Jim Wallis has been a leader in the fight for social justice for over 40 years. He is also a leading voice in the search for an authentic evangelical theology in a world of hunger and poverty. His radical call for a new understanding of conversion comes from a solid foundation that is deeply rooted in both the Old and New Testament teachings on justice. In one of his earliest books, The Call to Conversion, Wallis writes:
Conversion means to relinquish wealth, for the sake of our relationship with God and for the sake of our relationship with the poor. Justice requires an end to our accumulation. A new commitment to economic sharing and simplicity will break our bondage to affluence and bring a vitality and integrity that most of our congregations have never experienced.
If Christians really want to stop the massive hemorhaging of church attendance they should take note. The church’s membership loss is not going to be staunched with Neosporin and band aids.
It’s time for a reality check. Our churches must be intimately connected and directly engaged with the poor. And that implies and demands a commitment to economic sharing. In the words of Wallis, we need true conversion.
Conversion in our time is to liberate the poor and to make the blind see. The poor need justice, and the rich need restored sight.
There is a convergence today between the Biblical view of Jesus as Liberator, and the cry of oppressed peoples for liberation. For our own day, to “see the world through the eyes other than our own” has simply got to mean seeing it through the eyes of the poor and dispossessed. When the story of Jesus and the story of human oppression are put side by side, they fit. They are simply different versions of the same story. The cry of the hungry is overwhelming. The cry of the politically and economically exploited is overwhelming. The cry of those in prison and under torture is overwhelming. The cry of parents who know that their children are doomed to stunted and warped lives is overwhelming. . . . There may have been other emphases needed at other points in Christian history when talking about Jesus as Liberator, but I am persuaded that for this time and this place, the claim of Jesus to bring freedom, and the cry of the oppressed peoples for freedom, converge and cannot be separated.
Robert McAfee Brown