"Hope is a choice made because of faith; believing in spite of the evidence, and then watching the evidence change," he says. "The best social movements have spiritual foundations."
Wallis could be his own best example. Until recently, he felt like a man born out of time because for decades, evangelical fervor has focused predominantly – and often angrily – on issues of personal morality, such as abortion. It ignored what Wallis considers the concerns central to Jesus' teachings. At the top of his list: care for the poor.
When he was a seminary student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago in the 1960s, Wallis and his classmates searched the Bible for references to poverty. When they turned up thousands, it sparked a personal "awakening" that has guided his life ever since.
"God hates injustice," he says. He founded Sojourners, a social-justice ministry and magazine, and began what has become three decades of living in low-income communities in Washington, D.C.
"Your perspective is shaped by what you see when you get out of bed in the morning," he says, quoting a truism from the civil rights movement.
When the religious right was at full throttle in the 1990s, Wallis started Call to Renewal, a network of pastors from across the United States (mainline and black Protestants, Roman Catholics, evangelicals), to work toward overcoming poverty.