Over at The Washington Post’s “On Faith” column, I note how in an interview with The Huffington Post to promote his newly released book, Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners, seems to have come out in support of same sex marriage.
“We are losing marriage in this society. I’m worried about that — among low income people, but all people. How do we commit liberals and conservatives to re-covenanting marriage, reestablishing, renewing marriage?
“I think we should include same-sex couples in that renewal of marriage, [but] I want to talk marriage first. Marriage needs some strengthening. Let’s start with marriage, and then I think we have to talk about, now, how to include same-sex couples in that deeper understanding of marriage. I want a deeper commitment to marriage that is more and more inclusive, and that’s where I think the country is going.”
In her analysis of Wallis’ statement, Sarah Posner, senior staff writer for Religion Dispatches, assesses his leadership on this issue, noting how two years ago the Wallis-led social justice organization rejected Believe Out Loud’s LGBT welcome ad on the grounds they didn’t want to be seen as taking sides.
“Too many Christian leaders wait for public opinion to tell them how to lead. And then they wait for an interviewer to push them to speak plain English—and even then they use behind-covering doublespeak.”
While some self-proclaimed emergent and evangelical leaders welcomed this shift, I cautioned against breaking out the champagne just yet. While both Wallis and former evangelical megachurch pastor Rob Bell say they support civil marriages for lesbians and gays, they have yet to demonstrate if they will utilize their clout as CEO of the progressive evangelical organization Sojourners and one of Time Magazine’s 100 people of the year respectively to join with other liberal minded people of faith and secular voices in the battle for equal civil rights for all. For example, they have yet to indicate if would perform same-sex marriages or if they will push for equality in other areas of the church, such as the ordination of LGBT people and advancing the role of women in the church.
“I support equal protection under the law but I think this is the wrong place in the wrong time to try and resolve this contentious issue [meaning "gay marriage"]. This must be a bipartisan bill. Our focus must be on the 11 million undocumented and vulnerable people who this is their time, their chance, this is their moment.”
In a post on AMERICAblog, editor John Aravosis reminds Wallis, a man he dubs as the Religious Right’s beard and their water-boy of bigotry, this bill is not about “gay marriage.”
“It’s about gay couples being ripped apart by the US immigration system because their relationships aren’t recognized as legitimate. If they were straight, their spouses could stay. But because they’re gay, they can’t. So spare us the Rush-Limbaugh/Gary-Bauer/ Rick-Santorum talking points about how we’re pushing for ‘gay marriage’ in the immigration bill. We’re fighting for the immigration rights of our loved ones.”
Meanwhile, Wallis’ main battle seems to be maintaining his position on the Christian author/speaker circuit. In this quest, he will say whatever it takes to secure his position as a biblical beltway insider while he peddles his products. But for all the media fanfare following his very recent support of same sex marriage, his actions prove he lacks the courage of his convictions. His latest book titled may claim he’s “On God’s Side.” But in the end, Wallis demonstrates how his “ministry” is no longer about following the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth to love all but chasing the glare of the media spotlight.
Time to dim the lights. With Minnesota now passing marriage equality legislation, it’s game over for those religious leaders who refuse to march forward and demand equal rights and rites for all.
The Reverend Jim Wallis hosted a forum on faith with Democratic presidential candidates in 2007. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)