The Common Good

4,000 pastors sign full-page letter in Politico against budget cuts that hurt poor

Source: Sojourners
Date: July 13, 2011

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4,000 pastors sign full-page letter in Politico against budget cuts that hurt poor

Prominent clergy from across the country on Wednesday released an open letter in Politico signed by more than 4,000 pastors in response to proposed federal budget cuts.

The letter, directed to President Obama and Congress, told political leaders to “listen to your pastors” and called attention to the human consequences of cutting federal programs that protect those in need.  A copy of the ad with a list of signers is here. It can also be viewed in a digital copy of Politico here (on page 18).

Audio from a press call on Wednesday featuring Rev. Jim Wallis, Rev. Rich Nathan, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rev. Derrick Harkins is available here.

“The recession has cost hundreds of our church member’s jobs and homes”, said Rev. Rich Nathan, Senior Pastor of the Vineyard Church of Columbus in Columbus, Ohio.  “But I am concerned about something that has even more devastating consequences for our nation: the adoption of a philosophy that says, ‘I got mine! You're on your own!’ Jesus had an infinitely wiser philosophy for building a flourishing society: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ This is as meaningful in today's budget debates as it was two thousand years ago in ancient Israel.” 

Organizers initially set a goal of having 1,000 pastors sign the open letter and were overwhelmed when more than 4,000 pastors responded. Growing numbers of Christians are condemning the immorality of extending tax breaks and benefits for the wealthy while cutting programs that help the poor and vulnerable meet their most basic needs. The clergy signers of the letter told political leaders, “We work, pray and do whatever we can to remain faithful to the responsibility of every Christian to help the poor. Still, we can't meet the crushing needs by ourselves,” reminding Congress that government is a critical and necessary partner in serving the common good.

Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, Founding Pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colo., was a recipient of a program that has been threatened.

"As a member of the clergy and a mother of 2 children with strong minds and bodies - minds and bodies which benefitted for 3 years from WIC - I stand with all Christians in America who believe the cries of the poor and the cries of the children are not only the very voice of Christ, but are indeed the sound of our future waiting for response,” Bolz-Weber said. “How shall we answer?"

Clergy rejected the false choice between moral and fiscal responsibility, reminding political leaders of the need to get our country’s finances in order without making the poor bear the burden of deficit reduction.

“This is not about some nameless faceless ‘other.’ The choices politicians make about the budget will harm or help our neighbors,” said Derrick Harkins, senior pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. “We want to serve those who don’t have lobbyists on K Street. Our budget is a moral document, and it is either going to reflect the best of whom we are or the worst.”

Christian opposition to budgets cuts harming low-income people continues to grow. In May, more than 50 of America’s most prominent Christian leaders formed a “Circle of Protection” coalition that laid out principles and values for a moral budget. Thousands of people of faith have since joined this campaign. Find more about the Circle of Protection at

“Our country is in the midst of a clash between two competing moral visions,” said Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, which is based in Washington, D.C. “It is a conflict between those who believe in the common good and those who believe individual good is the only good. A war has been declared on the poor and it is a moral imperative that Christians choose to fight on the side of the most vulnerable.”  

A group of Catholic leaders and academics on Wednesday also released a statement warning that the poor and most vulnerable were being sacrificed on “the altar of deficit reduction.”  Signed by organizations including the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, NETWORK:  A Catholic Social Justice Lobby, and others, the statement says in part, “We are compelled to speak out to ensure that political leaders do not forsake those who have no voice, especially when political pressure mounts. Faced with irresponsible and reckless calls from Republicans to dismantle our nation’s safety net, the President must now demonstrate the leadership and moral vision necessary to reject false choices.”  The full text of the statement and signers is available here.



Jim Wallis is the president and CEO of Sojourners, the largest network of Christians in the United States who are focused on the biblical call to social justice. Wallis is also author of the New York Times bestsellers God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It and The Great Awakening: Seven Ways To Change The World, Reviving Faith & Politics. His latest book is Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street. Follow him on Twitter: @jimwallis.


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