Wallis shares in chapter 2 of God’s Politics of how you can determine who a politician is – look for the person who is walking around with their finger high in the air trying to determine the direction of the wind. Where the wind blows so they go. He says that we will never see anything accomplished in Washington by replacing one person with a wet finger with another. To truly bring change he says… we need to change the wind.
Change the wind, transform the debate, recast the discussion, alter the context in which political decisions are being made, and you will change outcomes. Move the conversation around a crucial issue to a whole new place, and you will open up possibilities for change never dreamed of before. And you will be surprised at how the politicians adjust to the change in the wind, (pg. 22).
Wallis shares that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was just such a wind changer. Coming back from Oslo, Norway where he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he stopped by Washington, D.C. to speak with President Lyndon Johnson. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was just passed, but King knew that they needed a voting rights act as well for things to really change for African-Americans. President Johnson said that he had spent all of his political capital on the civil rights act, that the voting rights act would be down the road, perhaps ten years down the road. King went to Selma, AL to continue to push for the wind to change. He rallied people, marched on Selma, drew attention to the continued problems that were going on and the voting rights act came five months later, not ten years. He changed the wind.
People motivated by spiritual values that give them a real vision for change are not like those with their fingers in the air. They already know the direction to head in, and they lead by example. Their commitments, skills, sacrifices, creativity, and ultimately, moral authority are what make all the difference and change the wind, (pg. 23-24).
Wallis states that the fundamental principle is that “history is most changed by social movements with a spiritual foundation.” You can certainly see that with the end of slavery in England and the United States. You see that in the Civil Rights movement. Child labor laws that were enacted due to abuses that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. When the Church champions social causes from a biblical worldview things get shaken up. I blogged not long ago on Isaiah 58:6-12. When the Church is involved is social justice issues, working with the “least of these” in society then we have more influence in society. We are leading by example. Not all history changing movements, however, are social. The Great Awakening, not a social movement, but this revival brought about social change.
He then brings up Proverbs 29:18, “
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” We have a vision problem Wallis says in politics and in religion.
Lack of vision in society contributes directly to social unrest, lawlessness, violence, and chaos. It may not just be poverty that leads to social breakdown, but also the absence of any compelling and credible vision, articulated by public leaders and accepted by the people, that serves to hold society together, (pg. 25).
Wallis seems to also forget the last part of that verse is “blessed is he who keeps the law.” We are also a society that has lost its moral groundings, and that leads to a breakdown in society as well. That will not be cured by government, but rather through a changed heart. A person at a time submitting to the lordship of Christ, who then leads others to Christ, and they in turn lead others to Christ. A broad vision for social justice, while important, will not fulfill the Great Commission in and of itself, but it is part of that goal. Because people are attracted to love shown in practical ways. People respond to compassion given with no strings attached. Culture is boggled when people put others needs before their own. But we need to do just that because that is what Christ commands us to do.
Wallis goes on to that vision will lead directly to values, and that “values will be the most important political question of the twenty-first century,” (pg. 26). People voted values in 2004 and 2006. Politicians can not ignore that. Wallis says that in reaction to politics without values people will complain. Complaint will become the dominant political discourse. I think we see that happening right now don’t we? Wallis shares that the prophet Habakkuk describes the politics of complaint. He was a prophet in Israel at a time when it was caught in wars between Babylon and Egypt. Where political corruption was the norm. He describes this in Habakkuk 1:2-4.
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
4 So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted,(ESV).
Habakkuk goes on to complain about how the wicked swallows up, how his greed is bringing ruin to others, and how he is living in luxury while nations are being killed and injustice done. Habakkuk then stands watch to wait for an answer from the LORD. The LORD replies.
“Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay,” (Habakkuk 2:2-3,ESV)
What is that vision? Wallis says that it is the content of the Old Testament prophets, Jesus and New Testament writers. It is also seen in our American traditions (i.e. the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence). It is what they had to say about “what our public commitments, our common life, and social bonds we share in community.” Wallis proclaims that the vision is there, but often we give it lip service. I can agree with that. I have seen that first hand. This vision he says awaits us, and when we move toward our prophetic and democratic visions… the miraculous can occur.
…slaveries are ended, civil rights achieved, freedom established, compassion implemented, justice advanced, human rights defended, and peace made. When we neglect the vision, greed triumphs, selfishness erodes common life, our divisions increase, our weapons expand and our conflicts proliferate, (pg. 28).
n’t much in the way of content in as much that we need a vision for change in our culture. I can find a lot of common ground with Jim Wallis as far as seeing a great need to work on the behalf of the poor, etc. The above statement shows some naivety in regards to how society will respond to this vision. When slavery was ended, when civil rights were achieved, when freedom was established, etc. – when we look at those from a historical point of view, as far as, western history is concerned. We see a society that embraced by and large a Judeo-Christian worldview. Not so today. So when he says, “selfishness erodes common life” which common life is he referring? When he says that “our divisions increase” I wonder if he has forgotten that Jesus Himself said that he would be the root cause of many divisions. Our common life and unity is found in Christ. In some instances I think Wallis may be putting the cart before the horse. We do need to be engaged. I think it is responsible citizenship, but I question the long-term effects if it isn’t accompanied by spiritual revival. By being involved in the political system we are functioning as salt and in this case I believe it is acting as a preservative. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.
He ends the chapter by also pointing out that our vision problem isn’t just a lack of vision in public life, but also when political leaders (read President Bush) have a clear vision, but it is the wrong one. I’m not going to spend time commenting on that. He says also that he will evaluate how things are going today with these different issues, by asking the “God question” which he says is, “How are the kids doing?” Hmmm – I don’t remember seeing that in Scripture, God asks many questions of us in Scripture, but that isn’t one of them that I can recall.