The Missing Religious Principle in Our Budget Debates

Sojourners CEO, the Rev. Jim Wallis.

Sojourners CEO, the Rev. Jim Wallis.

Both Republicans and Democrats have a religion problem and it has nothing to do with same-sex marriage, abortion or religious liberty. Rather it is budgets, deficits, and debt ceiling deadlines that are their serious stumbling blocks.

That’s right, in a city deeply divided between the political right and left there is a growing consensus from religious leaders about getting our fiscal house in order and protecting low-income people at the same time. Together, many of us are saying that there is a fundamental religious principle missing in most of our political infighting: the protection of the ones about whom our scriptures say God is so concerned.

Indeed, the phrase “a budget is a moral document” originated in the faith community, and has entered the debate. But those always in most in jeopardy during Washington’s debates and decisions are precisely the persons the Bible instructs us clearly to protect and care for —  the poorest and most vulnerable. They have virtually none of the lobbyists that all the other players do in these hugely important discussions about how public resources will be allocated.

For us, this is definitely not a partisan issue, but a spiritual and biblical one that resides at the very heart of our faith. It is the singular issue which has brought together the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Salvation Army, and the leaders of church denominations, congregations, and faith-based organizations across the nation.

With Nomination Clinched, Focus Turns to Romney’s Mormon Faith

RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/courtesy Flickr

Mitt Romney speaking to supporters at a rally in Tempe, Arizona on April 20, 2012. RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/courtesy Flickr

Mitt Romney clinched the GOP presidential nomination on May 28, becoming the first Mormon selected by a major political party. But will his barrier-breaking faith be a boon or bane to his White House campaign?

The answer to that question could presage the next president, and two studies published in May come to contradictory conclusions.

In both studies people were given information about Romney and his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then asked whether they would be more or less likely to vote for him.

The "War on Religion" and the Contraception Debate

There likely was little Sabbath-ing for politicians and journalists this weekend, as the debate over health policy raged across the campaign trail and in the television studios.

In a fiery comment piece in The Los Angeles Times, David Horsey reported that at CPAC, Mitt Romney pledged that he would “reverse every single Obama regulation that attacks our religious liberty and threatens innocent human life in this country.”

Speaking on Face The Nation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that the contraception controversy is an issue of religious freedom.

Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum laid out his position on the situation very clearly on Meet The Press.

The Disappearance of the Compassionate Conservatives

I would never have been mistaken as a political supporter of President George W. Bush. But in his early days as president, I was invited to have conversations with him and his team about faith-based initiatives aimed at overcoming poverty, shoring up international aid and development for the most vulnerable, and supporting critical agendas such as international adoptions of marginalized children and the broken domestic foster care system.
My invitations to the Bush White House ended when I strongly and publicly opposed the Iraq War. But I continued to support the administration’s efforts to combat poverty and disease, especially Bush’s leadership in combating HIV/AIDs, malaria, and massive hunger in the poorest places in Africa.

That agenda was called “compassionate conservatism” and I was grateful for it. Back then, Republican leaders could be fiscally conservative, favor “small government,” and believe in the free market, for example, but also believe that government should and must partner with the private sector — especially non-profit and faith-based organizations — to help lift people out of poverty, both abroad in the developing world and here at home in the richest nation on the planet. Such a conviction requires two things: A genuine empathy and commitment to the poor, and a more balanced and positive view of government — neither of which were much evident in the GOP’s right-wing quarters, where the compassionate conservative agenda was opposed by party leaders such as Tom DeLay and Dick Armey.

I met people like Mike Gerson, who was then George Bush’s chief speech writer and a policy advisor, and is now a columnist for the Washington Post. I was told it was Gerson and the Bush himself who often were the ones to stand up for the compassionate conservative vision at Oval Office meetings.

The Morning SoJo: Of Supercommittees and Such

Rather than the opinions of individual pundits, here’s a roundup of what the editors of some of the nation’s largest newspapers had to say this week about the failure of the “Supercommittee.” 

Some blame Republicans, some blame Democrats, and most blame both.

Washington Post: “What next, now that the congressional supercommittee has failed? Depressingly, the answer is: not much, at least in the short term. Absent some intervening, cataclysmic event, the debt-reduction can has been kicked once again — this time, until after the election.”

The Independent (London): “The failure of the comically mis-named "super-committee" of Congress to come up with even the modest debt reduction package required of it has been a racing certainty for weeks in Washington. Nonetheless, Monday evening's admission of that failure – the latest proof of the dysfunctionality of America's political system – is not only shameful. It is also dangerous.”

Supercommittee's Failure is a Moral Failure

The Supercommittee. Illustration by DonkeyHotey via Wylio (

The Supercommittee. Illustration by DonkeyHotey via Wylio (

Sixty percent of white evangelicals support raising taxes on those making more than a million a year and 58 percent oppose cutting federal programs that support low-income people.

The Republicans have been taken over by an extreme ideology that their political base doesn't even support. And the power of money has corrupted our political system.

What was lost with the supercommittee was a responsible and balanced way to reduce the deficit, while protecting both the poor and the common good. Very sad and alarming for the future.

This is our Watch: Circle Up!

Human Circles of Protection

Human Circles of Protection

Do we want to be the kind of America that faces an historic deficit and chooses to extend $690 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of our citizens while cutting $650 billion in aid to children who need special education, student aid, and additional resources for low-income schools?

Do we want to be the kind of America that protects $44 billion in subsidies for oil and gas companies while cutting $47 billion in energy grants to help poor families heat their homes in the winter?

Right now the wealthiest Americans are wealthier than they’ve ever been and people living beneath the poverty line make up a larger slice of the American pie than they have since the Great Depression.

Is that really what we want? Really?

Oh My God! A Response to the GOP Presidential Debate on Foreign Policy

“Oh my God” was the refrain that kept going through my mind as I watched the Republican presidential candidates talk about their positions on foreign policy at their debate over the weekend. 

I did not expect the surprises that I heard. At least two candidates supported torture, saying it was necessary to acquire acquire information to protect America.

Oh my God.