Earlier today, a small group of clergy was arrested in the Capitol Rotunda for refusing to cease a prayer vigil as the House began debate over a bill to raise the debt ceiling and cut social programs. Over the past few days, religious leaders have begun to speak out harshly against the proposed cuts to social safety net programs. Their goal is to remind lawmakers that religious values are not just relevant in debates about social issues, and that decisions about the budget have deep moral implications.
“Congress is paralyzed by toxic partisan politics while people suffer,” said the Rev. Michael Livingston, a former president of the National Council of the Churches of Christ (USA), in a statement. “Our elected officials are protecting corporations and wealthy individuals while shredding the safety net for millions of the most vulnerable people in our nation and abroad. Our faith won’t allow us to passively watch this travesty unfold….Today, we ‘offer our bodies as a living sacrifice’ to say to congress ‘Raise revenue, protect the vulnerable and those living in poverty.’”
Earlier this week, Christian leaders organized through the progressive evangelical group Sojourners aired a series of ads on Christian and country radio stations in John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid’s home states, chastising the leaders for placing America’s most vulnerable citizens in danger. Sojourners also launched a full-page ad in this morning’s Politico, reminding lawmakers that “God is watching” the budget debate.
The leaders responded with indignation to the idea that religious organizations could pick up slack for the proposed budget cuts. ”I’ve heard some say, for example, that all of these cuts can be compensated as the religious community picks up the weight and needs,” said the Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance. “That is sheer fantasy. We are already carrying a huge burden of helping people who need help and it’s time for government to step up.”
These calls to remember the Christian obligation to promote economic justice are a refreshing change of pace from the usual interaction between Christian theology and U.S. politics. And it’s quite inspiring to see Christian denominations who would ordinarily have nothing to do with each other standing up and demanding an “equitable resolution to the debt ceiling debate.”
Photo from Playadura via flickr.
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