Jim Wallis's moral vision
In my work as Executive Director of Interfaith Youth Core, I get to be on stage with a lot of experts. I don't get to be on stage with that many heroes. Last night was different - I had the privilege of interviewing Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, for an event at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
I first met Jim Wallis about 15 years ago when I was a college student. I had recently studied a woman named Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Much to my parent's chagrin, instead of getting an internship, I took the summer after my sophomore year of college to travel through Catholic Worker houses up and down the eastern seaboard. One of my questions was always "Who is the Dorothy Day of this era?" - and the answer that I got was Jim Wallis.
I showed up at Sojourners office in DC one day in the summer of 1995, and I demanded to see Jim Wallis. His staff informed that he was in the office for exactly one day that month - today - but that there was no way I was going to be able to get a meeting. I wasn't that interested in taking no for an answer, so I found out where Jim Wallis lived, and waited for him on his stoop.
I finally got meet him when he came home after a long day. I met a man who I soon realized was not today's Dorothy Day, but today's Jim Wallis. And from the stoop to the stage, our conversations have continued. Tonight's was about Jim's new book, Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street.
Jim and I talked about many topics last - what it will take to alleviate poverty, effect political change, get folks back into the workforce - but one thing became clear.
Nothing changes until we do.
At the Compassion Forum before the 2008 election, Jim challenged then-Candidate Obama to commit to cutting poverty in half in ten years. Obama responded that we have to do that, but it will be challenging. He said, "I will commit to that, but I won't be able to do it without all of you."
Again and again, Wallis pointed out poverty doesn't change until we do. Clean energy is about more than re-wiring energy, it's' about rewiring our expectations and habits. In essence, we have to take responsibility for the things we feel deeply connected to.
He argues that we are in an economic crisis because we have wealth without work and commerce without morality. For example, as he also explained to Jon Stewart Thursday night on the Daily Show, the bonuses paid out this year - $150 billion from 6 banks - could erase the budget gap in all 50 states, or prevent or postpone foreclosures until 2012. But these bonuses are a symptom of a larger problem: the erosion of underlying values.
Jim puts it in simple terms: we won't have an economic recovery until we have a morality recovery.
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