Exploiting Christianity over Budget Cuts

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


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Religious Left icon Jim Wallis on Wednesday, July 20 led an ecumenical delegation into Barack Obama’s White House to offer spiritual solidarity with the president in his federal debt show-down with congressional Republicans.

Asking, “What Would Jesus Cut?” Wallis enthusiastically met with Obama, accompanied by representatives of the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Council of Churches, the Salvation Army and the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.

Would Jesus bury America in debt? Would Jesus suffocate America with confiscatory taxes? Would Jesus entrap the needy as permanent wards of the state?  Presumably, these questions did not arise during the religious summit at the White House. Instead, these Big Government religionists reaffirmed their “Circle of Protection” for an unlimited welfare State. Ostensibly, even just talk about federal budget “cuts,” which in Washington parlance typically mean only potential limits on scheduled increases, is a vapors-inducing assault upon the poor, the elderly, and the ill.

“The president and Congress are engaged in an intense debate over the national budget — with an upcoming vote on raising our national debt ceiling being used as a tool in a political and ideological battle,” Jim Wallis reported in the immediate aftermath of his White House pilgrimage. “Programs for the poor and vulnerable are caught in the middle. But risking our social safety net for political advantage isn’t just irresponsible — it’s immoral.”

Wallis and his allies profess to speak for “real people who are struggling, some of whom are poor; families, children, and the elderly.” But in their limited, materialistic vision, only government entitlements and transfer payments seem to qualify as legitimate expressions of Christian charity. There is no apparent concern for working families struggling with higher taxes, young people forced to pay into transfer payment schemes from which they likely will gain no just return, struggling potential entrepreneurs who would like to found new businesses, for the chronically unemployed who would like jobs and not welfare, or for all who dream of charting their own future destinies rather than submit to the state as permanent wards. None of these Americans evidently merit a religious “Circle of Protection” from predatory Big Government.

“He agrees with us that the ‘least of these’ and the most vulnerable citizens should not have to sacrifice for the well-being of our country,” enthused a National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) spokesman to Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper that helpfully explained he was quoting the Bible. No doubt Obama did very much agree with his supportive religious visitors. But how many evangelicals agree with their professed representative that their churches should side always with the welfare state? The NAE representative reported he also told Obama of a “spiritual and moral” responsibility to reel in government spending. “I talked about the importance of fiscal responsibility, which the president articulated very clearly, so we’re with him on that,” the evangelical explained. So, evidently the religious coalition offered Obama unqualified support against congressional Republicans.  The evangelical also recalled: “The timing was really excellent because, as [Obama] was going into the [subsequent] meeting [with Congressional leaders], he has the poor on his mind.”

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  • Mike G

    I hope they can work out a reasonable agreement. Good commentary on the budget and Catholic issues at http://www.catholicurrent.com/#/.

  • StephenD

    “We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people.”Can someone please explain how reduced budgets (not eliminations) would undermine lives, dignity and rights?!? I don't get it. If you're poor how does not giving you something take away your rights. I'm not given anything. I have to earn it. You have the same rights as I to life and liberty and to pursue happiness. You don't have a right to demand that I pay for that happiness.Now, we in America are the most compassionate people. We give to those less fortunate. We also take care of our elderly and sick and those incapable of doing for themselves. Does that mean we MUST give unlimited and unquestioningly?I am sick and tired of being told budget cuts will ruin lives. Keeping them on the doll is more ruinous! Teach those that can to do for themselves! Am I to be "guilted" into paying more? As I understand it, 49% of Americans don't pay any taxes. Am I not paying enough to cover them? When is enough…enough?

  • Alice

    SO, what ever happened to the CHURCH taking care of the poor, the elderly, and the ill?
    It is my belief that it is easy to support the government doing this so that each church and, for that matter, Christian can walk away from responsibilities enumerated in the New Testament.
    Get Government out of charity work…get the church, which is so very worried, back in.
    Then we could at least cut those superfluous government entitlements.
    Oh, but that would mean taking personal responsibility–lack of that is partially why we are in the mess we are in.

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