While American troops will be working through the Christmas holidays, putting their lives on the line for our safety, and while millions of Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) brazenly choose to distort and manipulate this most holy of days for their own political means.
Kyl and Demint, after being the driving forces in delaying a vote to pass the New START Treaty, now say it would be "disrespect[ful]" to vote on New START during Christmas, believing, instead, they should be home. I wonder what our troops, who will be working during Christmas, think of their need for a vacation?
And, they call it "sacrilegious" to vote during Christmas on New START. Hmm, is voting on a treaty that promotes peace during the holiday celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace sacrilegious?
These latest tactics are, at best, sad. At worst, they are sacrilegious in their distortions of Christianity and disrespectful to our hard working and committed troops.
In fact, prominent Christian leaders have something to say about it. Here is what they told me when I asked them what they thought about Kyl and DeMint's statements:
"I can think of no more appropriate time of year for the Senate to pass a treaty that promotes peace and good will. Surely that is the kind of gift that is worthy to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. For two senators who have steadfastly opposed this on political grounds to now use Christmas to justify their position is a cynical manipulation of religion in the worst possible way. It is this manipulation of the Christmas season that is truly sacrilegious."
-- Rev. Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners
"Senator Kyl's and DeMint's statements suggesting Christmas is a reason to delay action on a treaty aimed at reducing the threat of nuclear war is a misuse of the Christian holiday. If anything, this time of year should be an encouragement for our leaders to work harder for peace on earth in response to God who wills peace for all. Peace is a major theme of the Advent season and celebration of Christmas. The National Council of Churches looks forward to being able to celebrate ratification of this treaty to reduce nuclear stockpiles and improve verification. Any delay would be contrary to our commitment to peace on earth."
-- Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
"In the season when 'peace on earth ...' was declared at the coming of the Prince of Peace, there is no better time to ratify the New START Treaty that will make peace and our national security more certain."
-- Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, evangelical mega church pastor
"The American Catholic bishops have called on the Senate to ratify the New START agreement. To do so now, in this season that for many marks the birth of the Prince of Peace, would be especially poignant. Senators Kyl and DeMint insist that working on New START over the holidays would dishonor people of faith. That's transparent. Working men and women are at their jobs in this holy season -- before Christmas, after Christmas, and for some even on Christmas Day. I'm convinced the Christ child especially blesses those first responders, military personnel, health care providers, and other emergency workers who spend his birthday in service to others. Senators, truly honor Christians. Stay at your desks until this work to which you have been called is resolved."
-- Stephen Schneck, Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America
"Passing the New START treaty has profound moral implications for human life. As Christians, we believe that Christmas celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace. There is no better way to honor this central moment of our faith than to pass this agreement. Any claim that the treaty has not been vetted is simple political gamesmanship. Now is the season to step back from partisanship and act together for security and peace. It is in keeping with our effort to embody the message of Jesus in this holy season, and it is good for our nation and the world."
-- Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK
"Christians can disagree in good faith on the best way to apply our faith in the public arena, but the statements by Senator Kyl and DeMint are the worst examples of faith in politics. They have been working to kill START for weeks. A concern for the faithful isn't driving their arguments or they would have mentioned faith earlier, and Senator DeMint wouldn't be working to push the debate until Christmas. This is cynical partisan politics masquerading as piety, and our leaders should be above that."
-- Eric Sapp, Executive Director, American Values Network
"The attempt by New START opponents to use Christmas for tactical political advantage is profoundly offensive for three reasons. First, this move represents the worst mix of religion and politics. As one who ministers among a rising generation of Christians, I see countless peers walking away from their Evangelical faith because political tactics just like this have sullied the name of Christianity. Our belief motivates us to bring a moral witness to the democratic process -- but the cold-blooded use of religion as a political weapon dishonors the Lord Jesus Christ and harms the evangelistic integrity of his church.
Burns Strider is a founding partner of the Eleison Group.