Appearing as a guest on Morning Joe Wednesday, liberal Rev. Jim Wallis discussed his book Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus. Not surprisingly, it did not take long for Wallis to begin trashing President Trump and white evangelical Christians. Another member of the panel, the incendiary Al Sharpton, accused white evangelicals of “submitting to white nationalism and to Trump,” a point that Wallis seemed to agree with.
After mentioning that “Lincoln said our leaders should appeal to our better angels,” Wallis contrasted him with President Trump, whom he described as “appeals to our worst demons.” Wallis recycled a phrase coined by absent host Joe Scarborough as he made the case that Trump’s “policies, words, and practices are antithetical to Jesus.” According to Wallis, the “policies, words, and practices” of the President include “white nationalism,” “abuse” and “harassment” of women, and the dehumanization of immigrants.
Wallis’s commentary surely came as music to the ears of the anti-Trump panel. Guest host Willie Geist asked Wallis “what do you say to those (evangelicals) who stay at the side of Donald Trump through all of it?” Wallis instead elected to go on a tirade accusing white evangelicals of racism: “this population, white evangelicals, is the most resistant to a multiracial future…when the operative phrase in white evangelical isn’t evangelical but white, we have a problem…Is racial bigotry a deal-breaker for the gospel when it isn’t for white evangelicals?”
PoliticsNation host Rev. Al Sharpton also participated in the discussion and seemed to agree with Wallis’s characterization of white evangelicals as racist, claiming that “most of the evangelical leaders have submitted to white nationalism and to Trump.” Wallis also made the ridiculous claim that “if Jesus were here today, he’d be celebrating the Black Lives Matter movement,” apparently forgetting that BLM activists have chanted phrases such as “What do we want? Dead cops!” and “pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon.” Those phrases do not exactly epitomize Christian behavior.
In addition to portraying Jesus Christ as a Black Lives Matter sympathizer, Wallis surmised that “he would be furiously defending the planet from global warming.” Strangely, Wallis had stressed that “our faith and values should shape our politics and not the other way around” just moments earlier. Yet, Wallis decided to ignore his own rule of thumb in an effort to paint Jesus as a left-wing activist.
Morning Joe’s embrace of Wallis should not come as that much of a surprise since they love to roll out the red carpet for self-proclaimed Christians with contempt for evangelicals who supported Trump. The MSNBC morning program has brought on New York Times contributing opinion writer and self-described evangelical Peter Wehner multiple times to trash Trump-supporting evangelicals for “selling their soul for judges” and claim “they’ve degraded themselves and the movement so badly.”
As the conversation came to a close, Wallis reiterated the importance of not “wrapping our ideology and politics around our faith.” It looks like he has no intention to practice what he preaches anytime soon.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Wednesday’s edition of Morning Joe is below. Click “expand” to read more.
WILLIE GEIST: Our next guest says we are in a moment of great moral, political, and constitutional crisis; which largely stems from how we’ve become disconnected from the teachings of Christ. Joining us now, best-selling author and founder of Sojourners, Jim Wallis. His new book is out now entitled Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus. Mike Barnicle, Karine Jean-Pierre, and Reverend Al Sharpton with us as well. Jim, good morning. Good to see you.
JIM WALLIS: Good morning.
GEIST: Many questions for you, but I want to start with your thesis that Christ is in crisis. How so?
WALLIS: Well, the crisis as you all have been talking about every day is political, constitutional, it’s also a moral crisis, and I think a spiritual one. Lincoln said our leaders should appeal to our better angels, but we have a leader who appeals to our worst demons, and those demons go very deep. So, my evangelical tradition, in crisis, you go back to Jesus. So, I’m saying we have to go back to who Jesus was and what he said, and I would…Joe often says on this show, “what do you do when policies, words, and practices are antithetical to Jesus?” Which is happening now all the time. So, I have to say, to be blunt and maybe irreverent, white nationalism is not just racist, it’s antichrist. To demonize, dehumanize immigrants, it isn’t just lack of compassion, it’s antichrist. To mistreat women, abuse, harassment. This is not just sexist, it’s antichrist. So, we have to name this for what it is. And so, I’m trying to say, let’s look at what Jesus asked us, and his questions, maybe the most important one is who is my neighbor? That may be the most important question in this political season…who is my neighbor? Because the one that Jesus says is our neighbor is the one who’s being targeted by this administration. So, to me, these are faith issues and not just political ones.
GEIST: You write about something in the book we’ve talked about a lot on this show…
GEIST: …and it’s, which is the sustained support from evangelicals for President Trump, through everything, through Stormy Daniels, through the separation of families at the border, through all of it. Evangelical support has remained relatively strong. To some people, that exposes a hypocrisy that puts politics before faith and…and teachings of the bible and morality and everything else. What do you say to those who stay at the side of Donald Trump through all of it?
