Jim Walls, CEO of Sojourners, and author of God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, said that Sarah Palin is acting in an “evil” way, because of the way she presented her case about HR 3200, specifically section 1233, which the Senate Finance Committee decided to remove.  How dare she call such a system evil!  How dare she use the rhetoric of “death panel”!   He said in his rant on August 11, I call it that because it is nothing more than a diatribe without any facts, the following:

Sarah, you’re the one who is acting in an “evil” way. After listening to your policy pronouncements during the campaign, many Americans decided, generously, that you weren’t ready yet for high political office. Others thought you just weren’t very smart. But this statement last week really does clear up the question for me. You are speaking like a demagogue in the worst tradition of those who knowingly distort and deceive, for their own political purposes. You want to stoke people’s worst fears and then, hopefully, they will look to someone like you to be their leader. You’re not stupid after all. You know that neither President Obama, nor anyone else in this health-care debate, would deny health care for your parents or child, and that none of the ideas being debated would suggest that. But people are confused and concerned, so you see your chance to prey upon their misunderstandings. Politics for people like you is really all about you, your fame and power, and your taste of it during the last election has revealed what kind of politician you truly are.

Now let me draw your attention to the instructions given before you can comment on his blog:

I will express mysel f with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree—even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members’ ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others’ beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

Let me address Rev. Wallis, as if he were reading this (I won’t be holding my breath).  I am impressed with the community standards that you have for those who comments.  The type of speech you advocate in those standards should be what followers of Christ strive for.   It would, however, be nice if you would have followed them in your blog post.  For example… Is addressing a Governor by her first name respectful?  No.  I’m sure she’d extend the courtesy of calling you, “Rev. Wallis” since you are ordained.  That’s just a minor example, there’s more.

Also, pointing out that Governor Palin is “acting in an ‘evil’ way,” is acting in a courteous manner?  In Governor Palin’s remarks she doesn’t personally label President Obama “evil,” so I would submit she has acted in a more respectful manner than you.

Then you say, “You want to stoke people’s worst fears and then, hopefully, they will look to someone like you to be their leader.”  and “Politics for people like you is really all about you, your fame and power, and your taste of it during the last election has revealed what kind of politician you truly are.”  May I remind you that you say in your comments instructions that “I will not exaggerate others’ beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions.”

Do you know her heart?  Do you know what was going through her mind?  Perhaps maybe she made the comments she made because she, like you, are concerned by what is going on with health care?  Perhaps she said what she said because she did want to speak on behalf of those she feels, after reading and researching the bill, may be marginalized?  One of President Obama’s (notice I don’t call him Barack) own economic advisors disagrees with you.

Certainly something needs to be done about health care, but instead of rushing forward with a bad bill that the clear, overwhelming majority is against; let’s step back and encourage our Representatives and Senators take a fresh look at this.  Government involvement, I know this may come as a shock to you, may not be the solution.  There are a lot of good ideas out there that are not even being considered.

Then you close your post by saying this:

Please don’t invoke your “Christian faith” anymore and embarrass the people of God even further. May your efforts to scare Americans during this important debate fail. May your political future also fail, and may your star fall as fast as it rose just a few months ago — because we now know who you really are.

I’m not going to take umbrage with your desire for her to fail, because though I pray for President Obama (can you say the same for Governor Palin?), I do want harmful policies not to go into effect.  So I can understand your sentiment.  What I do take umbrage with is it said in a form of a curse.  Who appointed you prophet?  Not only that, who appointed you spokesperson for “the people of God?”  When I speak or write, especially when dealing with politics, my opinion is my own.   I certainly do not claim any more authority than what I have been given.

To claim authority based on the readership of your blog to be speaking for the people of God is the height of arrogance.  You sir, do not speak for me.

HT: Josh Painter

Update: Kevin Blader, a pastor down in Winterset, IA made a comment on the Facebook posting of the link to this blog post.  He encapsulates my sentiment about what Rev. Wallis wrote about Governor Palin, so I thought I’d share it here.

I’ve read Sojurners a half a dozen times. Its ok. But to say your opponent is dim, not ready for prime time, and an evil demagogue to boot, that almost goes beyond Jim’s usual call for civil discourse at the table.

10 comments
  1. Because you don’t quote the entire article, it is hard to know what he was referring to, but except for the “evil” part, I agree with what he said. This brouhaha over “death panels” was manufactured from “whole cloth” and quite dishonest. Is the writer of this piece saying that unless we KNOW the heart of who we are criticizing, we are disallowed from saying anything? Also, are we told to pray for all the Governors and ex-governors too?:) I pray for the President and the powers that be, so I guess that includes all the Governors.

    1. @Don, Actually Don, I do quote almost the entire post (with the exception of the introductory paragraph), that is what is in the block quotes. I also provide links to relevant articles (Palin’s facebook post, and previous posts I’ve done on this topic).

