Is 'What Would Jesus Cut' Heresy?

By Timothy King 03-02-2011

Heresy is a strong accusation. But that is right where Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center took his column about Sojourners' "What Would Jesus Cut?" campaign when he suggested that the slogan is heretical.

It's quite a jump to starting talking about heresy because of a four-word campaign slogan, so it sounds like some clarification might be helpful for Wehner and others.

With this campaign we know that Christians who serve in Congress have the challenge of weighing many competing interests. Some of these interests are well represented by lobbyists, while others -- such as the poor and vulnerable -- don't have many people to speak on their behalf. So we decided to ask members of Congress how the values they hold affect the decisions they make -- specifically what gets kept in and what gets kept out of our federal budget.

So our "What Would Jesus Cut?" campaign is meant to raise a challenge. How do the values we hold, rooted in the person of Jesus, affect the decisions made in the public policy arena? We certainly aren't trying to turn the "Sermon on the Mount" into H.B. 173, but we believe that legislators who follow Christ should always ask the question of how the bills they pass and the policies they make affect poor and vulnerable people. Jesus was concerned with "the least of these," and we think Christians should follow Jesus' words with the policy decisions they make.

As to Wehner's column specifically, he said, "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." If the advertisement did claim that those 28 Christian leaders had divined God's good and perfect will for each line item of the budget, he would be right. If the ad claimed that anyone who disagreed with the priorities of the signers couldn't be a Christian, he would be right. But the ad didn't do that. If anyone thought otherwise, hopefully this post has cleared that up.

I got my first WWJD bracelet in seventh grade and soon had a necklace and book to go with it. The slogan could be misunderstood, taken the wrong way, or applied legalistically. But for me, and a generation of young Christians wrestling with the public witness of our faith, it was a positive force in our Christian formation. It brought us to the simple challenge of whether or not our actions lined up with the values and principles we see in scripture. Corporate interests and defense contractors will have teams of lobbyists demanding that legislators think about them during the budget process. So we hope that WWJC will challenge legislators to think through how their decisions affect the poor and vulnerable with every choice they make.

Is riffing off of a fad from the '90s heresy? If you are referring to bowl cuts and neon colored spandex -- then, possibly. But "What Would Jesus Cut?" I'm going to say no.

Tim King is communications manager and special assistant to the CEO at Sojourners. Follow Tim on Twitter @TMKing.

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