New budget campaign asks 'What would Jesus cut?'
Progressive evangelical Rev. Jim Wallis is spearheading the "What would Jesus cut?" campaign.
February 28th, 2011
10:11 AM ET

New budget campaign asks 'What would Jesus cut?'

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

A coalition of progressive Christian leaders has taken out a full-page ad that asks “What would Jesus cut?” in Monday’s edition of Politico, the opening salvo in what the leaders say will be a broader campaign to prevent cuts for the poor and international aid programs amid the budget battle raging in Washington.

“They’re talking about cutting bed nets for malaria and leaving every piece of military spending untouched,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, who leads the Christian group Sojourners, referring to Republican spending proposals for the rest of this year.

“Are we saying that every piece of military equipment is more important than bed nets, children’s health and nutrition for low-income families?” said Wallis, whose group paid for Monday’s ad. “If so they should be ashamed of themselves.”

The ad and the broader campaign are aimed mostly at a spending measure passed by the Republican-led House of Representatives that cuts $61 billion from current spending levels, including cuts to Head Start, the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program and international aid programs.

Senate Democrats consider those cuts draconian and won't pass them.

The faith leaders behind the "What would Jesus cut" campaign are also lobbying the Obama administration to forego proposed cuts to programs like college grants and heating assistance to low-income Americans in the 2012 federal budget.

House and Senate negotiators are trying to find consensus on a temporary spending measure to avert a government shutdown. Republican House Speaker John Boehner is pushing a short-term spending plan that would cut $4 billion.

Monday’s “What would Jesus cut?” ad is signed by dozens of Christian leaders, including evangelicals like David Beckman, president of the charity Bread for the World, and author Brian McLaren.

"Cutting programs that help those who need them most is morally wrong," Beckmann said in a statement. "Reducing the federal deficit is critical for our nation's long term health but it should not be done at the expense of the most vulnerable. When Jesus talked about how God will judge nations, he said that God will focus on what we did or did not do for the neediest among us."

Sojourners recently ordered 1,000 “What would Jesus cut?” bracelets for its supporters to send to their representatives in Congress, then ordered 2,000 more when the initial batch ran out. The group says its backers have sent 10,000 "What would Jesus cut?" emails to Capitol Hill.

Wallis said that he and other Christian leaders are meeting in Washington this week to strategize on ways to prevent lawmakers from cutting programs it supports. They are urging cuts in defense spending instead.

“The most corrupt government spending is military spending,” Wallis said. “Its cost overruns, outdated weapons systems, welfare checks to military contractors.”

“This is a biblical choice of swords into plowshares directly and the House Republicans want to beat our ploughshares into more swords," he said. "These priorities that they’re offering are not just wrong or unfair, they’re unbiblical.”

On Sunday, Boenher gave a speech that framed the government’s mounting debt as a moral issue.

"We have a moral responsibility to address the problems we face. That means working together to cut spending and rein in government - not shutting it down," Boehner said. "This is very simple: Americans want the government to stay open, and they want it to spend less money. We don't need to shut down the government to accomplish that."

Boehner's remarks were included in a speech he delivered to the National Religious Broadcasters annual convention in Nashville.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (1,281 Responses)
  1. Ken

    Jesus would cut the budget by crossing his arms and blinking really hard.. OH, wait..that's "I Dream of Jeanie"... There is no Jesus/God. So why not ask, "What would Snoopy do about the budget"?

    February 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  2. mike

    can we stop calling it "defense" and call it what it really is, which is offense. investing in "defense" is wise since it protects our boarders and costs a lot less than "offense." we have our "defense" money spread all over the world, but it's obviously a waste and needs to stop.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  3. Bensky

    If he really cared, wouldn't he be here? I think that with the freedom of will and choice he gave us, we'll do just fine regardless of what fringe groups might say. It is about the whole, not the special interest parts, that must choose how best to balance the budget.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  4. TrueChrist

    The first thing he would cut would be all funds that go toward abortion.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  5. stormsun

    In other words, "What would Jesus do with your money?" I think he would ask you to look into your own conscience and follow your heart. I don't think he would direct the government to redistribute it for you, like some giant commune, which is what the nice, moral and idealistic people behind this story would like.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Son Storm

      Actually Jesus had his desciples travel as beggars relying on the kindness of the people to survive. Like that would work in Republican land. The word would have died of starvation in its infancy unless the rustled up some lobbyists, suits and limo's along the way. Oh wait, maybe that did happen a few hundred years later under Constantine the Great who actually worshipped Sol Invictus the sun god, why Christains worship on Sunday the first day of the week instead of the seventh. Good lobbyists will do the trick every time. Wonder what JC would think about them?

      March 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Lost weekend

      And if he was crucified on Friday and spent three days in the tomb, wouldn't he have risen on Monday, thinking oh man what a terrible weekend and now I get to go right back to work. Anyone relate?

