Commentary

This week, the U.S. Senate is set to vote on the Republican tax bill, following the House vote on a similar bill earlier this month. The proposed plan in the Senate is very complicated, and it is being rushed through the political process with little time to consider it or draw public attention to it. But this milestone bill will determine social outcomes for many years to come. Its passage will create a complete shift in the social safety net as we have known it, and it will signal a change that government will no longer care for the needs of the poor — the criteria that the biblical prophets demand of all those who rule.

The treatment of the poor and vulnerable is lifted up in the Bible more than 2,000 times. And it is these people, the ones our Scriptures call us to protect and serve, who will be most hurt by the results of this very consequential tax legislation. An analysis released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office finds that Americans earning more than $100,000 per year would receive substantial tax cuts while the poorest Americans would be worse off. Indeed, the analysis indicates that more than 50 percent of the tax cuts would go to the wealthiest.

The moral case against the Republican tax bill is becoming alarmingly clear — which explains the fast pace. GOP lawmakers want to get the bill through before their constituencies have time to examine its dire consequences. But people of faith are standing up, making moral and theological arguments, more than political ones, against these tax bills.

Here is what this tax bill will do if it is passed.

  1. Our nation’s debt will be exploded by the results of these proposed tax cuts, which will add $1.5 trillion (that’s trillion) to the federal deficit.
  2. This deficit buster is being done to make enormous tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit corporations and the wealthiest people in the nation, i.e., your lawmakers’ funders.
  3. Lawmakers will ultimately pay for these budget deficits by cutting programs of care, assistance, food, housing, education, health, and opportunity for lower-income people, families, and children in America.

This is the moral logic of the tax bill about to be voted on by the Senate in a matter of days: Blow a hole in the deficit, in order to give huge for tax cuts to the rich, that will ultimately be paid for by the poor — literally on the backs of their children and their future. That is a shameful hypocrisy, callous and immoral, an offense to the God who hears the cry of the poor, and a call to action for those who worship that God.

Countless people and leaders in our many faith communities have called, written, and met with their political representatives about these issues of fiscal morality, health care coverage, tax policy, and the biblical priority of the poor for many years now, and especially over this last year.

We have written statements, done press conferences, had meetings and rallies, delivered sermons, and prayed for the most at risk among us. Yet, despite our continual pleading for the poor, the momentum for this nation-changing tax bill continues — driven by politics, partisan pressure, and the relentless demands of the wealthiest political donors in America.

So now we are calling upon one another, as people of faith, to take the next step: nonviolent faith-based civil disobedience to call attention to the great injustice about to occur.

Let us raise the moral conscience of the nation by forcing legislators who could still block this immoral tax bill to see us — to see those they would hurt the most by their actions. According to Pew Research, 91 percent of Congress members profess to be Christian; we will remind them what the Bible says about justice for the poor. We will do so by reading our Scriptures that call us to protect and defend the poor, and by publicly praying for the most vulnerable — in the halls of Congress here in Washington, D.C., and in our senators’ offices around the country. We will read our Bibles and pray for the poor until our lawmakers either change their minds and votes, or arrest and take us to jail. And we hope that God will speak to us all. We will try to answer the words of Micah the prophet who tells us, “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

To participate in these actions—this week—is requiring all of us to set aside other things—but that is exactly what the Congress is doing to pass this horrendous tax bill. Will you join us in action? Here’s a list of different ways to get involved, from storming our senators' social media accounts with #2000verses to taking the message directly to their local offices. Learn how you can join in.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His new Audible spoken-word series, Jim Wallis In Conversation, is available now, as is his book, America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner was the first female Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus (1974-1981) and is currently CEO of the Skinner Leadership Institute, which provides the mechanism for networking, bridge-building and leadership development between congressional leaders, business executives, college students, faith leaders, young professionals, and urban youth.

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