Yesterday, the leaders of more than 50 Christian denominations and organizations drew a line in the sand of the budget debate, and asked our political leaders to do the same. We united around the basic principle that those who are already suffering should not be made to suffer even more in order to reduce the deficit. Evangelical, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, black, and Hispanic church leaders came together to say that Christians will form a "Circle of Protection" around programs that assist poor and vulnerable people. Add your voice and join the Circle of Protection now.
From Richard Stearns of World Vision USA to Father Larry Snyder of Catholic Charities USA; from Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals to Rev. Peg Chemberlin of the National Council of Churches; from Bishop Stephen E. Blair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to Bishop Charles E. Blake of the Church of God in Christ; from Rev. Sam Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference to Berten Waggoner of Vineyard USA -- all have a signed "A Circle of Protection: A Statement on Why We Need to Protect Programs for the Poor." Sign the statement and see the full list of signatories here.
The Circle of Protection represents an unprecedented unity on behalf of poor and hungry people. I hope you will read the statement below and add your voice to this ongoing fight:
In the face of historic deficits, the nation faces unavoidable choices about how to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices. These choices are economic, political -- and moral.
As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up -- how it treats those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45). They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected. We know from our experience serving hungry and homeless people that these programs meet basic human needs and protect the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable. We believe that God is calling us to pray, fast, give alms, and to speak out for justice.
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.
- The nation needs to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.
- Funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut. It should be made as effective as possible, but not cut.
- We urge our leaders to protect and improve poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance to promote a better, safer world.
- National leaders must review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits.
- A fundamental task is to create jobs and spur economic growth. Decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits.
- The budget debate has a central moral dimension. Christians are asking how we protect "the least of these." "What would Jesus cut?" "How do we share sacrifice?" As believers, we turn to God with prayer and fasting, to ask for guidance as our nation makes decisions about our priorities as a people.
- God continues to shower our nation and the world with blessings. As Christians, we are rooted in the love of God in Jesus Christ. Our task is to share these blessings with love and justice and with a special priority for those who are poor.
Budgets are moral documents, and how we reduce future deficits are historic and defining moral choices. As Christian leaders, we urge Congress and the administration to give moral priority to programs that protect the life and dignity of poor and vulnerable people in these difficult times, our broken economy, and our wounded world. It is the vocation and obligation of the church to speak and act on behalf of those Jesus called "the least of these." This is our calling, and we will strive to be faithful in carrying out this mission.
We urge you to click here and join the Circle of Protection.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.