A few years ago I was searching for an alternative to the Religious Right style of Christian politics and came across Jim Wallis as he was doing a media tour promoting his new book God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. It seemed like every website I went to and every news station I watched had a feature on Jim and his form of politics. It was a breath of fresh air to find an alternative way to be a Christian in America other than being in the tank for the Republican Party.
I never read God’s Politics, but I did sign up for regular emails from Sojourners, the organization that Wallis was associated with (I think he founded it, but can’t verify that) that is committed to “articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.” At the onset, I appreciated reading regular alternatives and perspectives on the political topics of the day.
I can say that no longer.
Sojourners has lost all creditability in my view. They are obviously in the tank for the Democratic Party and have lost any and all “prophetic distance” with which to be able to critique our culture, church, and politics.
Perhaps I had not noticed it for the years before the 2008 Presidential campaign and election, but as time went by I noticed increasingly partisan stances from their publications. Fair enough, I thought, perhaps the Republicans are beyond help. I tried to give Sojourners the benefit of the doubt. In the past few days, however, I have noticed something even more troubling: Sojourners talking points are the exact same talking points of the Obama administration and the Democratic representatives in Congress. To know what is coming in my email inbox the next day from Sojourners, all I need to do is watch a press conference with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs or any of the Democratic Senators or Representatives on Meet the Press or This Week.
This week Sojourners has hit an all-time low, in my opinion. Rather than simply advocating for the Democrats version of health care reform, they have taken to the tactic of smearing conservative personalities Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly. For three straight days I have received an email smearing each of these media personalities and supporting their stances with personal anecdotes. Here are some quotes from the closing lines of each of the three emails:
Does Bill [O'Reilly] really think that the health-care crisis is only a problem for poor people? Or that clinics alone are a real solution? While his band-aid suggestions and scare tactics obscure the issue, the health-care crisis is making people poor as costs skyrocket – even for those with coverage…
The major proposals for health-care reform ensure that all people have access to affordable care, either through an employer-based plan or through subsidies to buy insurance in an exchange marketplace. The proposals also ensure that mental health care is included. This affordable access could have allowed Joshua to live out his days and contribute to his community. Rush [Limbaugh's] deliberate misinformation about the health-care crisis in our country could block this important reform.
The major proposals for health-care reform would prohibit insurance companies from arbitrarily canceling insurance and from denying needed care due to pre-existing conditions. This would ensure that all people have access to the care they need, when they need it. If this provision existed, Robin could have had her surgery at an earlier time, before possibly critical months had passed by. [Sean] Hannity’s deliberate misinformation about “government rationing” could block this important reform…
What tips me off to their complete bias is their use of anecdotes to back up their stance, not any sort of economic or statistical data. You can’t make policy decisions for 300 million people based on anecdotes. But you can pull on people’s heart strings. And Sojourners is trying to rally the troops to support Obamacare without using any form of discerning speech, only by appealing to people’s emotions and by demonizing easy right-wing targets.
Christian organizations should always be in the truth-telling business. Both political sides want us to believe that we can reform our current system with no downsides, that all the personal anecdotes about health care atrocities that strike fear into our hearts will disappear if only their plan passes. Well, that is simply not true. No system will be perfect, and Sojourners, as a Christian organization, an organization in the truth-telling business, should own up to the potential downsides of the proposed system, not simply the downsides of the current system.
Sojourners is not a Christian organization, but a lobbying group for the Democratic Party. In my mind, they have lost all credibility.
[For other thoughts on Christianity, health care, and truth-telling, check out this post by Andew Tatum]