During Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis’ recent appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, he dodged host Bill Maher’s pointed question regarding LGBT rights by claiming how “Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality.” Instead, this progressive evangelical leader continued to kick LGBT people under the civil rights bus by directing the conversation toward immigration reform and quoting those verses in Matthew 25 that address the need to welcome and care for the stranger.
While Wallis encourages Christians to speak out for a more inclusive America, he warns LGBT activists to stay out of this debate because now is the wrong place and time to resolve such a contentious issue. Jim Aravosis, editor of AMERICAblog, corrects any assumption that LGBT advocacy on immigration reform represents a move to legalise same-sex marriage. “It’s about gay couples being ripped apart by the US immigration system because their relationships aren’t recognised as legitimate. If they were straight, their spouses could stay. But because they’re gay, they can’t.”
When promoting his latest book in April 2013, Wallis’ agreed that same-sex couples should be included in the need for the overall renewal of marriage in contemporary culture. While his views on LGBT rights seem to have shifted slightly from 2011 when Sojourners rejected an LGBT welcome ad from the pro-LGBT Christian organisation Believe Out Loud (www.believeoutloud.com), Sarah Posner notes at Religion Dispatches, “Wallis doesn’t come right out and say he supports marriage equality, but embarks on a Heritage Foundation-inflected lecture about ‘recovenanting, reestablishing, renewing marriage.’”
In The Guardian’s “Belief” section, Jim Naughton debunked Wallis’ claim to represent the religious left while pandering to the religious right on this key issue.
Either one is the face of a movement whose values one embraces and espouses, or one practises circumspection to play the honest broker, the great convener, the architect of the grand synthesis. Wallis still wants to be both, and this is now manifestly unhelpful to LGBT people and their supporters.
Even though Wallis latest book title claims he’s On God’s Side, do his media friendly soundbites about Jesus’ love for the least of these include LGBT people? If so, what prevents him from uniting with those religious leaders and secular voices who have strived for decades to create spaces that welcome the contributions of women, people of colour and LGBT people? In particular, how will he champion the rights of binational gay and lesbian couples?
These questions should be asked yet again when Wallis arrives in the UK later this month to speak at the Greenbelt Festival. Hopefully, these attendees will require this self-proclaimed progressive evangelical leader to demonstrate prophetic action regarding LGBT rights instead of issuing vague platitudes.
Meanwhile, during a visit to the US Embassy in London, Secretary of State John Kerry stated the State Department was “tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States.” Effective immediately, the U.S. visa system will now treat same-sex married couples just as it does other married couples in issuing spousal visas.
So looks like the rest of the country is moving ahead while Wallis and his ilk continue to be left behind.