Jim Wallis, Sojourner

by Melannie Svoboda SND on July 24, 2017

During my retreat last Fall, I listened to some talks by Jim Wallis, a Christian writer who speaks regularly at religious conferences, often Catholic ones.  His writings and talks both inspire me and challenge me. I’d like to share some of his thoughts with you.

Jim Wallis

First though, let me tell you a little about Jim Wallis. He was born in 1948 in Detroit, MI where he grew up in the city and attended an Evangelical Church. He eventually graduated from the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois. But somewhere along the way, Wallis came into contact with Catholic social teaching. It changed his life. Today it fuels his passion for peace and social justice.  Wallis is the founder of Sojourner, both the magazine and the Washington D.C. based Christian community.

Wallis is married to Joy Carroll, one of the first women ordained a priest in the Church of England. They have two sons. He is the personal friend of people such as Desmond Tutu, Bono, and Bill and Linda Gates. He has also served as spiritual adviser to former President Obama. Over the years he has been arrested 22 times for acts of civil disobedience. At the same time, he has won numerous awards for his writings and his work. Here are thirteen quotations of his from my retreat notes. I invite you to read them prayerfully and see if any of them speak to your heart.

1) “The world will not change until we do.”

2) “Jesus didn’t say, ‘Blessed are the peace-lovers.’ He said, ‘Peace-makers.’ He is referring to a life vocation, not a hobby on the sidelines of life.”

3) “Hope unbelieved is always considered nonsense. But hope believed is history in the process of becoming changed.”

4) “We can find common ground only by moving to higher ground.”

5) “A budget is a moral document.”

A Haitian woman in her shop.

6) “The three wealthiest people on earth now control more assets than the combined incomes of 600 million people in the world’s 48 poorest countries.”

7) “So when the only domestic social policy is tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthiest Americans, we say, ‘Where is faith being put into action here?’”

8) “Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to reveal a social disaster.” (He was referring to Haiti.)

9) “Poverty is the new slavery. Poverty and global inequality are the fundamental moral issues of our day.”

10) “The people who have more money and goods than any people in the history of the world spend most of their time worrying about not having enough.”

11) “Last year Americans spent $450 billion on Christmas. Clean water for the whole world, including every poor person on the planet, would cost about $20 billion. Let’s just call (our spending on Christmas) what it is: A material blasphemy of the Christmas season.”

12) “At times I think the truest image of God is a black inner city grandmother in the United States today or a mother of the disappeared in Argentina or the women who wake up early to make tortillas in refugee camps. They all weep for their children and in their compassionate tears arises the political action that changes the world. The mothers show us that it is the experience of touching the pain of others that is the key to change.”

13) “Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, and then watching the evidence change.”

I’ll close with an “interesting” little story Wallis told. One Sunday his wife, the priest, was presiding at the altar at Mass. Wallis was sitting in a pew with his two small sons. In the middle of the service, his youngest boy whispered to his father, “Are men allowed to do what Mom is doing?”

Do any of Wallis’ statements touch your heart? If so, which one(s) and why?

Do any challenge you? 

Are there any you don’t like or don’t agree with?

The video today is called “I will Be My Brother’s Keeper” from a song by Matt Maher. As we listen to the words, may we reflect on how we can help to be the “keeper” of the brothers and sisters we meet today—whether at home, at work, in a store, on the street, or in the news.

 

PS: I want to thank all the wonderful people I met at Villa Maria Del Mar retreat center in Santa Cruz, California from July 7-14. The center is located right on Monterey Bay. One highlight for all of us was spotting a whale in the bay. We watched her from inside the retreat center. We first saw her spout a few times and then she rose straight up out of the water as if to get a better look at us! Thank you too for all the women I met at the Presentation Motherhouse in the heart of San Francisco on Sunday, July 16. In the group were two women who were born and raised in Chardon, OH! Small world! Special thanks to my two hostesses: Rose Anne Ryken (Santa Cruz) and Sister Rosina Conrotto (San Francisco).

