Last week at the Values, Vision, and the Via Media conference, we had the privilage to hear an address by Jim Wallis. As usual, Wallis was stirring, charismatic, inspiring, and frustrating (occasionally, he was inspiring and frustrating simultaneously).
I'm glad that progressive Christians have Jim Wallis. Unlike many of us, his activism is rooted in a concrete decision to live his life in accord with his deepest principles. So, he lives among the impoverished in Washington, D.C., he remains, as near as I can tell, a committed pacifist, and he's been arrested more times than he himself can probably count in the name of his faith and his principles. He's travelled the world witnessing to the idea that an active faith in Christ requires of us that we care for the poor, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked and visit the imprisoned. In the sheep/goat dichotomy, he's a sheep if anyone is, and we goats ought to be glad he's around to keep us honest.
But (you just knew there was a but, didn't you?), Jim's vision of the future of progressive Christianity is inextricibly intertwined with the world of Sojourners. When pressed on how we go about building a progressive Christian movement, he made continual reference to Sojourners Magazine, Sojomail, Call to Renewal, etc. Now, in a world where Sojourners is the only voice willing to speak out for progressive Christian faith, this is understandable, but it's time for Jim to look around and see a new generation of progressive Christian activist, ready and willing to speak and act out of their conviction that faith in Jesus Christ requires committed social action in the name of justice.
Who do I mean? All you need to do is read this site. We have the brilliant Jo Guldi and Kety Esquival, each of whom was brave enough to challenge Jim on his narrow focus. There are the other members of the CrossLeft Advisory group, all of whom have committed themselves to growing this movement. There are progressive Christian bloggers of all shapes and sizes, out there on the internet proclaiming like lonely prophets in the midst of a desert.
Let their voices be heard! Let them rise to leadership! Raise them up and place the future in their hands! They are the ones who will lead us forward into an era of progressive renewal, when Christians can recognnize that their moral responsibility for society includes those who are cast out by the powerful, and non-Christians can recognize that we who follow Christ are not defined by the constricted and bigoted pseudo-theology of the Religious Right.
This is what we need: We need Jim Wallis to look beyond his own staff to see the next generation of leaders. The leaders are all around us, in every corner of our nation, already organizing. If Jim Wallis will reach out and embrace them, nourish the movements that they are building, and proclaim their presence, their power and their number will increase, and they will flourish.