Reverend Jim Wallis, evangelical theologian, political activist and author, spoke at Annenberg Auditorium last night about what he said is a need to envision last year’s economic crisis as a chance for moral change in America.
“Underneath this economic crisis is a values crisis,” said Wallis, whose most recently released book is “The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America.”
“We won’t get to economic recovery without a moral recovery as well,” he said.
The lecture was hosted by Stanford’s Office of Religious life as part of the Roger W. Heyns Lecture in Religion and Community series.
Last night, Wallis criticized the exorbitant bonus packages of America’s six big banks. Applause followed his announcement that he and his family recently pulled their money out of Bank of America and opened new accounts with a smaller institution.
Wallis stressed, however, that the behavior of the banks is not an isolated problem.
“Bonuses are just a symptom of a deeper societal erosion of values: ‘Greed is good. It’s all about me and I want it now,’” Wallis said.
During the first half of the lecture, Wallis avoided discussion of Washington politics. He focused, rather, on the need for grass-roots-level moral and spiritual reform as a powerful and effective way to enact change.
His message struck a chord with education master’s student Erica Ostermann.
“I was interested in how different religions organize themselves to make political change,” Ostermann responded when asked why she attended the lecture.
“[Wallis] is doing it in a good way that is not too polarizing,” she added. “He is intentionally not trying to alienate anyone.”
Fatima Wagdy ’12 said she was most interested in Wallis’s take on “activism and spirituality and how they connect.”
She said found the lecture inspiring because it encouraged undergraduates “to put real passion and dedication into service — connecting it to morality and faith.”
The event was followed by a book signing for Wallis’ latest publication.
The annual lecture series was established with support from the James Irvine Foundation in 1994 to honor Dr. Heynes, an active participant in University Public Worship at Stanford Memorial Church. Past speakers include the Dalai Lama, Karen Armstrong and Eboo Patel.