Not ‘religious left” says Sojourners’ Jim Wallis

SojournersDoes the Christian organization Sojourners represent the "religious left"? No, insists Jim Wallis, a founder of the organization which publishes the EPA member magazine Sojourners. Correcting a characterization of a Sojourners campaign by one of the organization's staff members, Wallis said the organization aims to transcend the traditional right-left divide.

Before Sojourners launched its "Mobilization to End Poverty," Deputy Press Secretary Jason Gedeik sent an e-mail to media media contacts identifying the campaign as “the first big mobilization of the Religious Left in the Obama era.” The message said, "This is the Religious Left filling the hole created by the decline of the Religious Right but now we have the political power and ear of the White House." Christianity Today’s Politics blog posted quotes from the e-mail and asked if the writer was "off message ... or is Sojourners rebranding itself?"

Wallis wrote, "I can emphatically say that he was 'off message.' While drawing inspiration from other Christian traditions and convening a broad spectrum of Christians to fight poverty, Sojourners and I have always identified with the evangelical tradition. The founders of Sojourners, including me, came together at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Our Sojourners magazine is a member of the Evangelical Press Association, from which we have won numerous awards." (This year [2009], Sojourners took top honors in the "general" category in EPA's Awards of Excellence competition.")

In 2004 Wallis told the Seattle Times, "People of faith should not be in any party's pockets, any candidate's pockets. The religious right was a political party, not a religious one. There should not now be a religious left."

Wallis added, "That is still true. Our Mobilization was a broad coalition of Christians — some progressive, some moderate, and some conservative. It was not a mobilization of the religious left, but a mobilization of Christians from across the political spectrum who are committed to those whom Jesus called “the least of these who are members of my family.”

In a follow-up phone call with Christianity Today, Gedeik said, ""Regardless of how we want to be branded, the media likes to use phrases that are easily encapsulated. 'Progressive' is the word Jim likes to use, but for the media 'progressive' and 'left' or 'liberal' are somewhat interchangeable."