soul of plitics

As a political activist, Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourner magazine, wrote an excellent book called The Soul of Politics: Beyond “Religious Right” and “Secular Left”. In his book Wallis tells us about the problems afflicting our country and that they must be remedied. His title is accompanied by the phrase Beyond “Religious Right” and “Secular Left”. By this he means his book is for everyone, not just liberals or conservatives, but for all people. The object of the book is to “address the spiritual center and the moral heart of our political discourse.”Politics in the United States has become dysfunctional. The government today has a liberal movement and a conservative movement, both usually working against each other so that nothing seems to get accomplished at Capital Hill. Liberals have no real moral values, it seems, and conservatives deny the structural injustice and oppression that is apparent in the United States. The social crisis that is upon us is bringing our country down. Wallis talks about a vision; he says that we need a new vision for our country or we will perish, for the author of Proverbs said, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish”. Scary as that saying sounds it seems to be coming true. The inner cities of our nation are fast becoming, and most already are, areas that seem to have no hope and no where to go, where children are killing each other in the street and unemployment is becoming high because of no available jobs. Another problem that he describes is materialism that is fueled by our consumeristic society. Wallis says that, “The insatiable momentum of our consumerism will ultimately poison both our environment and our hearts unless we learn our right relationship to the earth and its abundance”. At a quick glance at consumerism we think, “This is a good economy because people are spending and making money”. But if you look deeper you can see the horrible consequences of a society that keeps with consumerism. We have more than we need, yet we have the urge to go out and buy more because our neighbor just bought a new car and we can’t let him beat us. Or a commercial tells you that you have to have this new product, or without it you are “uncool”. Gender issues are also a part of the book. He talks about a village that was turned into a Naval base, and that women were used by the military personnel. All these issues are at the core of why this country is becoming what it is, and Wallis gives us ways in which to deal with them.

I consider myself a conservative with some liberal twists, at least compared to the traditional conservative view. I have recently had the feeling that if this country continues on the path we are on, then it will fail. Many people live in total disregard to what is happening around them. This is part of the problem. People should become aware about the situation and try to help it any way that they can. Maybe they don’t actually see what is happening around them, but how can they not know what is going on with the modern communications that we have? Either they don’t see it or choose not to which is not good. I have always lived near heavily populated areas and have had friends that are greatly affected by the degradation of society. I don’t know people that have lived in an actual ghetto area like Watts has, but they live in areas that are considered poor and are involved in gang oriented life. I have also had friends that lived in rich neighborhoods and still lived and loved the gang lifestyle. Their moral system is basically non-existent and their respect for the government is equally non-existent. I feel sorry for their situation they are in and wish there was some way in which I could help them. I have tried to talk to them about religion to no avail. Many of them do not believe in God, which I believe plays a big part for the reason of their morally deficient lifestyle. I agree with Wallis in that to help these people we need to take a different direction in correcting the problem than the one that we are currently in, or we will never change this situation for the better.

Nelson Mandela once said, “I am more convinced than ever before, it is not kings and generals that change history. It is the masses of the people”. I believe that what Mandela said is true, and that Wallis is pointing to this in his book. Social change cannot come about through government institutions alone, but through the people it is meant to help. Without a change at the ground level the situation will be near impossible to change.

This book in a way incorporates much of what we have talked about and read in class. Wallis talks about the degradation of society and why it is happening. Soul of Politics talks about materialism, which we have covered in class. Consumerism leads to materialism and vice versa. The book Amazing Grace is also related to The Soul of Politics. They both talk about inner cities and the problems that are affecting the people who live in these areas. Gender roles are also described in the book which is something else that we have discussed in class, how women are treated unequally.

I have not really dealt with these topics in other classes except in Advertising. The class is involved with how to get the consumer to buy more. We study demographics and other tools that help decide which way to advertise for a product. We haven’t discussed in detail about how this affects people and the problems that arise from the advertising. My thinking has been both challenged and affirmed by the author. I never really thought deeply about political issues to a great extent because they haven’t oppressed me like they do others. The book has challenged me to try and understand these situations more and to try to help these people who are in need. I have realized that the road we are on is really not the right one, and we need to find a better path. The future of our nation depends on the correcting of these problems so that we may find a way for a better life for us and for our children.

I recommend this book to everyone, because it is after all, for everyone. Jim Wallis has given us something that both religious and secular individuals can read and give them something to think about, namely, getting our country back on track. Even those who are not religious should like what Wallis says about the moral system of our nation, that it needs a revamping, and his position of materialism will make people stop and think about worshiping the almighty dollar.

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