Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 5, 2011

THIS WEEK IN GOD.... First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the moral implications of the budget fight in Washington, and the ways in which faith communities are getting more involved in the debate.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delivered a speech to a religious right audience in Tennessee this week, arguing that his budget choices are guided by "a moral responsibility." He added that the deficit that he and his party helped create is "a moral threat" to the country.

This helped capture the attention of more progressive faith leaders, who had a more compelling case to make.

Sojourners, a progressive group of Christian leaders, looks at the GOP's deep slashes to the budget in a different light and bought a full-page ad in Politico yesterday that asks legislators to consider, "what would Jesus cut?"

The leader of Sojourners, Rev. Jim Wallis, notes that the GOP's cuts would severely slash spending for the WIC program, which helps women and infants, Head Start and international aid programs, but would leave "military spending untouched." [...]

The "What would Jesus cut?" ad is signed by many Christian leaders, including the evangelical leader David Beckman, president of the charity Bread for the World. Beckman said in a statement that "[c]utting programs that help those who need them most is morally wrong," especially because "when Jesus talked about how God will judge nations, he said that God will focus on what we did or did not do for the neediest among us."

It's refreshing to hear about this, in part because it represents a break with how the political world traditionally perceives religious intervention in policy debates. In general, if Christian leaders are weighing in on a contentious issue in Washington, it only gets attention if it relates to abortion or gays. This effort is a reminder that there are still large parts of the faith community who are willing to defend struggling families against those who would make things worse.

As Wallis put it, "They're talking about cutting bed nets for malaria and leaving every piece of military spending untouched. Are we saying that every piece of military equipment is more important than bed nets, children's health and nutrition for low-income families? If so they should be ashamed of themselves."

What's more, it's worth noting that it's not just Sojourners speaking out. Faith in Public Life is also helping organize related efforts with a similar message.

"How we balance our national budget is first of all a moral question. That we must do so is clear. But the bible says God measures societies by what they do to the people on the bottom," said Dr. Ron Sider, founder and president of Evangelicals for Social Action.

It's a principle congressional Republicans have obviously forgotten.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Losing a giant: "The Rev. Peter J. Gomes, a Harvard minister, theologian and author who announced that he was gay a generation ago and became one of America's most prominent spiritual voices against intolerance, died Monday in Boston."

* The Rev. Grant Storms, a Christian fundamentalist preacher known for hating gays, was arrested this week, caught masturbating in his van near a New Orleans playground.

* And the pope doesn't want Jews blamed for JC's death: "Pope Benedict XVI has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ in a new book, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity." (thanks to D.J. for the tip)

Steve Benen 9:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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And this from the NYT today about an evangelical pastor who is stirring things up in a theological way. Perhaps Gandhi is in heaven after all.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/05/us/05bell.html?hp

Posted by: Marc on March 5, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

It's a principle congressional Republicans have obviously forgotten.

If a Christian is someone who has read the gospels and takes the teaching of Jesus seriously, then I fear congressional Republicans "have not obviously forgotten", I doubt they have ever been familiar with the texts and concepts.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on March 5, 2011 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

"House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delivered a speech to a religious right audience in Tennessee this week, arguing that his budget choices are guided by "a moral responsibility."

Republicans - they're just following in Jesus's footsteps.
Remember when Jesus TOOK the bread and fishes from the poor?


On a serious note, RIP to the GREAT Rev. Gomes.

I heard him on "Air America" often.
It was nice to listen to a Christian who wasn't a hateful, ignorant, money-grubbing, insane moron.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 5, 2011 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

I haven't exonerated Pope Palpatine for blowing up that planet in the fourth episode.

Posted by: jprichva on March 5, 2011 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Anti-Gay preacher "caught masturbating in his van near a New Orleans playground"

Does that mean he is pro pedophile?

Posted by: Mark-NC on March 5, 2011 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Johnny Boy Boehner:

Lets morally protect children of future generations by throwing mom and dad out of work today! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 5, 2011 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's good to pit better religious people against the worse instead of marginalizing all of them. For example we have The Great Awakening by Jim Wallis, mostly supporting progressive values (you're not going to get perfect agreement, but this helps.) Also, there's the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

Posted by: neil b on March 5, 2011 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Mi>As Wallis put it, "They're talking about cutting bed nets for malaria and leaving every piece of military spending untouched."

That's the "...and let God sort 'em out." part.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 5, 2011 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

"Pope Benedict XVI has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ...

Good. This will end anti-Semitism once and for all.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 5, 2011 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

I think Sojourners is a religious organization worth supporting. It's important for people to know that there a lot of Christians who do not vote Republican.

Posted by: MuddyLee on March 5, 2011 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not a Christian, but I do give money to Sojourners. They are righteous people. The other Christian I give to is Father Joe in Bangkok. Christianity can be a powerful weapon for good. Too bad most Christians don't believe it.

Posted by: fostert on March 5, 2011 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

scary situation...

Three weeks after a scathing grand jury report said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had provided safe haven to as many as 37 priests who were credibly accused of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior toward minors, most of those priests remain active in the ministry.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/05/us/05church.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23&pagewanted=print

Posted by: dj spellchecka on March 5, 2011 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

I gave up on religion, at least for myself, a long time ago, but Wallis seems to retain the stripe of Christianity that I was exposed to growing up and in college. I was never an evangelical, but the compassion he stands for is refreshing, if not entirely reassuring, given his conservative views.

If Wallis gains traction among his brethren about military spending being out of control, and decries it as not God's teaching, how long will it take before his truly compassionate conservatism is deemed un-American, and unpatriotic? The Rethugs and the neocons only have use for a religious-right that supports militarism and empire.

Posted by: rrk1 on March 5, 2011 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

And the pope doesn't want Jews blamed for JC's death:
-------------------
How nice - my people have been absolved for the death of a Jew by a former member of the Hitler Youth!

Allah works in ways mysterious!

Posted by: Mikey on March 6, 2011 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

It's good to see some evangelicals coming out for government spending on poor folks.

Too often, we hear from "Christians" that the plight of the poor should be addressed by private charitable giving rather than government programs, because giving must be voluntary, and is meaningless if the money is taken by force in the form of taxes.

Of course if it were left to private charity, millions would die of starvation, exposure or lack of medical care. But that is okay in this view, because charity is not about the recipient, but about the donor.

This is a deeply narcissistic view of Christian charity, and one I am happy to see rejected by a number of evangelicals as noted here.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on March 6, 2011 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

"And the pope doesn't want Jews blamed for JC's death:
-------------------
How nice - my people have been absolved for the death of a Jew by a former member of the Hitler Youth!

Allah works in ways mysterious!"

Absolutely! I still don't understand why anyone listens to the old Natzi in the dress.

Posted by: Patrish on March 7, 2011 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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