Beat the Defense Budget into a Plowshare
Almost exactly 4 years ago, more than 100 faith leaders from around the country went to jail together as we prayed for a moral budget and lamented the current one. I think it may be time to do it again.
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On Oct. 28, 2009, President Obama signed into law the $680 billion 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, the largest military spending bill of its kind, increasing the military budget 24 billion from the last fiscal year.
With all the hope for an end to the recession, military spending does seem to be the open wound of America (and perhaps no coincidence that the military budget is almost the same as the bailout package). The military spending is the elephant in the room any time we speak of health care for all or reforming the broken education system; one wonders how much good we can do when nearly half of every tax dollar goes to the military. Dr. King's words ring truer than ever: "A country that spends more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching a spiritual death."
The U.S. is now paying over $16 billion a year just to maintain its nuclear arsenal, an arsenal so big it takes the next 50 countries combined to even get close. I did a little research recently and talked to some folks in DC just to wrap my hands around the numbers. Using the Hiroshima bomb as a measuring unit (and remembering that this bomb killed 140,000 people in one blast, and 90 of these bombs could blow up all of Russia), the U.S. now has the equivalent of more than 122,000 Hiroshimas. How many times do we need to be able to blow up the world? It must break God's heart. As Jesus wept over Jerusalem because it did not know the things that lead to peace, Jesus must be weeping over America today.
It is my prayer that we would have the courage and imagination to beat these "swords into plows" -- to turn the things that have brought death into things that bring life. As the rate of soldiers dying by suicide has now outnumbered those dying in combat, it is time for us to say "enough" to the sword which we have picked up and died by over and over. It is time to choose another future than wars and rumors of wars. And perhaps it is time once again to pray on the steps of Congress for a moral budget... and to go to jail as we pray.
Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President.