Profile: The Rev. Jim Wallis, From Outcast to Insider

In Obama's Washington, the progressive evangelical has gained new influence.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Do you really need to read another profile of Jim Wallis, the most overexposed progressive religious figure of recent years?

Yes, actually. Here's why: Wallis has gone from religious and political outcast—rejected by fellow evangelical leaders who thought he was too liberal and by the Democratic Party, which had little use for evangelicals—to consummate insider, talking to the White House a few times a week while getting more love from religious conservatives like Michael Gerson.

My Wallis profile captures him in this heady new moment. Here's the top:

At a recent Senate hearing on the Employee Free Choice Act, a pro-unionization bill backed by organized labor, expert testimony came from the usual suspects: an economist, an academic, a lawyer. And then there was the Rev. Jim Wallis, an evangelical minister. Where his fellow panelists made economic and legal arguments for the bill, Wallis laid out a moral case. "From 1995 to 2005, average CEO pay increased five times faster than that of average workers," he told the senators. "That is not just an economic issue. That is a sin of biblical proportions." Packed with union members, the room erupted in applause.

For Wallis, who leads an antipoverty group called Sojourners, it was just the beginning of another long day of power politics. An afternoon interview at his Washington office was cut short so he could hop on a conference call with President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Then he was off to dinner with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Read the full profile here. I spent nearly two hours interviewing Wallis for the piece and will post highlights from the Q&A here today or tomorrow.

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