An Open Letter to Jim Wallis and the Sojourners Movement

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

As one who has opposed the U.S. war in Iraq from its inception, I was pleased to see your recent statement opposing that conflict, as well as a general statement on war itself. That Lew Rockwell would choose to run it on his page speaks highly of the statement, since I trust Lew’s judgment on these things — and I know that he opposes this war for all of the right reasons.

However, as you can guess, if all I were doing was to congratulate you on this latest advancement for the anti-war cause, this would be a very short piece of work indeed. But while I agree with the statement — at least for the most part — I am familiar enough with you and Sojourners to know that much of what you have written reeks of the worst kind of hypocrisy, and I have called your hand on more than one occasion.

Let me examine one of your most salient points, that being the importance of the rule of law:

We reject the false teaching that any human being can be defined as outside the law’s protection. We reject the demonization of perceived enemies, which only paves the way to abuse; and we reject the mistreatment of prisoners, regardless of supposed benefits to their captors.

I must say that I could not agree more with what you have written — and wish only that you agreed with it, too. Yes, you are speaking about the prisoners at Guantanamo and men like Jose Padilla, who are basically being held incommunicado without being charged with anything. But you are not alone in your denunciations of these acts of government lawlessness; both James Bovard and Jacob Hornberger have written eloquent — and intellectually consistent — articles on this same subject and, unlike what I read in Sojourners, they do so while demonstrating that the all-powerful state is the culprit behind these acts.

There is a real difference between what Bovard and Hornberger write and what you put in Sojourners, however. You may write about the rule of law, but you do not believe it, or, to put it another way, you want rule of law for people like Padilla, but not for the Martha Stewarts of this world.

A few years ago, in the wake of the Enron scandals, you had a field day. The problem, you wrote, was the lack of government regulation, as though the securities industry were a laissez-faire wonderland. You were in your element, since the central theme of Sojourners from day one (including the days when you were in Chicago and called your publication Post-American) has been anti-capitalism. When Janet Jackson bared her breast during the 2004 Super Bowl, you immediately blamed capitalism; when refugees were fleeing Vietnam in the late 1970s, many perishing in the open seas, you blamed capitalism and condemned the refugees for leaving and declared that they were nothing more than "consumerists" who were "in search of a fix." You said those words; I have not put them into your mouth.

You see, I agree with your assessment of what the Bush Administration is doing in Iraq, and with your call for rule of law. However, where were you when the government was passing laws that criminalized free speech (McCain-Feingold) and eviscerated the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth amendments of the U.S. Constitution (Sarbanes-Oxley)? When McCain-Feingold passed, Scott Harshbarger wrote in your publication: "Passage is a triumph of faith in our democracy, our government by the people. We all showed we can win a fight, even against the concentrated power of great wealth."

(By the way, Harshbarger was a prosecutor in Massachusetts and gained fame by his wrongful and malicious prosecutions of people falsely accused of sexually molesting children. Harvey Silverglate, who is a friend of liberty was involved with some of those cases; you may want to contact him to hear what he has to say about Mr. Harshbarger. I can give you his email and his website address if you would like. Mr. Harshbarger apparently does not believe in rule of law, so you can understand why I become suspicious when you give a man like that space in your publication.)

Yes, McCain-Feingold managed to impose the rule of the impervious state over the rule of law, and you treated it as a triumph of theological Truth. And what about your reaction to the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley? Since you claim to champion the rule of law, I would suspect that you would have seen through this as a scheme to destroy rule of law.

Oh, sorry, I was mistaken. In reaction to that law and its anti-Constitutional components, you declared: "Amen to that. Corporate CEOs, no less than everyone else, have a responsibility to the common good, not just to the bottom line." To put it another way, this goes along with your theme (and I must admit you have been consistent) that the law needs to apply one way to the wealthy and another way to the poor. Since you are fond of quoting the Bible, perhaps you should remind your readers of the truths found in Leviticus 19:15. Yes, I know you probably don’t like that verse; it says that one should neither defer to the rich nor the poor, but rather justice should operate on one standard.

