Eighty-one Christian scholars co-signed a letter to Congress on Feb. 2 to express their “strong opposition” to the $768 billion defense budget recently signed into law.
In the letter, the scholars criticize the budget being set $25 billion higher than President Joe Biden had requested. They write that the country urgently needs to “shift our security and foreign policy strategy” to break cycles of violence, cultivate peace, and practice constructive conflict.
Professors in theology, ethics, and Christian studies signed the letter along with clergy and other Christian leaders. The project was initiated by Eli McCarthy, a professor of peace studies at Georgetown University, and Jimmy McCarty, the executive director for equity and inclusion at the University of Washington Tacoma.
McCarthy, in an email, told Sojourners that signees represent “a mix of perspectives on issues of war and peacemaking,” and that they “appreciate this common ground on reducing Pentagon spending.”
In the letter, scholars wrote that the pandemic, climate crisis, racial injustice, mental health, and poverty were among the issues that the United States is struggling to address.
“Yet we are consistently told that limited resources are available for these and asked how we will pay for such efforts even as there always appears to be plenty of money to buy new weapons, project military threat, maintain ongoing bombing campaigns, and prepare for the next potential major war,” the signers wrote.
Meghan Clark, a professor of moral theology at St. John’s University, told Sojourners in an email that a budget is a “moral document” that states the priorities of a nation. She wrote that the budget “reveals a community that prioritizes the capacity for violence over promoting dignity.”
“It is embarrassing when an increased defense budget passes with little discussion while some in the Senate refuse to extend the hugely successful expanded child tax credit claiming we cannot afford it,” she wrote. “How can it be that we can afford more weapons but not to take care of our children?”
The expanded child tax credit, which increased the tax benefit for families with children and which Congress approved as part of the American Rescue Plan in March of 2021, was not renewed, despite studies that found it reduced childhood poverty by nearly 30 percent.
SimonMary Asese Aihiokhai, a professor of systematic theology at the University of Portland, said he signed the letter in hopes that it "trigger[s] the much-needed dialogue" around the United States’ large, “paranoid” defense budget.
“We are afraid of everyone in the world and want to manipulate all that happens in the world as well,” he wrote in an email. “This way of being in the world delegitimizes our sense of identity as a leader in the project of fostering global peace.”
McCarthy told Sojourners he hopes the letter will “draw Christian scholars to be more attentive to this issue, to participate in mobilizations, and to perhaps teach more about it in their courses.”
“We also hope it will encourage other sectors of our society to utilize their leverage on this policy issue,” he wrote.