In a new series of radio ads on Christian and country radio stations in Ohio, Kentucky and Nevada, local pastors will take President Obama and Congressional leaders to task for neglecting the poor in the debt-limit talks. The ads are sponsored by the liberal evangelical organization Sojourners, which has joined with other Christian organizations to form a coalition called the Circle of Protection.
In an ad which will air in House Speaker John Boehner’s Ohio district, a local pastor explains that the Book of Proverbs “teaches that where there is not leadership a nation falls and the poor are shunned while the rich have many friends. Sadly Congress has failed to heed these Biblical warnings, and our own Rep. Boehner is risking the health of our economy if America defaults on its debts,” the ad continues.
Sojourners has been a leader in pointing out that while politicians are fond of bringing up their religious beliefs on social issues, struggles over economic decisions are rarely seen as ethically charged. This, they assert, is utterly wrong. ”A budget is a moral document,” said Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners.
The statement on the Circle of Protection homepage should be moving to any politician with genuine Christian faith: “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.’”
The Coalition is comprised of religious denominations who would have few reasons to work together on any other issue. But promoting the fundamental Christian obligation to the poor is something that leaders of the Episcopal Church, the Salvation Army, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ say they all have in common.
Members of the Coalition met with President Obama last week and urged him to protect Medicaid, food stamps, international development aid and assistance to poor women with infants and small children.
Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of New Mexico reminded President Obama that the voices of the most vulnerable were being stifled in the budget debate. ”For Republicans, no new taxes is a given,” he said. “For some Democrats, no cuts in Medicare are a given. For others, no cuts in military spending is a given. For your administration, some additional revenues are a given. Sadly, if you listen to the debate it seems that protecting the poor and vulnerable is not a given. That is why we are here.”
The Coalition’s actions are a truly inspiring example of cross-denominational bridge-building at a time when the futures of thousands of Americans, Christian or non-Christian, are at stake. Recognizing that the choice to cut the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program is as much a moral issue as abortion access is something that lawmakers are not often pressured to do. Christian leaders have a great deal of power in this country, and it’s wonderful to see them coming together to urge Christian politicians to follow one of the most basic tenets of their religion, and protect their most vulnerable constituents.
Photo from Playadura via flickr.