I’ve got a review of the new Jim Wallis tome, The Great Awakening, in the newest issue of The American Conservative (available in print only, so buy an issue!). One of the points I made in the piece is that, often enough, Wallis’ role is simply to play the Respectable Liberal Christian whenever the left needs one. For all practical purposes, he’s treated as a political tool by the people he supports. This Nicholas Kristof column from a few weeks back pretty much spells it out. He doesn’t mind accepting the support of liberal Christians like Wallis, and loves touting Wallis’ dubious that half of white evangelical votes will be in play this year, but he goes out of his way to spew venom at evangelicalism’s more conservative wings:
Look, I don’t agree with evangelicals on theology or on their typically conservative views on taxes, health care or Iraq. Self-righteous zealots like Pat Robertson have been a plague upon our country, and their initial smugness about AIDS (which Jerry Falwell described as “God’s judgment against promiscuity”) constituted far grosser immorality than anything that ever happened in a bathhouse. Moralizing blowhards showed more compassion for embryonic stem cells than for the poor or the sick, and as recently as the 1990s, evangelicals were mostly a constituency against foreign aid.
In other words, I can’t stand these guys, but I’ll take their votes on my issues if I can get them and leave them hanging everywhere else.
Thing is, I feel a measure of sympathy for Wallis; he’s a classic outsider, not quite fitting in with either his chosen political movement or the majority of his fellow evangelicals. But he’s allowed himself to be used by that very political movement, which, on the whole, cares very little for his religious beliefs and primarily wants to use him to peel off a couple of votes from the evangelical community.