On the eve of the federal budget deadline and on the heels of Congress’s passage of a temporary stop-gap funding bill, prominent evangelical leaders today unveiled a Christian proposal on the American debt crisis. On a conference call with reporters this morning, nationally recognized evangelical leaders Shane Claiborne, Michael Gerson and Jonathan Merritt, as well as Dr. Gideon Strauss and Stephanie Summers of the Center for Public Justice and Dr. Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action urged Congress not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.
“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. “So as we both cut federal expenditures and raise taxes, we must fully fund effective programs here and abroad that combat disease and starvation and lift millions out of poverty.”
The statement, “A Call for Intergenerational Justice: A Christian Proposal on the American Debt Crisis,” calls for “fiscal frugality and compassionate action” and proposes concrete ways of cutting the debt while protecting the poor and making moral investments for the future of our nation and world. It was also signed by prominent evangelical leaders including Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, Richard Cizik, President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, Kim Phipps, President of Messiah College, Shirley Mullen, President of Houghton College, and Rev. Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed in Orlando, Florida and a former member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. (The full statement and list of signers below and here.)
“From a fiscal perspective, cuts in global health and poverty programs are inconsequential,” said Michael Gerson, former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush, fellow at the ONE Campaign, and columnist for the Washington Post. “From a moral and humanitarian perspective, they would be tragic. America does not have a debt problem because it spends too much on AIDS drugs or bed nets.”
Specific proposals in the statement include cutting defense spending, curbing health care costs, closing corporate tax loopholes and tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, and cutting wasteful subsidy programs, while fully funding domestic and international programs that empower and protect the most vulnerable and prevent hunger and suffering.
“I am concerned about the elephant in the room. We’re spending $200,000 a minute on the military while we cut mosquito nets and nutrition programs for neighborhoods like mine in North Philadelphia where we have an epidemic of obesity… here, it’s easier to get a gun than a salad,” said Shane Claiborne, founder of The Simple Way and author of Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. “Our money says “Our money says ‘In God we trust.’ I wish it said, ‘In God we hope to trust,’ and that we wouldn’t take the Lord’s name in vain, but do something that’d make God proud.”
Their proposal emphasizes the need for shared sacrifice and the need to prioritize the common good over self-interest.
“Partnership of citizens with government at this juncture in the life of our political community is vital to enabling government to satisfy its joint responsibilities to reduce the federal debt to a responsible level while continuing to do justice for the poor and vulnerable,” said Stephanie Summers, COO of the Center for Public Justice. “Confronted by necessary federal austerity measures, citizens of all ages must place the demands of justice before immediate self-interests, sharing costs and making sacrifices to support these difficult but moral responsibilities.”
Signatories grounded their support for the proposal in their understanding of Scriptural teachings about justice.
“Biblical Justice is more than a private virtue or moral platitude,” said Jonathan Merritt, founder of the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative and author of Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet. “Justice is a commitment to care for those who are powerless, to speak for those who lack a voice. Doing justice means both caring for those who need us now and speaking for those who are yet to come.”
The statement and its endorsers also appeal to lawmakers’ sense of purpose and responsibility as they tackle the fiscal challenges facing our nation.
“In issuing this Call to Intergenerational Justice, we call on those who make our nation’s laws and those who administer these laws, to ‘fulfill their proper task and high purpose,” said Gideon Strauss, CEO of the Center for Public Justice. “…To try to balance the diversity of our interests, but to act to uphold a just public order for us and for all our neighbors.”
The Christian Proposal on the American Debt Crisis is below and here.
Posted by Stuart James