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The Soul of Politics: Beyond "Religious Right" and "Secular Left" Paperback – September 15, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The founding editor of Sojourners magazine, Wallis criticizes both liberals and conservatives and argues in favor of a progressive platform backed by an emphasis on spirituality.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A passionate plea for social justice and renewal, from the nationally known activist, preacher, and editor of Sojourners magazine. Drawing on his firsthand experience of inner-city life in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Chicago and his visits to trouble spots such as Nicaragua, the Philippines, and South Africa, Wallis (The Call to Conversion, 1981) sets out his vision of a new politics, based on biblical principles, that incorporates both liberal social concern and conservative zeal for personal responsibility. He is at his best, however, when describing actual incidents and people. We meet Mrs. Mary Glover, a 60-year-old African-American woman at the Sojourners' Neighborhood Center, 20 blocks from the White House, who prays aloud each morning before the hungry arrive for food: ``Lord, we know that you'll be comin' through this line today. So help us to treat you well.'' We hear of 13-year-old Eddie, who gets drawn into drug-dealing and death on the streets of the capital. Wallis, whose heroes are Gandhi, Dorothy Day, and Nelson Mandela, is eloquent in his denunciation of consumerism and the huge gap between the affluent and the poor. He argues that the concept of human rights, rather than being seen as individual rights, should be broadened by a notion of community and deepened by a sense of the image of God in each person. Wallis's view of a social action that would link the issues of poverty, racism, sexism, and nuclear weapons is more visionary than practical, and his style is overly rhetorical and preachy. He avoids discussing the underlying philosophical questions of how society should be run and what people's duties are to each other, and his assessments of people and situations, such as that of contemporary South Africa, can be idealistic and na‹ve. The foreword is by Garry Wills and the preface by Cornel West. A stimulating vision of a just society but with little meat for those who want to ask deeper questions. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st Harvest ed edition (September 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156003287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156003285
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,950,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on March 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Have you ever bought an interesting-looking book, tucked it away on a shelf, finally gotten around to reading it a couple of years later, and then kicked yourself for waiting so long? That's how I felt when I at last read Jim Wallis' *Soul of Politics*. If it doesn't reinspire you to work for a better society, nothing will.
Wallis calls for what he calls a "prophetic politics of personal and social transformation," one that's built on the Judaeo-Christian insight that righteousness requires both individual and social responsibility. A contemporary re-application of this insight can help the secular left and the religious right learn from and complement one another and break free of the dysfunctional impasse they've reached. The left tends to overemphasize structural evil at the expense of individual responsibility; the right tends to overemphasize individual virtue while ignoring structural evil. But the prophetic politics--the politics with soul--Wallis advocates takes both into consideration. Individual responsibility to other individuals, to the community, to the environment, a call to action that "challenges the old while announcing the new" (p. 53), a spirit-filled replacement of unjust institutions that prevent humans from attaining maximal being: this is the heart of Wallis' message.
It's easy to become cynical and opt out of the political arena to cultivate one's own garden. But if Wallis is correct, such a withdrawal--if I may use an old-fashioned word that we perhaps ought to take seriously again--is a sin. To remain silent in the face of injustice is to acquiesce to it. Wallis' book gives us a good idea of how to go about healing the fragmentation of our society. The last third of the book deals with strategic details.
Read this book. Politics is too important to be left to the professional politicians.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 24, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Wallis may be the most balanced voice in our culture today. In The Soul of Politics, he first tears away at silly conservative notions of "me first" and "us against them". He especially dresses down the radical religious right for misappropriating the sacred name of Jesus for the sake of obtaining raw political power. But just as you begin to think Wallis is a left-wing liberal, he rips into "feelgood" liberal approaches to society that have been proven failures. Instead, Wallis suggests a new polemic, really rooted in the prophets of old, that teaches both personal, moral responsibility and genuine, Christian compassion. He rejects false choices of left versus right and invites all people of faith, especially Christians, to create a new politics of community, compassion and civility. Wallis is a noted Evangelical. He's currently a fellow at Harvard but also heads the Christ-centered "Sojourners" magazine and urban ministry in the nation's capitol. Please...read The Soul of Politics. You will be challenged and encouraged!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Please ignore the media's obsession with portraying all people of faith as right wing Republicans.
Wallis understands that being a Christian is not about intolerance to minorities, or unbridled capitalism. Wallis understands Jesus' ministry to the poor and warnings to those in power and with great wealth of the responsibilities they have to "the least among us."
While the mass media continues to consult the likes of Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, etc for the "Christian" view, pastors like Wallis are reminding us the faith in God is not about power grabs and ostracizing others.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book was truly an eye-opener for me. From Wallis's evaluation of what the Old-Testament prophets REALLY spent most of their time addressing, to suggestions as to how we can help solve the challenging societal problems that we face... I just found this book amazing. The first book in years that I've wanted to buy by the caseload and distribute randomly to anybody who'll take a copy. Highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Please ignore the media's obsession with portraying all people of faith as right wing Republicans.
Wallis understands that being a Christian is not about intolerance to minorities, or unbridled capitalism. Wallis understands Jesus' ministry to the poor and warnings to those in power and with great wealth of the responsibilities they have to "the least among us."
While the mass media continues to consult the likes of Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, etc for the "Christian" view, pastors like Wallis are reminding us the faith in God is not about power grabs and ostracizing others.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Valentine Dworak on July 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Jim Wallis delivers and excellent work I was alerted to a few years ago. This book forces Christians, from both sides of the political spectrum to examine what they believe, and why they believe it. Especially pointed are the criticisms of how both sides have plans to deal with the poor, but both are off base in the extremes of what they are trying to accomplish. Jim Wallis lives to serve the less-fortunate, and it shows in his servant attitude as he wrote this book. I give Jim Wallis high marks for this book that challenges the status-quo.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By raulduke on November 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
As someone that journeyed into the political life of this nation as a young man, I came to have a jaded and pessimistic view of the entire body politic. Watching the workings of committees and the deal making process that is the creation of legislation, I became convencied that entering public life would mean a compromise of my faith, values, and sense of social justice. I left political life disgusted with both sides. However, after reading the Soul of Politics, I have become excited and refreshed to know that on the rise, a movement is working to bringing true faith in God and eachother into serious political discourse. I believe that now, more than ever, people are sick of the abuse and perversion of the faith that the "religious right" trumphets as the "will of God," and the ignorance of the "secular left" in completly disregarding the faith as irrevelant in solving social and political problems. This is not simply an ideological portrait of how things could be, but, a plan that is working in areas across this country. I reccomend this book to anyone that believes we need a new direction and center in the public life of our nation. Out of the numerous books on public policy and political science that I have read in university and these last six years after graduation, The Soul of Politics was the most important. I only wish that I had found Sojourners before leaving D.C.
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