Preexisting Conditions: Jim Wallis on Poverty, Racism and COVID-19

Interview by Billy Shore

Thursday, April 30, 2020

How do poverty and racism put people at risk for COVID-19, and how do we protect those most vulnerable? On the latest episode of Add Passion & Stir, Sojourners Founder and President Jim Wallis and Billy Shore discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing the inequities in our society. “Poverty and racism are preexisting conditions that help you get the disease,” says Wallis. “We need to consider how can we redeem this time not just for immediate response, but also how will this change us going forward.”

As the two discuss Wallis’ work addressing those in need within the faith community and Shore’s work feeding hungry kids and families through the No Kid Hungry campaign, these two change-makers reflect on the need for leadership – political and otherwise – 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… We need politicians from both sides of the aisle to prioritize poor people,” Wallis believes. “One of our responsibilities from a leadership point of view is to help people see how we can make some permanent changes, so that the next time there’s such a crisis, the vulnerable are not as vulnerable,” says Shore.

Resources and Mentions:

Jim Wallis

A New York Times bestselling author, public theologian, speaker, and international commentator on ethics and public life. He served on President Obama’s White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and was former vice chair of and currently serves on the Global Agenda Council on Values of the World Economic Forum. He is president and founder of Sojourners, where he is also editor-in-chief of Sojourners, which has a combined print and online readership of more than 5 million people. Jim frequently speaks in the United States and abroad. His columns appear in major newspapers, including The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe. He frequently appears on radio and television as a commentator on CNN, MSNBC, Fox—on shows such as Meet the Press and Hardball—and on National Public Radio. He has taught at Harvard University, Georgetown University, and a variety of other academic institutions.

No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.


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.