When you breach the sacrosanct wall between church and state, and use religion to promote policy, bad things happen. At least, that's what the left has been telling us for years.
But Rev. Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine and author of "Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street," sees it differently. Wallis used his interpretation of religion, particularly the Bible, to play the populist card and categorize portions of the American private sector as greedy on MSNBC's Jan. 21 "Morning Joe."
"These bank bonuses, I would say, are a sin of Biblical proportions," Wallis said. "But to pick on the banks alone misses the point. It's a symptom, I think of a real erosion of societal values because new maxims have taken us over - ‘greed is good,' ‘it's all about me and I want it now.'"
Wallis suggested our society adopt a values system that sounded more like socialism than the rugged individualism that has made American great. He proposed using the economic downturn to implement these "values."
"To those, I want to propose some old virtues like ‘enough is enough,' ‘we're in this together,' and I love the Native American notion that you value decisions today by their impact on the seventh generation out," Wallis said. "Now that would change things. So, I think we need to use a crisis to recalibrate and to think, if we miss the opportunity, all pain, suffering - my hometown of the Detroit, I was just there to launch a book, launching a book in the worst city in the country but it was the right place before going to New York. We don't do this, we won't redeem this crisis. So, let's use the chance to rethink our values here."
From a policy standpoint, Wallis suggested America use these reassessed values to create this so-called "new economy."
"Well, wealth doesn't trickle down," Wallis said. "We've learned that. But bad behavior does. And so, I think underneath this economic crisis there is really a values crisis. And how we get a moral compass for a new economy and I'm hearing this from business people, from unemployed workers."
Wallis related a story about a protest in which he participated in Dec. 2009.
"I was standing on the steps of the Treasury Building with people that were being foreclosed upon and they talked about what happened," Wallis said. "And they began to cry and I get up as the religious leader and I just got mad. I said, you know, we extended grace to these big banks because we are afraid after meltdown. They're extending no grace to the people who need it - small businesses need help to do jobs. That's right."
As for the Wall Street bonuses, which banks are contractually obligated to pay and some employees rely upon in lieu of a regular salary - Wallis said to send them to Haiti.
"And these $150 billion, these bonuses, this could erase the budget gap in 50 states. this could provide health insurance for 30 million people. A quarter of it could prevent and postpone foreclosures until 2012. This is a lot of money. I say send the bonuses to Haiti or something like that."
Wallis channeled his inner-Ellsworth Toohey to bash the market system and called for the change for "the common good."
"We lost, Mike [Barnicle], the notion of the common good," Wallis said. "The invisible hand of the market let go of the common good. How do you restore a sense of community again? That's I think the issue before us."
"Morning Joe" panelist and CNBC "Closing Bell" anchor Maria Bartiromo asked Wallis if the American dream was still achievable.
"The chances of that are less than ever because of how the debt is stacked from the top," Wallis said. "That kind of opportunity is what we need."