Jim Wallis on Poverty, Racism and COVID-19

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

How do we protect those most vulnerable to poverty and racism? Originally aired in April 2020, Sojourners’ Founder Jim Wallis explains how the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the inequities in our society. “Poverty and racism are preexisting conditions that help you get the disease,” says Wallis. “How can we redeem this time for not just immediate response… but also how this will change us – how we act, how we lead, what we do now – going forward. History is being changed by this, so how will those changes result in our being different going forward?”

Wallis reflects on the need for leadership, now more than ever. “SNAP [the federal food stamp program] is maybe the most effective way to serve people’s immediate needs and revitalize the economy at the same time… What’s clear that government is the only place big enough to respond at a time like this. We need politicians from both sides of the aisle to prioritize poor people,” he believes.

Resources and Mentions:

Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis

Inaugural Chair in Faith and Justice
Jim Wallis is a globally respected writer, teacher, preacher, and justice advocate who believes the gospel of Jesus must be transformed from its cultural and political captivities; and always be “good news” to the poor and oppressed. He is a New York Times bestselling author, widely recognized public theologian, renowned speaker, and regular international commentator on ethics and public life. He is the inaugural holder of the Endowed Chair in Faith and Justice and the founding Director of the Georgetown University Center on Faith and Justice. Raised in a Midwestern evangelical family, as a teenager Wallis questioned the racial segregation in his church and community, which led him to the Black churches and neighborhoods of inner-city Detroit. He spent his student years involved in the civil rights and antiwar movements at Michigan State University. He is the founder of Sojourners, and is the author of 12 books, including American’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to America; God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get it; The Great Awakening; The Call to Conversion; and Christ in Crisis: Reclaiming Jesus In A Time of Fear, Hate, and Violence; and host of the popular podcast The Soul of the Nation. He served on President Obama’s White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and has taught faith and public life courses at Harvard and Georgetown University. He also serves as a Senior Fellow at the Georgetown University Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. Wallis has previously taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Georgetown University in 2007 when he gave the college commencement address.


Sojourners' mission is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, to inspire hope and build a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world. They envision a future in which Christians put their faith into action in the passionate pursuit of social justice, peace, and environmental stewardship, working in partnership with people of other perspectives, for the common good of communities, families and individuals. We articulate that vision, convene and mobilize constituencies, and build alliances for effective advocacy. Sojourners magazine and Sojourners online publication sit at the intersection of faith, politics, and culture. Our coverage goes beyond the trending headlines to uncover and explore in depth the hidden injustices in the world around us.

Center on Faith and Justice

Grounded in the mandate of Matthew 25 to focus on the “least of these” and committed to pursue the Gospel values of justice and peace, the Center on Faith and Justice will advance a deeper understanding and integration of faith and moral public policy into our political and civil discourse, help to reshape the nation’s political narrative, and advocate for more compassionate and just policies that prioritize the needs of historically marginalized people and communities and increases their ability to thrive and flourish.

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