      March 1, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  6. JC

    Forget about what would Jesus cut. The question should be what would any person who has any humanity with some common sense cut!

    February 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  7. Chari

    What a great question and what a great campaign. As a Christian and as a person, I commend this effort.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  8. Lovely

    I would be very careful with my words, if i were you because of the power of life and death is in the tongue. Jesus would look out for the least of them. But judgement day is coming!

    February 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Joe

      So go into your cave and wait for it.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  9. Jeff

    Not sure how Jesus would cut the budget, but He'd at least lower my taxes (10%)

    February 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • The One

      Yeah. You're the only one I'm looking out for.

      February 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  10. Ed Janes

    This article is right on. Being a Christian requires than just saying your one. It means, by definition, following Jesus, or imitating Jesus.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Alientech

      So who is stopping you from giving everything you have to the poor? Why do you insist that the government must force me to join you in the giving?

      February 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • JC

      Alien nobody is forcing you to do anything. Don't like what this country and it's people do move to Somalia. I hear they treat their poor just like you would like them treated!

      February 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Alientech

      I actually like this country. It's the Left that doesn't and constantly wants to change everything that made it great.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Patriot Games

      Alientech: What made this country great was lack of conscience about stealing Native American land while practicing ethnic cleansing on them to steal their resources, using slave labor until 1865, then replacing slaves with share croppers and cheap labor including children in factories and coal mines, liberating a Spanish colonial empire to projecting US power on a world wide scale, and waiting until all other powers were near exhaustion in two world wars before joining them; WW I intentionally, WW II when finally forced; then using advance captured German technology to our advantage after WW II for the space race and smart weapons. Okay, so that was very biased but still at least partially true if you know your history. Its hard to talk about "what made this country great" and know these things, but still we should try to live by the ideals professed as American Values and perhaps not what we have sometimes done. I guess the point is what made this country great may still require a little tweaking to meet those ideals with an understanding of true history, not living in make believe land. Still I agree, if folks don't want to pay taxes for the general good of US society, they should move to Somalia, Afghanistan or anywhere that might fit their every person for their self mentality more to their liking. That would make the rest of us happier.

      February 28, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  11. Wendy

    Some of the comments have referred to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's". According the the excerpt below, Caesar felt it necessary to provide for the poor. "Rome needed tax money. The government needed to pay the legions, and build roads, sewers, aqueducts, and arenas. They needed to pay for the welfare program put in place to help feed the growing number of poor in Rome." 

    February 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Jim

      Very true!

      Of course one of the reasons Rome fell (certainly not the only reason) was the huge welfare state that kept people at subsistence level and entertained through games so that they became apathetic and lazy...

      February 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Looking Up

      @Jim Wasn't that so the rich and powerful could have so much more than everyone else. It may not have started that way in the Republic, but once the Empire started it was "Bread and circuses" or revolution or perhaps it was always that way. We may be getting close to a circus only approach. Then what happens?

      February 28, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Marie Antoinette

      Just let them eat cake. No need to lose your head over it !

      March 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  12. MiddleFinger

    It's interesting that self proclaimed Conservative "Christians" fight to keep money in their pockets while cutting support to the poor while at the same time denounce Progressive Christians. Read the Gospels Conservative Christians. It's clear whom Jesus Christ supported. I guess that makes you CONservatives, hypocrites.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Alientech

      Everybody is free to follow Jesus and give to the poor all they have. Government forcing charity and altruism on everybody isn't following Jesus.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • kramer

      Unless that forced charity is welfare for the wealthiest. Or 'helping' iraqis w 90% fraud 'defense' contracts for pals.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • BobH

      You're completely missing the point. We live in something called a "society," where we work together to protect and ensure the common good. Do you favor doing away with public funding for such things as roads? Where each person would decide how much to contribute to fix each pot hole? Does freedom mean you personally figure out how much money you'll give to support each branch of defense? Why are these roles of government perfectly fine, while educating children and protecting the air and water are considered "charities?"

      February 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Lowered Hand

      Good points. Wrong gesture. It only encourages them to justify their thefts and jusdgments are justified.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  13. Thomas

    Since Jesus was not an economist and happens to be dead, I don't think he would cut anything.

    Good thing I live in a secular country where we do not get fiscal guidance from a dead non-economist.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Ken

      CHEERS!!! Well said...

      February 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  14. Majestic

    I'm not a Christian but if you believe in the New Testament of the Bible, how could you possibly think the Republicans are doing the right thing? They don't think a single penny of the defense budget can be spared? Give me a break!

    February 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Dave

      Why does everyone believe that all Christians are republicans? Personally I hate all parties – to vote only the way your party votes is simply stupid. Be your own person and vote the YOU want too. Parties just split America up and that's all. Each party in office claim the worst has happened because of the other – when truth be told – nothing has changed in the gov't – still spending money with bouncing checks – it's been like that for decades. If I did my budget like the gov't does – weill, I'd be in jail.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • jdee

      Jesus would've told you to give what you can give (yes, there's a parable in the Book of Matthew out there regarding giving of alms regarding a poor woman giving all she could) – free will... - He was/is MORE concerned about what the INDIVIDUAL does, not any Govt.

      whereas the Gov't MANDATES how much you must give.
      Christ would've been disgusted at these mandates.

