The Common Good

New Threats to the Poor -- Don't Let the Lobbyists Win

Sojomail - March 24, 2011


"The church is obliged by its evangelical mission to demand structural changes that favor the reign of God and a more just and comradely way of life. Unjust social structures are the roots of all violence and disturbances. … Those who benefit from obsolete structures react selfishly to any kind of change."

- Archbishop Oscar Romero, November 1979. Today is the 31st anniversary of his martyrdom. (Source: U.S. Catholic)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Fast, Pray, and Act -- New Threats to the Poor

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The extreme budget cuts proposed to critical programs that save the lives, dignity, and future of poor and vulnerable people have crossed the line. Politicians have only just begun to hear from the many church leaders who are ready to wage the good fight over these bad decisions.

Those with money and armies of lobbyists have their interests protected. They won’t bear the burden of reducing the deficit. As this debate continues, we want to flood Capitol Hill with the voices of those who stand with and for poor and vulnerable people. “What Would Jesus Cut?” has resonated with people of faith across the country. Thanks to you, a WWJC bracelet was delivered to every member of Congress, a full page ad ran in Politico, and thousands of emails were sent to politicians asking them the same question. But more needs to be done. We want to run radio and online ads calling other Christians to add their voice to this campaign and pressure Congress. But we can’t do it without your support.

Will you help us get this message out? For $50 dollars we can email another 10,000 Christians asking them to join this campaign. For $100 dollars we can make sure 100,000 people see our message on Facebook. (Give now.)

While following this budget debate, you might be wondering: What happened? How did we get here? First, we saw the proposed budget cuts to many critical programs that directly impact the lives and survival of the poorest people -- both at home and around the world. Life-saving and life-changing initiatives that previously had bipartisan support, and were proven to be cost-effective successes, are now on the chopping block. But enormous military expenditures, corporate subsidies, tax breaks, and loopholes have all been left alone. No attention has been paid to the long-term challenges of Medicare and Medicaid. It was not spending on poor people that created this deficit, and these cruel cuts in programs that help poor people will do little to get us out of our deficit.

Now the budget debate continues to get worse. Plans are underway to single out programs for low-income people and cut them the most. The Republican Study Committee wants to radically scale back all programs for hungry and poor people, cap the programs, and prevent their expansion. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the premier Republican budget cutter, claims that the safety net has become a "hammock." So those who are already hurting will now hurt even more. We are moving from neglecting the poor to targeting the poor. Theologically, this is an assault against the very people God specifically instructs us to protect, and whose well-being is the biblical test of a nation’s righteousness.

These new threats are why we need your continued support.

Over the past few weeks, I have personally felt in my heart a call to fast and pray about these issues during Lent, and to turn to God for wisdom, help, and direction. As I talked to other leaders, I found that I am not the only one. Former Ambassador Tony Hall called and told me that fasting and prayer had been on his heart too. In 1993, he fasted for 22 days in response to similar cuts. Now, almost 20 years later, with the stakes even higher and more lives at risk, a broad circle of faith-based and secular organizations have organized to form a “circle of protection” around vulnerable people. So I am joining Ambassador Tony Hall, David Beckmann of Bread for the World, ONE, American Jewish World Service, Meals on Wheels, Islamic Relief, and a broad coalition of many others to fast, pray, and act during Lent.

In the book of Esther, we see an example of fasting, praying, and petitioning political powers to change unjust actions by the government. We want to follow that model of prayer, fasting, and action. In the coming days and weeks, we will ask you to join us.

With your help, we will reach out to other Christians and people of faith and conscience to ask them to join us through the ads and work you support.

Our nation and its leaders need to do some soul searching. All of us need to do some soul searching. The attacks coming out of Congress on programs that help poor and vulnerable people are unprecedented in my lifetime. Now, more than ever, people of faith need to speak and act. We need to turn to God for such a time as this, and seek God’s wisdom and power, which is far beyond politics. Many of us are choosing to fast and pray. I hope you will join us, each in your own way, so we can act together during this season of Lent.

Jim Wallis
is the author of
Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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Worried About the Budget? End the War in Afghanistan

Looking for another reason to end the war in Afghanistan? You can add the federal budget. Ending the war in Afghanistan would save taxpayers 40,000 times more money than defunding NPR -- a measure the House of Representatives approved last week. If Congress is serious about the budget, they should consider this: The FY2011 cost of the war has hit $113 billion.

+Tell President Obama and Vice President Biden to keep their promise to start withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011.

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Top Stories:

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Charles Honey of The Grand Rapids Press writes an insightful opinion piece the prominently mentions the What Would Jesus Cut campaign.

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Christianity Today reporter Tobin Grant authors a piece on the nuclear power in light of Japan's recent disaster and quotes Jim Rice, editor of Sojourners magazine.

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In a letter to the editor of the Statesman Journal in Portland, Oregon, James Saxton offers an example of one of the many letters that have been sent to local papers with positive mentions of the What Would Jesus Cut campaign.

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