Christians, the debt and the poor

JONATHAN ERNST REUTERS A woman walks past the U.S. Capitol dome, seen through a porthole in nearby brick-work, in Washington, … Continued

JONATHAN ERNST

REUTERS

A woman walks past the U.S. Capitol dome, seen through a porthole in nearby brick-work, in Washington, August 2, 2011.

A Christian group calling themselves the Circle of Protection recently met with President Obama, saying that they spoke for “Christians” and urging him to “protect programs for the poor” from budget cuts.

An analysis of the group’s Web site shows that they “claim that biblical mandates preclude limits to federal programs for low-income people.”

Claims by this group, which includes the politically liberally president of Sojourners, Jim Wallis, among others, do not represent all Christians. Nor do I believe that they accurately represent the tenets of Scripture on this topic. That is why I have joined a number of prominent Christian scholars and leaders in signing a letter from Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE) to President Obama explaining the moral failure of continuing to spend the American people into further debt.

As the CASE letter explains:

While we believe that it is imperative that we show compassion for “the least of these,” that commandment is best fulfilled through Christian charity and spiritual counseling, not government programs. “To suggest that Matthew 25 – or any commandment concerning Christian charity – can be met through wealth redistribution is to obscure these truths. . . . Just as we should not balance the budget ‘on the backs of the poor,’ so we should not balance the budget on the backs of our children and grandchildren.”

The letter goes on to urge a three-step solution. First, “correctly identify the problem,” namely, recklessly spending our nation into further debt. Second, “put narrow political interests aside” – every federal program, including entitlements, must be examined. Third, “lead for the long term” by making tough decisions.

As I have consistently argued:

The CASE letter says it best, “Contrary to [Circle of Protection’s] founding ‘Statement,’ we do not need to ‘protect programs for the poor.’ We need to protect the poor themselves.”

  • laugh_riot

    As there is no god, I don’t see the point of either of these letters. Get a job, freaks.

  • antijingoist

    In response to Jordan Sekulow joining a group dedicated to trying to figure out what to with money stolen from me, I’ve joined a group called, “stop stealing.” It’s a group of Christians that have decided to stick to the revolutionary idea that all theft is stealing, and wrong.

    With no money taken from anyone, the poor people will have alot more, because they are getting stolen from less by the people in DC.

  • justinf

    I know Jim Wallis gets singled out, but here are some of the other notable signatories of the Circle of Protection, y’know, just FYI:
    – Leith Anderson (National Association of Evangelicals)
    – David Beckmann (Bread for the World)
    – Geoffrey Black (United Church of Christ)
    – Bishop Stephen E. Blaire (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
    – Bishop Charles E. Blake (Church of God in Christ)
    – Bishop John R. Bryant (African Methodist Episcopal Church)
    – J. Ron Byler (Mennonite Central Committee United States)
    – Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS (NETWORK)
    – Patrick Carolyn (Franciscan Action Network)
    – Rev. Peg Chemberlin (National Council of Churches of Christ)
    – Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr. (Esperanza)
    – Dave Evans (Food for the Hungry)
    – Daniel Garcia (Kairos Prison Ministry International)
    – Wes Granberg-Michaelson (Reformed Church in America)
    – Ken Hackett (Catholic Relief Services)
    – Ambassador Tony Hall (Alliance to End Hunger)
    – Dick Hamm (Christian Churches Together in the USA)
    – Bishop Mark S. Hanson (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
    – Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr. (Christian Methodist Episcopal Church)
    – Joel Hunter (Northland: A Church Distributed)
    – Michael Kinnamon (National Council of Churches of Christ)
    – The Very Reverend Leonid Kishkovsky (Orthodox Church in America)
    – Heather Larson (Willow Creek Community Church)
    – John McCullough (Church World Service)
    – A. Roy Medley (American Baptist Churches USA)
    – Rich Nathan (Vineyard Columbus)
    – Stanley J. Noffsinger (Church of the Brethren)
    – John A. Nunes (Lutheran World Relief)
    – Gradye Parsons (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.))
    – Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader (United Methodist Church)
    – Robert Radtke (Episcopal Relief & Development)
    – Bishop James C. Richardson, Jr. (Apostle Church of Christ in God)
    – Commissioner William A. Roberts (The Salvation Army)
    – Samuel Rodriguez (National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference)
    – Bishop Monroe Saunders (United Church of Jesus Christ (Apostolic))
    – The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori (The Episcopal Church

  • jroane

    The federal government’s budget is not a “moral” document. It is a political document that represents the spending priorities of this representative republic. We are failing all Americans by continually wanting more government than we are willing to pay for, and that includes middle class and upper class “goodies” that nobody wants to pay for and nobody wants cuts, like the mortgage deduction. If we were serious about the children, we would cut spending AND raise taxes. There are two sides to every budget, spending and revenues and action needs to be done on both when you consistently run deficits.

  • apbenlulu

    It is simple; those of us that want to watch over the poor should do so. It would seem that the “Circle of Protection,” might be more recognizable named “Men (generically speaking, sorry ladies) In Tights.”Those who believe there is no mandate morally to do so should be on board with curbing government spending on this issue. Jordan our numbers are growing by leaps and bounds. Ah, where are those people on “separation of church and state?”
    I hope people in other countries don’t try to homogenize the American people. Thank God for “Freedom of Speech.” We are a diverse people and tolerant to a fault (maybe not in rhetoric). Sorry if readers are offended, but I’m sure the comments will prove that I would never be able to thank them for this freedom (military excluded).
    No this circle does not speak for me. As for the money that is fleeced from an unsuspecting public, I hope they can get it back. If God wants the poor taken care of, He does not need money from those whose heart is not in it. It is also not the responsibility of any “circle” to play “Robin Hood.” Stealing is still one of the top 10, you know Commandments. How do they get around that one?

