Breitbart-promoted video distorts Wallis to claim he advocates "forced redistribution of wealth"
Research ››› ››› DIANNA PARKER
Andrew Breitbart's website Breitbart.tv is pushing a new video that suggests Obama adviser Rev. Jim Wallis advocated for a "forced redistribution of wealth" that strings together cropped comments from Wallis' past interviews and panel discussions, many of which have been previously distorted by Glenn Beck. But as the context of Wallis' remarks make clear, he in no way advocated for "forced" redistribution of wealth; but rather in most cases, he discussed his beliefs regarding the "spiritual" responsibility of helping the poor to achieve economic parity.
Breitbart-pushed video: "Obama Advisor Jim Wallis: On Forced Redistribution of Wealth, Marxism and Social Justice"
Breitbart.tv pushes NEN video: Wallis talked about "forced redistribution of wealth." Breitbart.tv posted a Naked Emperor News (NEN) video captioned, "Obama Advisor Jim Wallis: On Forced Redistribution of Wealth, Marxism, and Social Justice."
The video strings together several edited audio and video clips of Wallis.
NEN distortion: Wallis' statement that "the Gospel is all about" "redistribution of wealth" is evidence of support for "forced redistribution of wealth"
The NEN video includes a clip of Wallis stating during a 2006 Interfaith Voices radio interview: "I think an affluent church in a world where half of God's children live on less than $2 a day is an affront to the Gospel. The Bible doesn't mind prosperity as long as it is shared. But what the Bible doesn't like is these tremendous gaps and chasms between the top and the bottom." After host Maureen Fiedler asked Wallis whether he was "calling for the redistribution of wealth in society," Wallis replied, "Absolutely. Without any hesitation. That's what the Gospel is all about." The video provided no further context to Wallis' remarks.
In fact, Wallis was discussing how individuals have "transformed" their lives to focus on charity
Wallis highlights people "changing their lifestyle and their priorities" and a "redistribution of wealth" through Bill and Melinda Gates' philanthropy. During the Interfaith Voices interview, Wallis did not talk about "forced" redistribution of wealth. After stating that "the Gospel is all about" the "redistribution of wealth," Wallis added, "It's about the rich moving into solidarity and a relationship with people who have been left out and left behind." He continued: "The whole early church was those who were wealthy and those who were poor finding a new community. So, I see it all the time where people from middle-class backgrounds are having their lives transformed by their encounter with the poor in their neighborhoods or across the world and changing their lifestyle and their priorities because of that."
Wallis later used the philanthropy of Bill and Melinda Gates as an example of "a redistribution of wealth":
WALLIS: I have a family, I have kids. I want them to be secure. I want them to have enough. And I want them to have all the good things of life. One of the things is a generous spirit. One of the things is to be in a relationship to people who have been left out. It changes us in all kinds of ways. On that cover of Time magazine also were Bill and Melinda Gates, who have made all this money and now are giving it away in very smart, strategic ways about world health and global poverty. So, Bill Gates has decided that he doesn't just want to give all his money to his children. For him, the good life now, for he and his wife, means being a part of a process of changing things in the world. So they're doing a redistribution of wealth.
Beck has also distorted Wallis' remarks to claim that Wallis said "the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about a central government taking money from individuals and then distributing it." On his Fox News show, Beck stated that Wallis "is a blatant redistribution-of-wealth advocate, a Marxist." After stating, "Let's take his words for it," Beck played an audio clip of comments Wallis made on Interfaith Voices, in which Wallis responded to Fielder's question, "Are you then calling for the redistribution of wealth in society?" by saying, "Absolutely. Without any hesitation. That's what the Gospel is all about." Beck then stated:
BECK: The redistribution of wealth is what the Gospel's all about. He claims that the gospel of Jesus Christ is about a central government taking money from individuals and then distributing it the way they see fit. Christians, you know better than that. You know better than that. Reverend Wallis, we know who's distorting the Gospel here. We know that Jesus' message was about choice. And if you're going to a church that has social justice, which means "I choose, with my church, to go out and make a difference," that's a different thing than what you're preaching. You have a responsibility -- if you have extra, the Lord does say you have a responsibility to choose to help the poor. You remember what he said about the rich people? They'll have a harder time getting into heaven than a camel going through the needle of -- or the eye of a needle. You see, he is the arbiter of justice. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 3/23/10]
Wallis has expanded on his remarks by saying: "[W]hile social justice begins with our own lives ... it doesn't end there ... challenging the conditions that create poverty in the first place is also part of biblical social justice." In response to Beck's repeated citation of Wallis' "redistribution of wealth" remarks, Wallis explained his beliefs in a March 24 post on Sojourners.com. Wallis noted that Beck "said that what I meant [by 'redistribution of wealth'] was...you guessed it: 'forced redistribution, socialism, and Marxism.' Hmm, don't ever remember saying that (it will be hard for Fox to find the videos of that), or even remember any of my fellow traveler social justice Christians ever saying or supporting that." Wallis elaborated:
But we do say that while social justice begins with our own lives, choices, and sacrifices, it doesn't end there. Those of us who have actually done this work for years all understand that you can't just pull the bodies out of the river, and not send somebody upstream to see what or who is throwing them in. Serving the poor is a fundamental spiritual requirement of faith, but challenging the conditions that create poverty in the first place is also part of biblical social justice. In countering Beck's misunderstanding of social justice on The Colbert Report, James Martin, an editor of the Jesuit America magazine, quoted a Catholic Archbishop as saying, "When I feed the poor they call me a saint; but when I ask why people are poor they call me a communist." He suggested Beck has that problem.
