Piercing through the bitter, partisan bickering regarding the nation's budget, an unprecedented and diverse group of Christian leaders announced today the forming of a Circle of Protection against budget cuts that target poor and vulnerable individuals.
From Roman Catholic to evangelical denominations; from mainline Protestants to African-American Christian groups, Christian leaders from across the nation have agreed that if lawmakers want to go against the poor, they will also be going against Christians.
The Circle of Protection is an alliance of more than 50 signatories who are committed to the following statement:
As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.
Speaking to members of the press this morning, Rev. Jim Wallis emphasized that the budget debate is about choices of morality: "Budgets are not about scarcity; they are about choices -- moral choices," he said. "In a remarkable statement of unity, faith leaders from across the theological and political spectrum together now say you cannot choose to slash budgets and reduce deficits by causing even greater suffering for the poorest people -- that is simply not acceptable to us."
Also speaking to the press were other leaders, including David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, who emphasized the importance of the alliance's broad reach. Beckmann stated: "The leaders that have signed this statement connect virtually the entire Christian community in the United States."
The leaders on the call said that our nation's deficit must be reduced and that all areas of spending must be on the table. Rather than severing the safety nets that help so many people, we should be going after where the real money is. Doing anything less is unsustainable and will hurt everyone in the end.
Ambassador Tony Hall, who joined Rev. Wallis on a 27-day Hunger Fast for a Moral Budget that ended on Easter, encouraged those who supported the Hunger Fast to contact their representatives to let them know that as people of faith, we are committed to a morally comprehensive budget.
"It takes engagement. It takes teaching. It takes education," said Hall, a former Congressman from Ohio.
The Circle of Protection agreed that our government programs must be made as effective and efficient as possible, but lawmakers should not cut programs that literally save thousands of lives. The Circle of Protection has agreed to a list of eight key principles as well list of programs that should be protected and made as effective as possible.
David Beckmann emphasized that private charities could not simply step in to fill the government's role. Only about 6 percent of the food that poor people get from national nutritional programs comes from private charities, he said.
"Churches and charities cannot do it all," Beckmann said. "There is a deep biblical priority