  • WmarkW

    This budget crisis is the result of decades of the Same Old Politics — spend on everything, tax as little as possible, borrow so the unborn can do the pay.

    Tell me what you’re willing to do DIFFERENT this time — what spending have you traditionally supported that you’re willing to cut; and what taxes that you’ve opposed will you support now?

    “Cut someone else’s spending” isn’t leadership, it’s greed.

  • ezrasalias-socialize

    Nice one Sekulow. Balancing a budget on the backs of the poor means precluding the first two unfunded tax breaks for the wealthy, two wars and a drug prescription bill. How did you get this job as a commentator?

  • YEAL9

    Time for some ways to pay OUR bills and balance OUR federal budget:
    from :

    CNN- 2007
    ” The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and anti- terrorist efforts abroad could cost the country $2.4 trillion over the next ten years, according to a report Wednesday.

    The $2.4 trillion would pay to keep 75,000 troops dep-loyed overseas from 2013 to 2017. About 210,000 troops are currently de-ployed. It does not include the Pentagon’s normal spending, which in 2007 is estimated to be about $450 billion.”

    Obviously, we can no longer afford to fight Muslim terrorism abroad. So bring the troops home making it clear to countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that W-MD already in our ar-senal and paid for will be delivered upon their capitals and mosques if our country is ever attacked again by Muslims from anywhere.

    And the promulgation of the flaws and fallacies of Islam should be made the number one priority of Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security. With no Islam, there will no longer be any koranic/mosque-driven acts of terror.

    And do we still need troops in Germany? Ditto for Japan? WWII was over 66 years ago.

    And then there are these other suggestions:

    Some incentives to live a healthy life style and also ways to pay for universal health care.

    1. An added two dollar health insurance tax (or higher) on a pack of cigarettes. Ditto taxes on alcoholic beverages, the higher the alcohol content, the higher the tax. Ditto for any product shown to be unhealthy (e.g. guns, high caloric/fatty foods??)

    2. Physicals akin to those required for life insurance- the overly ob-ese will pay signficantly more Medicare and universal health insurance (unless the obe-sity is caused by a medical condition).

    3. No universal health care coverage for drivers driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or using cell phones while driving.

    4. No universal health coverage for drug addicts or for those having self-inflicted STDs.

    5. No universal health coverage for abortions unless the life of the mother i

  • cogito1

    Wonderful! I assume that hunger, homelessness, and related ills will soon be ended. Otherwise, we will have to conclude that Christianity does not work.

  • JUSTACOMMENT

    I love this paragraph cited by Sekulow: “To suggest that Matthew 25 – or any commandment concerning Christian charity – can be met through wealth redistribution is to obscure these truths. . . . Just as we should not balance the budget ‘on the backs of the poor,’ so we should not balance the budget on the backs of our children and grandchildren.”

    The first part ignores that redistribution would not be needed if there is a fair distribution in the first place: owners of the capital that risks it in an enterprise deserve their part with a moderate premium and the workers that actually make the goods or provide the services must be compensated enough so that there is no need of redistribution for them. For citizens that were not educated or cannot find jobs, are ill or too old to work, a minimum of security should be offered trough moderate redistribution, including protection of their health at no cost. Even knowing that god has not been proven to exist, the concept of god love for her/its/his creatures should make this a no-brainer.

    The second part starts correctly by indicating that the budget should not be balanced on the backs of the poor, all we agree on this. But them jumps to say not to pass the problem to our children and grandchildren, ignoring the current rich class and their big corporations that are hoarding cash today without paying taxes or paying just pennies. Sekulow expends too much time reading the bible and the balance sheet of his father enterprises to pray god for protection against socialists. Because of that he ignores that just by letting expire the tax break to the rich, increase a little the upper tax brackets for the rich and trim a little bit the budged (stopping wars) will suffice to pay the debt and balance the budget in 15 years or less.

  • JUSTACOMMENT

    Don’t expect that institutionalized “hunger, homelessness, and related ills” end any time soon, because the charity business will be out of business. And more likely the business of the big religion organizations will suffer and may even disappear with the demise of the charity business.

  • resoacwk

    Do you also conclude that Islam has failed when Muslim nations ignore the serious plight of the starving Somalians who are 99% MUSLIM?

  • usapdx

    How many of the poor have violated their TENTH COMMANDMENT that got them self in this econmic state? The Christian charity groups could help out the country instead of giving the government lip service on political matters by haveing the TAX EXEMPT law repealed and paying taxes to get our country back into better econmic state which would help the poor. Freedom of speech has a price and the TAX EXEMPT law has rules. Are these that violate the TAX EXEMPT law’s rules in violation of the SEVENTH COMMANDMENT?

  • haveaheart

    What a load of thoroughly amoral buII$hit.

    “Right now we are morally failing our children and grandchildren by selling their future flourishing for our present comfort.”

    Mr. Sekulow, please define for us your phrase “present comfort.” Does it mean selling “our children” down the road in order to acquire a yacht today? Or does it mean mortgaging “our grandchildren’s” future in order to feed today’s hungry people, educate today’s growing children, and house, clothe, and insure today’s unemployed population?

    You are the worst kind of hypocrite, Mr. Sekulow. You would hoard the fortune you have today rather than use it to alleviate suffering, yet you claim to represent the teachings of a man who urged personal sacrifice to the point of poverty when neighbors are in need.

    How people like you can call yourselves “Christians” is a thoroughgoing mystery.