Private charity, which Beck and I are both for, wasn't enough to end the slave trade in Great Britain, end legal racial segregation in America, or end apartheid in South Africa. That took vital movements of faith which understood the connection between personal compassion and social justice. Those are the movements that have inspired me and shaped my life -- not BIG GOVERNMENT. And my allies in faith-based social justice movements have wonderfully different views on the role of government -- some bigger than mine and some smaller than mine -- but we all believe social justice requires changing both personal choices and unjust structures. Apparently Beck thinks social justice ends with private charity, but very few churches in the nation would agree with him.
NEN distortion: Wallis' comments about "[v]oluntary faith-based initiatives" is evidence of support for "forced distribution of wealth"
The NEN video pointed to an April 26, 2005, panel discussion, titled, "God's Politics: The Role of Prophetic Religion in America," [video player required] at Princeton University in which Wallis said: "World Vision once had an ad, and I was there and they showed me this ad, and it said -- it showed some kid in Africa with flies circling around his face -- it said we're not asking you to change your lifestyle, just his. And I said, that's a horrible ad. We are asking Americans to change their lifestyle, too. Well they don't do that ad anymore. Now they talk about the issue being one of justice. And I think we have to be very clear about this. Voluntary faith-based initiatives with no resources, no resources, to make any serious difference in poverty reduction is not adequate. That's a charity that falls far short of biblical justice."
Beck also distorted Wallis comments as evidence of Wallis' belief in the "forced redistribution of wealth" and "Marxism." On his March 23 Fox News show, Beck played the clip of Wallis at Princeton and said of Wallis' remarks [transcript accessed via Nexis]: "Voluntary charity doesn't go far enough. Give to the poor. Take from the rich. This half is charity. But the first half of that equation, take from the rich, is theft. You can boil all of these justices down to one thing. It is a fancy name for socialism, which is forced redistribution of wealth, which is a fancy name for Marxism. This is why you must be careful."
In fact, according to Wallis, he was expressing belief that charities are "most effective" when they partner "with other sectors"
Wallis: Quote was "in the context of" expressing the belief "that we will be most effective when we also work in partnership with other sectors: the private market, the rest of civil society, and even the GOVERNMENT!" In his March 24 the Sojourners.com blog post, Wallis responded to Beck's citation of his comments at Princeton:
Then he nailed me. He accused me of saying that faith-based initiatives and their resources were inadequate to reduce poverty by themselves. Guilty as charged. The quote was likely in the context of calling Christians to take such actions and lead by example (something I have preached and tried to practice for almost four decades) but that we will be most effective when we also work in partnership with other sectors: the private market, the rest of civil society, and even the GOVERNMENT! Would somebody please tell Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army that they are really supporting Marxism if they partner with the public sector?
NEN distortion: Wallis' comments about "leav[ing] some spaces in the field gleaning for the poor" is evidence of support for "forced redistribution of wealth"
The NEN video includes a clip of Wallis stating during a January 15 interview on The Tavis Smiley Show: "But when you get to economics, I'm not a liberal, I'm a radical. I want to see some real fairness and justice here. You know, we can't use the word redistribution anymore. Even though that's what's been happening. Redistributing wealth from the bottom and the middle to the top. And so, I talk about the jubilee tradition in our Scriptures where there's a kind of a leveling of things."
