The Legacy Of An Activist Career: An Interview With Jim Wallis

The Legacy Of An Activist Career: An Interview With Jim Wallis

Before looking forward to the future of evangelical engagement in the political realm, I want to look back at the trajectory of your career, and how it reflects the fact that there has already been significant change in the way Christians approach politics. When you left Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and founded The Post-American in 1971, the discourse on faith and politics was quite different from today. What did you set out to accomplish?

The evangelical world in which I was raised was almost completely disengaged from the world. There was no concern, really, for any social or moral issues. Not the war in Vietnam, economic poverty, or even abortion. It was about Christian piety, about "me and the Lord." When I was 14 years old, an Elder in my church said, "You have to understand, Jim, that Christianity has nothing to do with racism. That's political. Our faith is personal."

So the first thing we tried to do was say no, "God so loved the world." It's not just me and the Lord. The story is bigger than that. It's about God wanting to change the whole world, and us with it. Thus the language I often use is that God is personal but never private. We have a personal faith in a God who cares about public life. The Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern was a good expression of that. This is not just about our private lives, but about our relation to the world. That has now fundamentally changed. New generations of evangelicals really wouldn't think to make their faith just private now. It's about the world and what God wants for the world.

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