WALLIS: Here’s a radical idea…our faith and values should shape our politics and not the other way around. And Jesus has somehow survived all of us Christians. So, the interest in this brown-skin rabbi who was born in Palestinian territory, what he’s saying and doing, the interest is way outside the church. There’s a whole lot of young people saying “what did he say? What did he do?” The poll that is the most shameful and damaging for white evangelicals says, this population, white evangelicals, is the most resistant to a multiracial future. That’s a devastating poll. So, here is the question…when the operative phrase in white evangelical isn’t evangelical, but white, we have a problem. So, we’ve got to get to that. Is the gospel clear here? Is racial bigotry a deal-breaker for the gospel, when it isn’t for white evangelicals? That’s something we’ve got to deal with.
AL SHARPTON: One of the things that intrigues me about reading your new book, and…and the best-seller you’ve already written is you are very active. You’re not just one of these guys that writes books or…and even though you are a theologian, and you’re active in it. What has happened to the activism of white Christian progressives we don’t see? I mean, you are out there with Sojourners, but you don’t see a lot of people that we did see when I was a kid growing up in Operation Breadbasket…you see a lot of the white ministers out there. And you’re out there sometimes with just a few leaders, good following, but just a few leaders, where most of the evangelical leaders have submitted to white nationalism and to Trump.
WALLIS: This is an opportunity. Crisis is a danger; danger for the most marginalized. It’s also an opportunity. What if, indeed, this brought us back to what Jesus said and did? So, I am encouraged out there about what I see happening around the country. There are pastors, there are…I mean, if…if Jesus were here today, he’d be celebrating the Black Lives Matter movement. He would be standing alongside our neighbors, especially who are immigrants and refugees. He would be furiously defending the planet from global warming. So, I want to see us go back, what the evangelicals say, go back to Jesus. So, the word evangelical is interesting. To call yourself one today is tough these days, but Jesus defined it in Nazareth, his first sermon, his Nazareth manifesto. “The spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he says, “because he’s anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” And the word for good news there is evangel. So, if it our gospel isn’t good news of the poor, it simply isn’t the gospel of Jesus Christ, period.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Jim, I…I don’t think you have enough time to answer the question I’m about to ask is how do we get out of this moral crisis? You talked…you started off the conversation talking about that; especially in a time where we’re in a country where it’s incredibly divided. You have…
JEAN-PIERRE: …a President, as we mentioned, as you mentioned, who is dividing us with hate and, you know, bigotry and racism and xenophobia. How do you get out of this moral crisis? What do we need to be doing?
WALLIS: I think we’ve got to not just go left and right but go deeper. How do we go deeper here? And this crisis makes an opportunity for that. So, I’ve talked about…I’ve wrestled with Jesus’ questions here. Who is our neighbor? And it’s clear in the good Samaritan parable, our neighbor is the one who’s different than us. Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian theologian, says you’ve got to go outside your path to find your neighbor. So, in this season coming up, until we find our neighbors again, we’re in serious trouble. If we do that, though, and ask…he says, “What is the truth?” The problem isn’t just all the lies you always talk about here. He’s saying there is no truth. Wash your hands. Fake me…media. Jesus says, “you’ll know the truth. The truth will set you free.” Fear. “Be not afraid,” Jesus says, eight times. Well, they’re running on fear. They’re running against the immigrant, running against our neighbor. So, I think this could bring us back to what Jesus said and did. So, maybe America needs a reintroduction to the person and teachings of Jesus Christ. I’m hoping that goes deeper and can bring some…politics by itself, even an election by itself, as you know so well, isn’t going to heal this nation. So, how do we go back to something that can bring us together again?
BARNICLE: So, the reintroduction of Jesus into the politics of this country or into the country itself, how is it going to happen? If you look at the field now, there are several people in the race for President of the United States who are people of deep faith.
BARNICLE: I…I know that Vice President Biden carries a rosary with him every single day in his pocket, okay? And yet, you listen to not just Joe Biden, but most of the candidates on the stump, they never, ever mention God and faith. What is up with that?
WALLIS: You know, the narrative on religion in politics has been bad for a long time, where Republicans claim to own religion…
WALLIS: Own God. And Democrats, interesting. The base of the Democratic Party is African-American women. So, the base is the most religious population…
SHARPTON: That’s right.
WALLIS: … in the country. Yet, Democrats are reluctant to talk about faith, which is ironic.
WALLIS: The good news is I know some of these candidates, and they are…some of their bibles are underlined. They want to talk about faith. We’re having some conversations about faith. But I want the Democrats not to create a religious left, like Republicans have created a religious right; wrapping our ideology and politics around our faith. Faith should hold us accountable. For example, in the book, the last test of discipleship is when Jesus talks about the least of these. We’re to be tested by how we treat the least of these. Jesus didn’t say, “well, I was going to talk about the hungry and thirsty and naked and stranger…stranger is e the immigrant of course, but I’m afraid that will be politically divisive. So, I don’t want to talk about that.” No, he said, “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was naked, I was sick, I was a stranger, I was in purpose. As you did to the least of these, you have done to me.” That text, how we treat the least of these, holds all parties accountable.
GEIST: This ought to be mandatory reading for all the candidates and the President of the United States, I might add, too. The new book is Christ in Crisis. Jim Wallis calls it a spiritual field guide.