      The “brouhaha” over death panels may have been manufactured in your view, but based on my research, and the context of health care rationing I don’t agree. Look at Great Britain with their NICE program, or even Oregon and you can see evidence of what she is referring to.

      My contention with Rev. Wallis’ blog post is not that he didn’t agree with Governor Palin, but ascribed a motivation to her statement that he couldn’t possibly know. Then to call her an embarrassment to the “people of God” is presumptuous. Just as I wouldn’t claim to speak for all evangelicals, he shouldn’t either.

  2. I’m actually going to have to side with Jim on this one …

    For one thing, Gov. Palin does frequently address people by their first names, so I’m not sure that your point there stands (“Oh, Joe …”).

    Moreover, as for the rhetorical device involved in speaking about “death panels,” I think you’re whitewashing a bit too much. That isn’t seen as hyperbole, she has people believing that there is such a thing.

    You seem to take much pleasure in seeing a provision removed as if that’s a confession … but removing something because of an irrational fear in order to pass a bill still happens.

    If you listen to any of the radio talkers, you’ll hear caller after caller who took her words very literally. You’re prepared to excuse it as overspeak … much of her audience didn’t. Just as it wasn’t a verbal flourish when she said that then-Sen. Obama doesn’t see America as good or that he “pal[s] around with terrorists.”

    I haven’t said much about her here because I know you’re a much bigger fan of Gov. Palin than I, but I see her as fully prepared to lie and exaggerate about her enemies.

    Jude 1:9 (NIV) —
    But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
    .-= Wickle´s last blog ..Five Words from OneMom =-.

    1. @Wickle, Ok I’ll concede the first name thing. I always refer to an official (even retired ones) by their title when I speak to them or write to them (even state representatives), unless they give me permission to do otherwise or we are friends. (By the way, Governor Palin did ask permission from Vice President Biden to call him by his first name, and I really haven’t seen in speeches do that much).

      I agree with her conclusion on “death panels” based on the context of the bill which she further explained. It isn’t referring to jack-booted Nazis going in and pulling the plug on grandma, but rather decisions on treatment based on cost and how that may play into end-of-life consultations. Government should stay out of those. Encouraging people to explore living wills, and being actively involved in the consulting are two separate issues. The Senate Finance Committee is right to exclude it from the bill.

      I too was concerned with President Obama’s affiliations (still am), and Bill Ayers is a terrorist. President Obama was friends with him. Unfortunately or not you are known by the company you keep. I think if he had a wider diversity of confidants and friends it wouldn’t have been that much of an issue.

      My issue with Wallis is that if he wanted to critique her statement and make the case why the “death panel” language is wrong based on the language of the bill and research, fine. He goes way beyond that. Then he presumes to speak for the “people of God” and I think that is plain arrogant (but that’s just my opinion).

      Believe it or not, I do respect Jim Wallis’ concern for the poor and marginalized. I appreciate his work to get churches more involved. We just see different solutions. I vehemently disagree with his position on health care, but I believe he means well and that he is presenting what he feels is best for the country. I believe that about President Obama as well. Let’s give Governor Palin the same consideration, and I don’t think calling her an embarrassment to the people of God helps the discussion.

    1. @Jack Brooks, Fair question. I haven’t seen his personal statement of faith. I know that he considers himself to be an evangelical. He also attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I think his intentions were good when he started out, but has become a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party just like he accuses James Dobson to be one for the GOP.

      I think he’s likely become more liberal in his theology as well, but haven’t read enough by him to say for sure.

    2. @Jack Brooks, Mr. Brooks’ post and your reply illustrate why I wish Christians would avoid the use of labels to describe and categorize people. Though he insinuates that Jim Wallis may not be an “orthodox” Christian, you recast the discussion in terms of “evangelical” versus “liberal,” neither of which is synonymous with nor antithetical to orthodox Christianity–assuming we could all agree on what we mean by “orthodox.” At the theological seminary I lead, we try to help our students move beyond this use of labels, especially in a prescriptive or pejorative manner.

  3. Sojourner dude needs to look at the 2×4 in his own eye
    before taking the speck out of Sara’s eye.

    This is typical Christian left thinking. They try to keep
    an open mind on all matters except anyone associated
    with Evangelical Christianity. Then their mind slams shut.
    .-= LarryK12309´s last blog ..I’ve got my eye on YOU! =-.

  4. LarryK12309, I suggest that you need to realize that Matthew 7:3-5 is one of the most misused passages of scripture. It is NOT saying it is wrong to judge another, but that you need to be prepared to be judged yourself when you engage in it. Many unsaved (try to) use it to shut up the believers when they are quoting scripture that bears on something they are doing that is wrong. Many times it is used in a “prideful” way and is like saying, “my problem is minute compared to yours, so you need to shut-up!” Realize, LarryK12309, that I could have told you to take the 2X4 our of your eye before talking about the splinter in Sojourner’s eye, but that would be stooping to the level of what I’m speaking against.:)
    btw, anyone that goes into politics had better be prepared to be criticized.

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