In fact, "gleaning" describes saving and collecting leftover goods to give to the poor
Wallis: "[Y]ou've got to leave some spaces in the field gleaning for the poor, so they can take care of themselves." During the interview on The Tavis Smiley Show, Smiley discussed Wallis' book Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and asked him: "Whose values are you talking about? The left? The religious left? The religious right? You don't always have the same values." Wallis said he "want[s] to see some real fairness and justice" and discusses "the jubilee tradition in our Scriptures where there's a kind of a leveling of things, and the notions of the prophets who say, you know, you've got to leave some spaces in the field gleaning for the poor, so they can take care of themselves. I think this is a chance to rediscover and include." From the interview:
WALLIS: Right. I sometimes say don't go left, don't go right, go deeper. One of the moral issues right beneath our political debate -- you know, some of those people ask me, are you a liberal or a conservative? I say yes. It depends on the issue.
When it comes to like, parenting -- I'm a Little League baseball coach, and I'm -- being a dad is like my highest priority. That sounds pretty conservative. But when you get to economics, I'm not a liberal, I'm a radical. I want to see some real fairness and justice here. You know, we can't use the word redistribution anymore. Even though that's what's been happening. Redistributing wealth from the bottom and the middle to the top. And so, I talk about the jubilee tradition in our Scriptures where there's a kind of a leveling of things, and the notions of the prophets who say, you know, you've got to leave some spaces in the field gleaning for the poor, so they can take care of themselves. I think this is a chance to rediscover and include. Three billion people are outside of this global economy. That's half of God's children living on less than $2 a day.
We're seeing these terrible scenes in Haiti, and somebody needs to say, you know what? When people are already poor, living in the most vulnerable places, they're more susceptible to natural disaster. And so, I think the poor become kind of a interrogating community for us to see what our values really are. So the values -- not left and right. Left and right won't help us here. It's got to be deeper than left and right and transcend politics.
Field "gleaning" is a biblical reference to giving to the poor. In the Bible (New American Standard edition), Leviticus 19:9-10 says: "Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God." Similarly, Deuteronomy 24:19-21 says: "When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow."
The jubilee tradition is the practice of restoring justice to the oppressed. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: "The tradition of the jubilee is most fully explained in the Book of Leviticus (25: 1-55). There we learn that the jubilee was a time to let the land rest and allow whatever it naturally produced to be shared by all, landowner and slave alike. It was a time to set slaves free and to return to its original owner any land that had been sold. The jubilee was also a time to cancel debts. 'At the end of every seven-year period you shall have a relaxation of debts (Deuteronomy 15:1-2).' Pope John Paul II is also quoted: "The Jubilee year was meant to restore equality among all of the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families which had lost their property and even their personal freedom. On the other hand, the jubilee year was a reminder to the rich that a time would come when their Israelite slaves would once again become their equals and would be able to reclaim their rights. At the times prescribed by law, a jubilee year had to be proclaimed to assist those in need (As the Third Millennium Draws Near, 13)."
NEN: Wallis admitted to being a "radical Marxist" when meeting Dorothy Day
NEN included a segment of a January 21 WBEZ interview in which Wallis discussed meeting Dorothy Day. NEN clipped Wallis as saying: "And I'm in the parlor of the Catholic Worker, and in walks the great lady. Dorothy wrote a book about her life called Love Is the Measure, but she wasn't ever soft. Very tough. 'So, you were a radical student like me right?' 'Yeah.' 'You were a Marxist like me, right?' 'Yeah.' "
In fact, according to Wallis, Wallis and Day were discussing their "conversion" from "secular radicalism and Marxism to Jesus Christ"
Wallis recounted discussing with Day their "conversion" from "secular radicalism and Marxism to Jesus Christ." In his March 24 blog post, Wallis discussed retelling the story of his first meeting with Day, which Beck had also used to attack Wallis. Wallis included an extended portion of his WBEZ interview and wrote of Beck:
Beck recounted a conversation I had with Dorothy as a new young convert to Christianity. She was in her eighties and asked me if I had been a radical student in my early years as she had been. "Yeah," Beck recorded me saying. And if I had been attracted to Marxism, as she had. "Yeah" I said again. Gotcha! Beck said. They're both Marxists! What he left out was the next lines of our conversation that I still remember and, of course, were on the same tape he abruptly cut off. "And now, you're a Catholic?" Dorothy Day asked me. "Well, now I'm a Christian," I said. "You're not a Catholic?" she chided. I lamely responded that "some of my best friends" were Catholic, and Dorothy smiled. We were sharing our conversion stories from secular radicalism and Marxism to Jesus Christ and his gospel of love and justice. Glenn Beck just left that part out, as he often leaves stuff out or just makes up stuff and puts it in.