You also like to quote the Old Testament prophet Amos — remaking his words into something akin to The Communist Manifesto (or even Mein Kampf, for that matter), and you liberally sprinkle Bible versus where you think they may suit your point of view. For example, in your recent "God is not a Republican, or a Democrat," you declare:

We believe that poverty – caring for the poor and vulnerable – is a religious issue. Do the candidates’ budget and tax policies reward the rich or show compassion for poor families? Do their foreign policies include fair trade and debt cancellation for the poorest countries? (Matthew 25:35-40, Isaiah 10:1-2)

We believe that the environment – caring for God’s earth – is a religious issue. Do the candidates’ policies protect the creation or serve corporate interests that damage it? (Genesis 2:15, Psalm 24:1)

That is all well and good, although what you really mean is that the Bible fully supports your vision of the welfare state, and that all environmental laws — not matter how ridiculous or harmful — are protected by the Bible. Elsewhere, you have quoted Scripture to back your view that we must discourage poor nations from developing free and strong economies, making them part of a larger world-wide welfare state, instead. In other words, what you really believe is that there should be a world-wide regime of forced labor in which people in Western nations should be forced to work to support people elsewhere, with most of their incomes taken in the form of taxation.

Like so many other leftists, you try to convince us that the way to improve life for people in the Third World is for the USA to impose trade barriers or for the U.N. to impose a world-wide minimum wage. Actually, your economic demands are nothing more than a call to further impoverish people who are living on the margins of life — but the leaders of western labor unions sure like what you have to say. You and the unions call it "social justice," but some of us see all of this as organized theft.

You speak often of the poor and remind readers that the Bible speaks to the issues of wealth and poverty in numerous places. With that, I agree. Furthermore, I have tried to live my life with that truth in mind. However, because I do not agree with you on the nature and scope of the welfare state, you most likely would think of me as a racist or worse. (I have adopted three children, one from Guatemala and two from Ethiopia, so in order for you to call me a racist, you would have to infer that I hate my own children. But, I would not put such maliciousness past you.) Furthermore, we have opened our home to people in need on many occasions and have sheltered people who were temporarily homeless, but since those acts are being done under the umbrella of private property, I suspect you would not care much for that.

I remember when Jesse Jackson, a U.S. Presidential candidate in 1984, released his tax returns. It seems that in 1983, he and his wife earned about $115,000 of income — and gave $500 to churches and charity. In other words, the Jacksons were not willing to give of themselves in dealing with the needs of others, deferring to the welfare state instead. I make this point because you openly endorsed Jackson that year.

Of course, there is John Kerry. Yes, in the name of Christ, you basically served as a political operative for the Kerry campaign, yet I find it amusing that you were able to find a way to package your radical politics into the candidacy of an extremely wealthy person. It is interesting how you have used your pages to condemn people who started from near nothing and built large business enterprises. Remember your attacks on the founders of Amway? Yes, Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel are wealthy men who also claim to confess Christ; that was unacceptable, you wrote, as the Bible says people should not amass great wealth.

Yet, Kerry lives on millions and millions of dollars that other people earned, being that all of his wealth either comes from inheritance or from his current spouse and ex-wife. He and Mrs. Kerry own five mansions and a personal jet, and live lives of unimaginable luxury. Yet, according to you, he was an advocate for the poor and someone we should emulate. No, you are not a prophet, just a political operative.

There is much more to say, but I am running out of time and space to say it. As one who has followed your career for nearly three decades, I think I know your thinking by now. Yes, you are against the USA invading other countries, and I do praise you for that, especially since the so-called evangelical churches have fallen all over themselves in supporting Bush and his unjustified war.

But I have never read an issue of Sojourners without finding at least one (and usually many more than one) demand to increase the power and scope of the state. Yes, for all of your claims that you take a jaundiced view of state power, there is no one in the world of organized Christianity who has championed Leviathan more than you. I have come to believe that you oppose U.S. conflicts not so much because they are immoral, but rather because they take resources away from the government’s being able to wage war on productive people at home.

So, I give you one cheer for your recent statement, and that is only because some good people (as well as some not-so-good people) signed it and Lew Rockwell posted it. However, let me suggest to you that if you really want to understand the ravages of the state, as well as read articles by people who preach radical Christianity, don’t read the Nation and other leftist publications that you have emulated. No, read books by Bovard and read LewRockwell.com and the webpage of the Future of Freedom Foundation. You see, these are people who really do care about freedom and human rights. And unlike you, they are not political operatives posing as prophets. They are the real deal; you are not.

November 17, 2004

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

William Anderson Archives

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare