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Worshipping Obama By: Mark Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, January 29, 2009

Religious Left icon Jim Wallis of Sojourners sees Obama’s ascension almost eschatologically.

"My prayers for decades have been answered in this minute," Wallis breathlessly told The Washington Times after the inauguration, boasting of his friendship with Obama for years. "We've been talking faith and politics for a long time."

No doubt. Wallis, an old Religious Left activist of more than 40 years, is like aged Simeon in the Bible, whom the Holy Spirit had promised would not see death until the Lord’s Messiah had arrived. When the child Jesus was brought to the temple in Jerusalem, the on looking Simeon knew his life had been fulfilled: “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace.”

Simeon venerably saw Christ’s coming as a signal for his own departure. But Wallis, boasting of the extensive counsel that the new administration is already supposedly seeking from himself, seems to see the advent of his temporal messiah as a doorway into even greater prominence, political influence and activism.

“This White House wants our advice,” Wallis rejoiced in a recent column. “Leaders from the faith community have been virtually inhabiting the offices of the Transition Team over the last weeks, with our advice being sought on global and domestic poverty, human rights, criminal justice, torture, faith-based offices, foreign policy, Gaza and the Middle East. A staffer joked one day, ‘We should have just gotten all of you bunks here.’”

Presumably Wallis has been waiting to bunk down in a friendly White House for decades. The Carter and Clinton administrations, which had shared some if certainly not all of Wallis’ messianic politics, had initially excited but later disappointed. Wallis dramatically denounced Clinton’s “betrayal” after he signed welfare reform into law in 1996. So this most recent political savior had better not disappoint.

In his recent column, Wallis generously pronounced that America is a “a better country than I thought it was.” Across four decades, Wallis has “been fighting against all the bad stuff in America—the poverty, the racism, the human rights violations, and always the wars,” along with “the arrogance, self-righteousness, materialism, and ignorance of the rest of the world, the habitual ignoring of the ones that God says we can’t, the ones Jesus calls the least of these.” But now, with President Obama, Wallis feels “proud of my country for the first time in a very long time.”

So America, however sullied, turns out to have been worthy of all of Wallis’ pious exertions after all. “I am used to White Houses who want to arrest me—22 times over 40 years,” Wallis boasted ruefully. Wallis’ various sit-downs have protested U.S. wars and budget “cuts.” When the new President inevitably initiates military action, or fails fully to fund the latest social justice demand, will Wallis fall to the sidewalk again? Let’s wait and see. Meanwhile, Wallis glowingly painted Obama as the most “self disciplined political leader” he’s ever met, except for Nelson Mandela. Wallis promised to “offer challenge” to the new administration when appropriate. But for now, he’s comparing Obama to the prophet Nehemiah. After all, both Obama and the Old Testament prophet “carefully surveyed the broken walls of the temple, called the people together to start the rebuilding and to ‘commit themselves to the common good.’”

As Wallis interpreted the Obama Administration, Donald Rumsfeld’s national security strategy will “now be replaced by the wisdom of the prophet Micah—that our security depends upon other people’s security;” that Richard Cheney’s “secret governance and detention centers” will be replaced by rule of law and renunciation of “torture,” that the “money changers of the temples of Wall Street” will be chased out, and that American “manifest destiny” and “domination” will give way to “humility’ and a “new relationship to the world.”

In fact, like all presidents, when forced to choose, Obama will prioritize America’s security over the interests of other nations. Under President Obama, the armed forces, police services, and intelligence agencies will continue to seek to preempt and kill America’s enemies, when necessary, with or without humility, and often secretly, even sometimes employing aggressive interrogation techniques that under a previous president were derided as “torture.”

Wallis, like much of the Religious Left, is a pacifist absolutist, who abjures all coercive governmental force, at least in pursuit of national defense. Coercive state force is fine when compelling income redistribution or environmental regulation, of course. Although he disguised his pacifism during the Bush years as supposed objections to unjust military adventures, Wallis in fact rejects the traditional Christian understanding of St. Paul’s recognition in Roman’s 13 of the civil state’s divinely ordained responsibility to punish the wicked. Obama will not govern through voluntary “Christian Peacemaking Teams,” which is Wallis’ typical solution for international aggression.

Worry about those details later. For now, Wallis ascribes to his new President messianic hopes that Old Testament prophets once ascribed only to the coming Savior of Israel. After 40 years of protests, arrests and anguish over his sinful country, Wallis is perhaps entitled to a few moments of purportedly fulfilled prophecy.

Mark Tooley is president of the Institute for Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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