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Magiera July 24, 2017 at 5:23 am

Sr. Melannie,

The little interesting story at the end about Jim Wallis’ son touched me. In these turbulent political times where our poor brothers and sisters seem to be pushed aside daily, an anecdote like that made me smile and gives me hope.

God bless!

Kathleen

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john hopkins July 24, 2017 at 7:02 am

Good morning, Sr. Melannie. The fact Jim Wallis cites about what we spend to satisfy our Christmas shopping juxtaposed to the amount of money it would take to provide fresh water for the whole planet is sobering, to say the least. That statistic should “afflict the comforted.”

Thank you…..

John

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Nancy July 24, 2017 at 10:05 am

How is the $450 billion dollars spent on Christmas calculated? Does it include company Christmas parties for employees, family Christmas vacations and family travel to grandparents, or is it just gifts?

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Melannie Svoboda SND July 25, 2017 at 6:51 am

Good question, Nancy. I don’t know the answer. Perhaps we can find the answer on some other website… Thank you for responding. Sr. Melannie

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JoAnn Welch July 24, 2017 at 10:14 am

Sr. Melannie…I have subscribed to Sojourners Magazine for years. Jim is terrific…in fact Sr. Laurie, aother friend, and I took a bus trip to D.C. .10 years ago to protest the Iraqi war and Jim was the main speaker. He really does live and preach the true message of Jesus…love and forgiveness and non violence. I just read an interesting idea…perhaps the church will eventually be more about deeds than dogmas!! Blessings…

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Mary July 24, 2017 at 10:27 am

Just last week a wealthy person told me she loses sleep over that fact she pays 50% income taxes and how unjust that is. I was totally shocked by her attitude , and I could see how it interferes with her ability to enjoy what she does have. Evidently, income disparity causes grief on both sides of the coin. I always find Jim Wallis’ reflections powerful and thought provoking. Thanks for sharing these 13 comments.

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Suzanne Sayer July 24, 2017 at 10:58 am

The thought on Christmas spending is very sobering. Going to pray to find ways to change that in my little life.

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Evelyn Allen, PhD July 24, 2017 at 11:05 am

The comment by Jim Wallis’ son certainly resonates. My nonprofit is hosting a seminar “Women in the Diaconate” on Sat. Nov. 11th in Naples, Fl. Since Pope Francis authorized a commission to study this issue, the seminar explores the history and theology of deacons, both women and men in the Catholic Church. Details are on the website.
The other comment I have is that I wish our legislators in DC could read your blog and follow their conscience, not their party.

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Ardy July 24, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Jim seems to be a living embodiment of the voice of Jesus for our times. I too lay awake at night thinking of all the innocent displaced people of Syria … and the middle east…the children born who have known only war, the mothers looking for food and shelter, the elderly and the sick in the middle of all the violence ….in the desert. Listening to his insights gives me hope that someone else is “seeing” the world the same way I do. Maybe if enough of us become “sober” …we can find a solution to the greatest disparity of this present age.

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Josita July 24, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Dear Melannie,
Thanks once more for shaking up my complacency .
I especially liked # 9. Poverty is the new slavery. What a sad but true insight.
I also loved #12…….I fully agree with his truest image of God…so, so accurate!
Also enjoyed his last story!
Blessings to you. Josita

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Ophelia Lee July 24, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Sr. Melannie,

#10 got me. I’m guilty! I am going to stop doing that worrying and thank God for allowing me more than I need and enough to share.

#11 What a sin! If those figures are anywhere near accurate, judgment is going to go hard on us. I have come to believe that Christmas giving should focus on those who get so little all year long.

Thank you for the conscience cleanse.

O. Lee

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Vera July 25, 2017 at 7:49 pm

#4…moving to “higher ground” to find common ground…given the partisan politics rending our country to shreds, this comment really touched me. And #9… And again, we see a systematic dismantling of safety networks for the most needy unfolding each day in DC. I am in amazement at Jim Wallis’s longstanding commitment to peace and justice. His words should echo through Congress!!!! God bless him and God help the United States.

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