      The problem is we all depend on the Gov't to (inneficiently) provide charity when it is inevitably up to ALL OF US to be charitable as best as we can.

      Majestic. It is not a "party" politics thing. This article focuses on a conservative Christian group that is pressing for this while there are certainly other liberal (or self-proclaimed "moderates" ) politicians and groups that are doing the same thing.

      Jesus could've cared less about governments and other things that are "worldly." He would've ridiculed both "liberals" and "conservatives" (both of faiths or athiests) who used the arguments of budget cutting to "demonize" parties (ie. the "Big Bird" haters being those who favored cutting PBS funding in the 1980's) . He would've considered them "hypocrites" and derided athiests who tried to rationalize what he would do without understanding and accepting Jesus.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  15. Hypatia

    What kind of a ridiculous question is this? Last time I looked, we were supposed to enjoy separation of church and state. Jesus has nothing to do with the financial ins and outs of government: he said so himself, in case anyone remembers. Y'know? That 'give unto Caesar' line in the script? Or did the Texas textbook authority scrap that one, too?

    February 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Jim

      That would be from a non-Texas public school textbook Hyp, Wallis isn't a conservative, from TX or anything like that. Good to know your default mode is to talk biased and presuppositional smack that has nothing to do with reality though...

      February 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  16. TheBossIsOut

    God will not judge nations on the Day of Judgement. He will judge every individual as to what they did or did not do.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Hillary

      Well, from all I've been hearing, the Repubs love to use Christian Values as a Platform so that's how it got brought in!!!

      February 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Joe

      Why do Christians allways look forward to the end of the world..if you want to DIE and join your savior so badly quit waisting time. I hear there is an event at the grand Canyon.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • jdee

      YOU NAILED IT - He would also question those who wrongly bash "groups".

      Case closed. Thanks!

      February 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  17. Robert in Vermont

    Good to see Christian leaders finally reclaiming their faith and moral direction from the 'born again' conservative fringe.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Joe

      That sounded allot like slander...way to Jesus boy.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  18. T3chsupport

    What would Jesus do?
    Well, he'd be nailed to a stick again, for challenging a government that really doesn't want to care for the poor or needy.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • sassypants

      If you are familiar with the gospels, Jesus did not challenge the government he challenged individuals and religious leaders. The government could find nothing wrong with Jesus it was the relgious leaders who called for his death. Having said that, let's not forget this country was found by Christians and the system is designed not like Rome but in a way that we can ensure that we never have that problem again.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Jim

      Since Jesus idn't challenge the government He couldn't be nailed to a tree again friend.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • In the allegorical metaphor

      If he were to return....the atheists would nail him to a tree for thinking he matters, when they know he threatens their world view, just like he threatened Ceaser enough to have a mocking sign "King of the Jews" nailed above his head on the cross. This time the sign would say "This guy cracks us up". The usual Christain leadership would offer him up to the atheists for crucifixion, for critcizing them the same as he did the priests and Pharisees in his day; and for walking to church in jeans and t-shirt instead of being dropped of by a limo in an expensive suit.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  19. Curly

    Yeah right, he is about as real as Huckle Berry Finn.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Jim

      Glad to see that CNN has maintain ahealthy level of historically ignorant posters...

      February 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Joe

      Or the toothfairy.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • What matters

      Or Curly and Joe?

      February 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  20. JDonaldson

    I think Jesus would probably cut his wrists if he saw the freakazoid fascists Christians in the USA who, 2000 years in the future, were doing everything they could to trash his name.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Jim

      The first thing Christ would do is cut chip. Then all other poor peoples help. As the teabaggers Say Christ is for corporations. People are just a cheap means for Koch to make money. If you off the people the corps. will do great as they are better than people. Remember according to the new testament, people are top be slaves and a good corporation should be able to do anything. Teabaggers all say let them on SSI, Medicaid, and have the states pay their rent and get food stamps but Christ says teaBaggers should keep their dole but the enemy, PEOPLE that are not teabaggers should just go away. This is why they carry weapons at rallies. The rest of us are a threat to them. Teabaggers forever.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Jim

      Good to see cnn has kept up the standard of having raving lunatics posting...

      February 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • jdee

      Mr. Donaldson...
      you forgot to mention he'd be ticked about the hypocrisy of your statement, ESPECIALLY since there are many on ALL sides of the issue/political aisle that wrongly reference his words for their OWN well being and political agendas.
      "THEBOSS" nailed it above "God will not judge nations on the Day of Judgement. He will judge every individual as to what they did or did not do."

      February 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
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