OSHKOSH, Wis. (ABP) — A five-day Christian music festival that kicked off July 7 in Wisconsin is being criticized for inviting progressive evangelical activist Jim Wallis to speak.
At least one sponsor has pulled out of Lifest — an annual festival expected to draw a crowd of 70,000, mostly young people — citing differences with Wallis and Sojourners, the organization he leads. Christian radio station Q90-FM in De Pere, Wis., termed the social-justice agenda promoted by Wallis and Sojourners "a seed of secular humanism, seeking an unholy alliance between the Church and Government."
After two weeks of discussions with concert promoter Bob Lenz, founder and president of Life Promotions, which has put on Lifest every summer since 1999, the radio station's directors, leadership and staff released a statement announcing the decision.
"We are not calling for a boycott of Lifest," the statement said. "We do not view Jim Wallis as an enemy nor do we think of Life Promotions as the enemy or a bad organization. We just have a fundamental disagreement on the wisdom of bringing Mr. Wallis to Lifest."
Billed on its website as "a party with a purpose," the invitation of Wallis to Lifest struck a sour note with some conservative Christians who said parents should think twice before exposing their teenagers to a lineup of 58 speakers including international evangelist Luis Palau and over 100 musical acts.
"If you are a parent … and you're planning to send your young people, your youth group, to Lifest, you need to be aware of what's going on at these festivals," radio personality Ingrid Schlueter said on Crosstalk, a daily radio show that airs on 80 stations across America and over the Internet. "All is not sweetness and light."
"He is an establishment liberal," Danielsen said about Wallis in an interview with Schlueter that aired June 16. "He believes in state-sponsored redistribution of wealth. He's a globalist insider. He is a spiritual adviser to President Obama. Now he is considered a much more mild-mannered Jeremiah Wright. He's not so full of anger, and he's not such a firebrand. He's kind of a kinder, gentler revolutionary. After they threw Wright under the bus they just replaced him with Jim Wallis."
Danielsen said Wallis "blames all of society's ills on Wall Street" and that "he rails against the Christian right" in his latest book, Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy.
"The interesting thing to me is he doesn't hesitate to offer his own mix of religion and politics," Danielsen continued. "In other words church and state separation exists only to keep real Christians quiet. He claims to be an evangelical pastor — it's Reverend Wallis — but he merely uses Scripture to justify his radicalism. He does not hold to the central tenets of biblical Christianity, but he reads a brand of social justice into the Bible."
Schlueter recalled an encounter she had about 20 years ago with one of Wallis' colleagues, Tony Campolo, a Baptist minister, author, speaker and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University, a Christian school in St. Davids, Pa., affiliated with American Baptist Churches, USA.
"[I] had somewhat of a dustup with him," she said. "He exploded violently in my face, and the guy, Jonathan, from Zondervan had to pull him away, he was so enraged. I asked him a simple quiet question about his support for the gay agenda, and he didn't take to that too well. So I'm well aware of Dr. Tony Campolo's teachings. So I know Campolo is one of his colleagues. He softened up the soil for Jim Wallis to come along and then begin to plant the seeds of outright Marxism, socialism, pro-homosexual beliefs."
"I often refer to Jim Wallis as the political of the emergent church," Schlueter said. "You have a lot of the explicitly doctrinal guys who are jettisoning original sin, literal hell, the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ, a literal second coming — guys like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren — and then you get Jim Wallis who is saying, 'OK, now that we've got that established, let's move you on to our political vision. Now that we've got your eschatology straightened out, let's move on to the political way that we are going to use you, useful idiots.'"
Wallis, who grew up in the Plymouth Brethren denomination but recently moved his membership to First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., said he regretted that his invitation had become a distraction to the main focus of Lifest, "which is to call people to faith in Jesus Christ."
Wallis said in his remarks at the festival he planned "to share my own personal testimony and to invite others to follow Jesus and care more deeply about the poor."
Lenz defended the decision to invite Wallis and described the controversy as a "no-win situation" for Life Promotions' board of directors. Canceling the invitation in order to avoid controversy, he said, would "empower those who have slandered Jim Wallis and Lifest, giving a false sense of credibility to their accusations."
In their radio interview, Schlueter and Danielsen agreed that Wallis' social agenda and the emergent church theological agenda "dovetail perfectly" with that of Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist pastor whose PEACE Plan targeting social ills follows up on the success of his bestselling book Purpose Driven Life.
"This PEACE Plan — remember when Rick Warren sat down with all those who were running for president," Danielsen said. "Didn't you wonder why Rick was given that job?"
"Because it's all about the kingdom here," she said. "Rick Warren says, 'Don't study prophecy because it's none of our business.' Well one third of the Bible, at least my Bible, is prophecy. If you're going to study the Bible you're going to spend a third of your time studying prophecy, Old Testament and New.
"But that sets the agenda for Rick Warren. If it's not about prophecy then it's about the here and now, ushering in that kingdom so that Jesus comes back to this perfect utopia. That is just plain false teaching, period."
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.