Jim Wallis warns against religious right in Australia

By staff writers
April 10, 2006

Jim Wallis warns against religious right in Australia

-10/04/06

American Christian peace and justice activist Jim Wallis has told a Melbourne audience that Australia must beware the rise of the religious right in its midst.

Wallis, who is often characterized as a leading representative of the ìreligious leftî, but seeks to disavow sectional labels, is best known for his association with the radical Sojourners magazine.

He told the audience at the launch of the Australian edition of his best-selling book, God's Politics: Why the American Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, that religious faith would be an influential force in Australian politics for the next decade.

But he said the country was in danger, like the USA, of allowing the religious right to dominate its debates and legislative manoeuvres.

"It is clear from Ö the abortion debate and the rise of Family First that Australia, like many countries, is witnessing a new religious force that could change the political landscape," declared Wallis.

"The other danger is the way Australia has so often followed in lock-step with some of America's worst mistakes and policies, defying the world on Iraq or Kyoto or torture," he told The Age newspaper.

Mr Wallis continued: "This needs to be challenged, and it's better challenged by friends."

The Christian leader also spoke about tackling poverty at Melbourne Town Hall in association with Micah Challenge, an evangelical network which has brought many of its constituency into cooperation with Make Poverty History campaign.

"People of faith can change the nation ó they've done it in the past," declared Wallis. But he warned that this must be done by persuasion and cooperation, not domination and manipulation.

A spokeswoman for Family First, Senator Steve Fielding, said that the controversial organization was not intending to become a Christian party.

Ironically, the founder of the Australian Christian Lobby, seen as being on the right, is Brigadier Jim Wallace. On paper he has little in common with his American counterpart, but he said he had read and agreed with the first few chapters of Wallis' book and agreed with everything.

"Where he's coming from is exactly where the Christian Lobby tries to be," claimed the Brigadier.

Although Jim Wallis has been a trenchant critic of what he sees as the imperial designs of the religious right, personified by figures such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, he has tried to keep a dialogue going ñ particularly about what is meant by ëbiblical valuesí, and how they can and cannot be applied to wider society.

Wallis was in Britain recently to promote Godís Politics. He has a friendly relationship with UK chancellor and possible future Labour leader, Gordon Brown, who comes from a Presbyterian background and wrote a preface to the British edition of the book.

Christian progressives and radicals believe that there is a legitimate role for faith in politics, but stress Jesusí major concern with the poor and marginalized as their defining tenet.

Along with Anabaptists, secularists and others they have also critiqued the ëChristendomí alliance of church and state.

Jim Wallis warns against religious right in Australia

-10/04/06

American Christian peace and justice activist Jim Wallis has told a Melbourne audience that Australia must beware the rise of the religious right in its midst.

Wallis, who is often characterized as a leading representative of the ìreligious leftî, but seeks to disavow sectional labels, is best known for his association with the radical Sojourners magazine.

He told the audience at the launch of the Australian edition of his best-selling book, God's Politics: Why the American Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, that religious faith would be an influential force in Australian politics for the next decade.

But he said the country was in danger, like the USA, of allowing the religious right to dominate its debates and legislative manoeuvres.

"It is clear from Ö the abortion debate and the rise of Family First that Australia, like many countries, is witnessing a new religious force that could change the political landscape," declared Wallis.

"The other danger is the way Australia has so often followed in lock-step with some of America's worst mistakes and policies, defying the world on Iraq or Kyoto or torture," he told The Age newspaper.

Mr Wallis continued: "This needs to be challenged, and it's better challenged by friends."

The Christian leader also spoke about tackling poverty at Melbourne Town Hall in association with Micah Challenge, an evangelical network which has brought many of its constituency into cooperation with Make Poverty History campaign.

"People of faith can change the nation ó they've done it in the past," declared Wallis. But he warned that this must be done by persuasion and cooperation, not domination and manipulation.

A spokeswoman for Family First, Senator Steve Fielding, said that the controversial organization was not intending to become a Christian party.

Ironically, the founder of the Australian Christian Lobby, seen as being on the right, is Brigadier Jim Wallace. On paper he has little in common with his American counterpart, but he said he had read and agreed with the first few chapters of Wallis' book and agreed with everything.

"Where he's coming from is exactly where the Christian Lobby tries to be," claimed the Brigadier.

Although Jim Wallis has been a trenchant critic of what he sees as the imperial designs of the religious right, personified by figures such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, he has tried to keep a dialogue going ñ particularly about what is meant by ëbiblical valuesí, and how they can and cannot be applied to wider society.

Wallis was in Britain recently to promote Godís Politics. He has a friendly relationship with UK chancellor and possible future Labour leader, Gordon Brown, who comes from a Presbyterian background and wrote a preface to the British edition of the book.

Christian progressives and radicals believe that there is a legitimate role for faith in politics, but stress Jesusí major concern with the poor and marginalized as their defining tenet.

Along with Anabaptists, secularists and others they have also critiqued the ëChristendomí alliance of church and state.

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