It wasn't that long ago when Democratic members of Congress were warning about conservative colleagues trying to insert their religion into politics by trying to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. For issues concerning family planning, the left generally agrees that it is wrong to impose religion on politics.
I don't think you'll be hearing the same scolds directed at the Sojourners' crusade against the House GOP budget and its orange bracelets that ask, "What would Jesus cut?"
Sojourners, a Christian organization that works on social causes, advises its supporters to fast every Monday in April and pray for a budget that better reflects the group's welfare-state politics. There is much to be said for people who want to do the right thing and stand up for what they believe. I cannot help but suspect, however, that if the religious right did the same thing, the pundit class now would be hectoring the faithful about the impropriety of implying that America, a theological melting pot, is a Christian nation.
What would Allah think?
Now, I agree with the Sojourners' assertion "A budget is a moral document." Indeed, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told me he, too, agrees.
But I don't agree with the Sojourners' apparent belief that Jesus would make budgeting decisions in tune with its very modern sensibilities. Sojourners President Jim Wallis wrote in the Huffington Post against the GOP budget's cuts in funding for educational and child health and nutrition programs, even as -- surely Jesus must be furious -- the military budget would increase.
Now, Jesus famously said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." He was answering a question that provided a perfect opportunity to launch into a rant against militaristic imperial Rome, yet he deferred.
Nonetheless, Wallis seems sure Jesus would want to cut billions more from defense than the five-year $178 billion reduction recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and included in the House budget. Ryan would like to cut more, too, he noted, but: "We are in a three-front war right now."
While the Sojourners recognize that the deficit is a "moral issue" -- as it would be wrong to "leave a world of debt for our children" -- the group warns against reducing the debt "on the backs of poor and vulnerable people."
Yet, Ryan would counter, the poor and vulnerable stand to lose the most as the looming "debt crisis" could destroy America's safety net if Washington fails to address the federal debt. The GOP wants to change the focus of welfare programs away from rewarding dependency and toward rewarding independence.
Ryan did not claim to know what Jesus would cut. The Sojourners did. Why, they even know Jesus believes in global warming.
Reader Glen Franklin Koontz came to a different conclusion. "In the Christian faith, the individual is commanded to love his neighbor as himself ... (and) to act charitably and to help others," he wrote. "Nowhere in the Bible does God command Caesar to do a damn thing."
I don't think that Wallis and company understand that the government is not God. And when well-meaning people try to make it a god, they likely will end up with -- what? -- $14 trillion in debt.
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