2/25/2005

Colson v. Wallis

Phil Steiger at Every Though Captive alerted me to Chuck Colson's Breakpoint Commentary criticizing Jim Wallis.

Now, I respect Church Colson. I've read a number of his books. But in the last few years, I've come to realize that his slant on things are (a) very modern: he sees things only from a propositional/foundational point of view {see Brain McLaren's An Open Letter to Chuch Colson}, and (b) very politically conservative: his opinions usually line up with the Republican and/or Religious Right's positions.

In this commentary, Colson's argument seems to be: Abortion trumps all other issues--even the care for the poor. He writes, "Sorry, Jim Wallis, all issues are not morally equivalent. The first one, the right to life, is non-negotiable. It undergirds all others: Take it away, and the whole house of cards collapses." (Do you hear his foundational view of philosophy in that satement?)

He makes a false dichotomy: He implies that the Religious Right has it correct: Abortion is the foundational issue. The Religious Left has it wrong: Poverty is not a foundational issue. We must therefore choose who we will support based on this issue.

Colson even criticizes Mark Noll: "I was disappointed by his decision not to vote because he thought neither party was right about the issues that concerned him most, including poverty." Colson's point: You must vote, and you must vote conservative, because they have the foundational issue right.

Here's a few of the ways that this is a false dichotomy:
(a) Poverty is a Life issue. People's LIVES are at stake because of poverty.
(b) Jim Wallis is pro-life! He is as against abortion as Colson is. He is not advocating one issue over the other, but is saying that there must be more than one issue that is important to Christians.
(c) And that's the crux: Is there one issue that is the foundational issue? Are we really supposed to be ONE-ISSUE VOTERS? Colson says yes. Wallis says NO.

I tend to agree with Wallis. If Christians do not broaden their view of Life Issues to include poverty and hunger and HIV/AIDS and globalized economy and war, then we are simply being lazy in our ethics.

No, I don't think "all moral issues are equivilant," as Colson accuses Wallis of thinking. But that's not the point. Wallis is saying that the moral issues are more complicated than just saying "I'm against abortion," or "I'm pro-life." What causes abortions? What can we do about those root issues? Is not poverty part of those root issues?

Does not being "pro-life" also mean to be "pro-getting rid of poverty," "pro-feed the hungry," "pro-health," "pro-give everybody an equal chance at making it in this world," "pro-peace"?

10 comments:

Phil Steiger said...

Thanks for the heads up on your post and your thoughts. Another friend of mine recently alerted me to Wallis' response, and I hope to get around to posting on it in the near future. I think this basic point-the false dichotomy-needs to be made over and over.

Bill Arnold said...

I appreciate this post. Sometimes Jim Wallis rubs me the wrong way, but what you say about this dialogue is true nonetheless. Thanks for you analysis.

lyricano said...

Bob, I think you give Colson way too much credit. He is a partisan. Our system of civil government works with partisans agressively pushing their agendas--much like attorneys rapidly arguing their side. However, you are mistaken when you take his positions as anything more than Rove-ish calculations. Whether or not Colson believes what he promotes, he is not interested in an intellectually honest debate or at understanding truth--he merely wants to promote his political position. That is all fine, but we should not take him seriously as a thinker. Whether one agrees with Wallis' politics or not (again he has a political agenda), he is not an ideologue or a partisan.

Bob Robinson said...

Jim Wallis has responded to Chuck Colson.

Read it here:
Jim Wallis: An open letter to Chuck Colson

DLW said...

Hi, I also posted about Colson and Wallis's exchange some at my blog, the Anti-Manicheist.

I hope you can check it out, here.

dlw

DLW said...

Hi, I also posted about Colson and Wallis's exchange some at my blog, the Anti-Manicheist.

I hope you can check it out, here.

dlw

DLW said...

Hi, I also posted about Colson and Wallis's exchange some at my blog, the Anti-Manicheist.

I hope you can check it out, here.

dlw

DLW said...

Hi, I also posted about Colson and Wallis's exchange some at my blog, the Anti-Manicheist.

I hope you can check it out, here.

dlw

DLW said...

Hi, I also posted about Colson and Wallis's exchange some at my blog, the Anti-Manicheist.

I hope you can check it out, here.

dlw

DLW said...

Hi, I also posted about Colson and Wallis's exchange some at my blog, the Anti-Manicheist.

I hope you can check it out, here.

dlw