Whom would Jesus indebt? This was the question we posed in our Letter to the President and Congressional Leaders. Perhaps the phrase will catch on. David French published a piece with that title, citing our letter, at the National Review Online. Simultaneously, Timothy Dalrymple — a member of the writing group that framed the letter — published a reflection at Patheos with that same name, a reflection that was picked up by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.
Over the past several weeks I’ve been writing about the religious Left’s relentless effort to wrap its arms around big government and, disturbingly, the progress it’s making in divorcing evangelicals (especially young evangelicals) from fiscal and economic common sense. Jim Wallis and other religious leftists have formed a so-called “Circle of Protection” whose purpose is to ask, “What would Jesus cut?” This coalition — which gained an audience with President Obama two weeks ago — views federal budgeting practices that would ruin households, corporations, and local and state governments as not just fiscally appropriate but morally imperative.
The time has come to push back, to let the president and the public know that the religious Left does not speak for the entire faith community and that there is another relevant question to ask as we face a deficit crisis: “Whom would Jesus indebt?” I — along with my ACLJ colleague Jordan Sekulow — have joined an informal coalition of Christian leaders called “Christians for a Sustainable Economy.” As our first act, we’ve sent our own letter to President Obama.
French then quotes from CASE’s Letter to the President and Congressional Leaders, and concludes: “The letter represents just one step in a long battle to educate Americans — of all faiths — that the poor are not best served by welfare and that hundreds of billions of dollars of Great Society entitlements have not eradicated poverty but have instead created a permanent underclass and stifled the social mobility that is one of the cornerstones of the American dream. You can sign the letter as well and lend your voice to a new and vital effort.”
Many thanks to Mr. French. Dalrymple writes:
…make no mistake: the Budget Control Act doesn’t put a dent in the mountain of debt our government has accrued. If the commitments of the BCA are fulfilled, then we will add to that mountain at a slightly-less-manic pace than before, but the very purpose of the act was to enable the big Beltway spenders to make the mountain bigger. Worse, the BCA leaves completely unchanged the social and political dynamics that have led to this debt in the first place. Our political elite are addicted to spending. It’s how they curry favor, it’s how they win elections, and it’s how they exercise and enjoy their power. They’re perfectly willing to borrow money to feed the addiction, because they have a credit card. The name on the credit card is: You and Your Children.
One of the great difficulties of this issue, for Christians, is that the morality of spending and debt has been so thoroughly demagogued that it’s impossible to advocate cuts in government spending without being accused of hatred for the poor and needy. A group calling itself the “Circle of Protection” recently promoted a statement on “Why We Need to Protect Programs for the Poor.” But we don’t need to protect the programs. We need to protect the poor. Indeed, sometimes we need to protect the poor from the programs. Too many anti-poverty programs are beneficial for the politicians that pass them, and veritable boondoggles for the government bureaucracy that administers them, but they actually serve to rob the poor of their dignity and their initiative, they undermine the family structures that help the poor build prosperous lives, and ultimately mire the poor in poverty for generations. Does anyone actually believe that the welfare state has served the poor well?
It is immoral to ignore the needs of the least of these. But it’s also immoral to ’serve’ the poor in ways that only make more people poor, and trap them in poverty longer. And it’s immoral to amass a mountain of debt that we will pass on to later generations. I even believe it’s immoral to feed the government’s spending addiction. Since our political elites have demonstrated such remarkably poor stewardship over our common resources, it would be foolish and wrong to give them more resources to waste. What we need are political leaders committed to prudence and thrift, to wise and far-sighted stewardship, and to spurring a free and thriving economy that will encourage the poor and all Americans to seize their human dignity as creatures made in the image of God, to be fruitful and take initiative and express their talents and creativity.
We will continue to post updates to this blog in which we highlight the efforts of people — especially the signatories — as they make arguments consistent with the themes and intentions of the Letter. We want to be a voice for Christians who feel that their own moral and theological convictions — the convictions we expressed in the letter — are not being represented and advanced in the marketplace of ideas.