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Jim Wallis' New Year's Resolutions vs. the Pope's

Mark D. Tooley
Mark Tooley is the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD).

Religious Left icon Jim Wallis posted his ten 2015 New Year's resolutions in The Huffington Post. They are mostly admirable or benign if somewhat politically correct. Love more. Build racial bridges. Empower women. Embrace hope.

There's also:

Question every act of war. Peacemaking is not finding another war to win, but getting underneath the conflicts to their causes. We must question each escalation of war and continue to ask our leaders why this keeps happening.

Wallis is a pacifist who prefers not to specifically admit it. But okay, hoping for alternatives to war is laudable, sort of like a beauty contestant who declares her hope for world peace.

There's also this resolution from Wallis:

Stand up for the reality of climate change. If we say we love God and care for God's creation, it is time to raise our voices over the crisis of climate change. It's time to start turning around, and we must begin to do that.

On a cold January night it's a little hard to resonate with Wallis' resolve against higher temperatures. There has in fact been a 17 year "pause" in global warming, but true believers insist the crisis, according to their computer models, will resume sometime soon.

Maybe. But the remedy is unclear. Even the sweeping limitations on economic activity that true believers desire would not, according to computer models, significantly alter global weather. There's also the issue that historically humanity has fared better under warmer temperatures than cold ones.

A New Year's resolve against anticipated temperatures years or decades away seems a little ethereal and perhaps hubristic.

Should New Year's resolutions focus on political goals or personal improvement? If the former, perhaps a Christian should include alleviating the plight of persecuted Christians and other persons of conscience globally. Advocacy for the unborn, the terminally ill and disabled also merits consideration. And working to reaffirm marriage and family, especially in defense of children, likewise seems appropriate.

Personally, and at odds with Wallis' resolution against military conflict, I would resolve to support and pray for the military defeat of ISIS and its murderous allies in 2015.

But I'm inclined to think that New Year's resolutions should stress striving by God's grace for greater virtue and less selfishness instead of political advocacy. In this vein, check out Pope Francis' suggestions for seasonal emphases, which don't include global warming (although reputedly he's addressing the topic next year). Instead they stress personal repentance, self-restraint, and direct giving to others.

Here's the first one:

"Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are."

And here are the rest:

– "Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love."
 – "Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy."
 – "Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence."
 – "Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others."
 – "Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord."
 – "Be careful of envy, lust, hatred and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people."
 – "Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation."
 – "Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker … the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this."

These suggestions make worthy resolutions for the New Year.

Prior to joining the IRD in 1994, Mark worked eight years for the Central Intelligence Agency. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and is a native of Arlington, Virginia. A lifelong United Methodist, he has been active in United Methodist renewal since 1988, when he wrote a study about denominational funding of pro-Marxist groups for his local congregation. He attends a United Methodist church in Alexandria, Virginia. Follow Mark on Twitter @markdtooley.

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