Quotes of the day

“A coalition of progressive Christian leaders has taken out a full-page ad that asks ‘What would Jesus cut?’ in Monday’s edition of Politico, the opening salvo in what the leaders say will be a broader campaign to prevent cuts for the poor and international aid programs amid the budget battle raging in Washington.

“‘They’re talking about cutting bed nets for malaria and leaving every piece of military spending untouched,’ said the Rev. Jim Wallis, who leads the Christian group Sojourners, referring to Republican spending proposals for the rest of this year.

“‘Are we saying that every piece of military equipment is more important than bed nets, children’s health and nutrition for low-income families?’ said Wallis, whose group paid for Monday’s ad. ‘If so they should be ashamed of themselves.'”

“There is no doubt we must get our fiscal house in order. It’s not optional. But the fact is that the money spent on U.S. anti-poverty programs makes a great deal more difference to low-income families than it would to reducing the deficit. The amounts add up to a drop in a sea of red budget ink. But for millions of low-income Americans, they mean the difference between running out of food before the end of the month, and eating well enough to do one’s best at school or work…

“When Jesus talked about how God will judge nations, he said God will focus on what we did or did not do for the neediest among us. Taking care of ‘the least of these’ should be among our nation’s top priorities. It should not be among the first of our responsibilities in line for cuts.

“I urge Congress not to attempt to balance the budget at the expense of vulnerable people. It won’t solve the problem, and it’s not what Jesus would do.”

“Even though the 533 billion dollar military budget is the elephant in the room and the gushing, bleeding wound of America’s deficit … it has been the sacred cow. But folks are beginning to whisper. I’m not sure about sacred cows making good hamburgers, but I do know that military money could make some good schools. And the Bible I read gives a powerful image of beating ‘swords into plowshares’ — taking things that have brought death and converting them into things that bring life. It seems the world may be poised and ready for that kind of conversion.

“So it’s not a bad moral gauge — What Would Jesus Do? Who Would Jesus Bomb? What Would Jesus Cut? The Jesus who loved the poor, challenged the rich, made friends with enemies, and healed the sick. So let’s ask it – WWJC? And let’s hope the politicians who claim to follow the Christ who carried good news for the poor will ask this little question as the debate goes on.”

“What these ‘progressive’ Christian leaders are doing is committing the same error that some on the so-called Religious Right did, which is to pretend that Scripture can be reduced to a governing blueprint. (In this instance, we’re asked to imagine Jesus as a liberal, big-spending director of the Office of Management and Budget.) The temptation of politically active people of faith is to simplistically connect dots, insisting that certain biblical principles self-evidently translate into particular public policies…

“The Christian ethicist Paul Ramsey wrote, ‘Identification of Christian social ethics with specific partisan proposals that clearly are not the only ones that may be characterized as Christian and as morally acceptable comes close to the original New Testament meaning of heresy.’

“That is what Wallis & Company are engaging in. To argue that their form of liberalism has the imprimatur of Jesus — and to argue the necessary corollary, which is that those who want to return spending levels to their pre-stimulus levels are being unfaithful to the commands of their Lord — is arrogant and harmful. It reduces faith to a political weapon. In their partisan zeal, these Christian leaders are discrediting the very faith they insist they are defending.”

“Yes, this debt is a mortal threat to our country. It is also a moral threat. It is immoral to bind our children to as leeching and destructive a force as debt. It is immoral to rob our children’s future and make them beholden to China. No society is worthy that treats its children so shabbily.”

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