What would Jesus think of Sojourners' new campaign?
Sojourners is a liberal Christian group whose mission is "to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world." It is based in Washington, DC, and engages regularly in the capital's political battles.
Religious groups with a political agenda are as American as the First Amendment, and Sojourners has not been shy about weighing in on the current congressional fight over federal spending. On its website, in e-mails sent to members of Congress, and most recently in a full-page ad in the political newspaper Politico, Sojourners has been asking: "What Would Jesus Cut?"
The ad, signed by Sojourners' president, Jim Wallis, and other leaders of the Christian left, argues that "a budget is a moral document" and the moral test of any nation is how it treats the poor and vulnerable. It acknowledges that government debt is a serious problem, but implores lawmakers not to balance the budget by cutting the "sound investments that a just nation must protect." Among the "investments" Sojourners mentions are school lunch programs, tax credits for the working poor, and international aid for fighting pandemics.
As a believing Jew and a conservative, I don't share the religious outlook or political priorities of Wallis and his co-signers. But you don't have to be Christian or liberal to believe that in God's eyes, a society is judged above all by its concern for the unfortunate. Jesus' teaching in Matthew 25 -- "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me. . . . Whatever you did for one of these least . . . you did for me" -- echoes what Isaiah and other Hebrew prophets preached centuries earlier: "Learn to do well: seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
But does it really follow from these timeless injunctions that God expects legislators never to eliminate any poverty program or social-welfare line item, or even to roll such spending back to where it stood a few years ago?