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