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. Phillip Bias

    he would cut everything and only get what he could afford. and he would not borrow a dime

    February 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  2. Mary

    Zur I will pray for your salvation. May God bless you and lead you to him before it is too late.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Zur

      Talk to Zeus for me while you're at it. Don't want any lightning bolts coming my way.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  3. Careful Thought

    Malaria nets for children are more important than some of the military budget, BUT it's not the responsibility of the government to provide a living for children around the world. Stop spending that money, let Americans keep their own money, and you watch them donate and help more than the government ever did. Only 27¢ out ever ever tax dollar spent on social programs actually escapes the bloated administrative costs and actually helps anyone. That percentage is over 80¢ in private charity. They do it better, let them.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  4. Cyrus

    Jesus would join the fat, unreasonably happy, clueless American consumers, get himself an iPad to send out new stuff to his disciples, build himself a website for marketing purposes, rent a 2-bedroom apartment in NYC, raise kids with Mary Magdalene on the upper West side. He would also repeatedly vote for liberal and/or democratic causes, and "unfriend" all his Republican friends and followers on Facebook.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  5. Vern Swanagon

    Maybe the world needs another perspective on who God is and what his son might do. http://www.authorlink.com/writers/detail/1631 Is there even a question?

    February 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  6. M+M

    Jesus would make the church pay Taxes and Capital Gains on investments.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  7. Bob in Pa

    Jesus did not live in a time or place concieved in freedom. Freedom for his people was one of his desires. Yes, help should be given when appropriate. Managing someones life for them should not.

    Instead of paying someones $500 a month winter heating bills, how about we give them the materials and ability to fix up and make their homes more energy efficient. Pay their bills for them and they will abuse the gift without blinking an eye. I have been in several homes that recieve assistance in multiple forms and found they heat their homes to a nice toasty 76 degrees all winter long. While the rest of us have to manage our therostats to keep the household budget in synch.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Straight Up

      Bob you are exactly right. And I too have been in welfare houses, people living off my tax dollars, who eat better than my family and live in warmer digs...

      February 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Sheila

      I say provide opportunities for employment then they can pay their own heating bill, but in the meantime, I don't want to see anyone freeze to death on my watch...

      February 28, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  8. Straight Up

    retards like lisaspups don't even get the point. Let alone succeed in explaining it.

    when you 'GIVE' a tax break to a wealthy individual you are simply TAKING LESS. Say 52% instead of 54% of what they produce.

    The middle class don't pay taxes. Get over yourself losers.

    I find it hilarious that they lefties want to bring "Jesus" into a conversation to justify their tax and spend ways...

    February 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • lisaspups

      Straight up – I would tell you to shove it straight up your backside, but your head is obviously blocking the way. If you have something constructive to say, that is fine. Otherwise, bring it to the cage or shut our pie hole.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Faulty Errection - Viagra Dreams

      Straight Up is the moron because he thinks the middle class doesn't know that by the time his loopholes and off shore accounts and moral charity that he only gives to get tax deductions, causes him to be the one not paying any taxes. Then the poor and middle class get to pay his share as he whines about the middle class paying nothing. Perhaps it only seems that way to him because he's sure he pays them next to nothing so a percentage of nothing has to be nothing once we take all deductions,loop holes and tricks he does...but of course we can't.

      March 3, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  9. Mark B.

    I don't think Jesus would care what the government spends at all. His approach was on what the faithful should do on their own. Matt. 22: 21 "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." He knew that Roman taxes paid for Roman military and social policies.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Haemisch

      Exactly. Well said.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  10. ARealist

    Wow, I'm completely impressed by this campaign. Great work!!

    February 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  11. lisaspups

    I think the point that most are missing are the right-wing conservative "Christian" politicians who promote their religious morals and values while at the same time giving perks, subsidies and tax breaks to the wealthy corporations and individuals while throwing the poor and middle class under the bus. They want to have their cake and eat it, too.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Sheila

      Well Spoken!!!

      February 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  12. Joey

    I understand the point he's making, however Jesus wouldn't compel you into taking care of the least fortunate in society through government programs in the first place and would instead expect you to do it out of the goodness, and kindness of your own hearts.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Haemisch

      The Bible says that the heart of man is "desperately wicked." We does these thing because God is good and he wants us to learn to be less selfish. That is why he commands us to serve the poor.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Sheila

      How many do you think would help?? I say less than .001%

      February 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Braxton

      i understand what you mean by Jesus wanting people to actually go out and help the poor themselves rather than through government programs, but times have changed and these programs are how we help the poor and unfortunate in these modern times. i think the point this religious movement is really trying to make is that if the Republicans are going make these proposed budget cuts a moral/religious issue (which they are only calling it a moral issue so the religious right will agree with them), then they need to actually follow the true moral beliefs of their religions. If they did that, I'm sure we would be seeing these cuts coming from programs other than the ones that feed the poor and what not.
      Also, if we wouldn't have extended the tax cuts on the top 2%, these programs would have the funding. I know someone is going to say, well then that would prevent these people from creating jobs and thats what we really need. What about the police, firemen, teachers, social workers, etc that are going to lose their jobs if the republicans proposed cuts go through? So to say that not extending the tax cuts is a job killer, then turn around and say cutting the budget is a moral issue and kill a ton of jobs by cutting funding seems not only hypocritical but also down right IMMORAL.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  13. God's Helpers

    I have read that the U.S. government is planning to redo our military forces because of the changing times and expense: to more of a high tech, super mobile, highly trained smaller force that will be working united with other countries. I wonder if that is true? God loves all his children around the world. We do need to keep supporting freedom fighters united with other countries; at the same time, we need make sure we are not only united in strengthening vulnerable and needy people in our community like Jesus, but also high quality education and health care for all. Love is the answer.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  14. nanny granny

    I have not had time to read comments here but this article gives me hope for my Christian beliefs.Saying you are "Conservative" does not stamp your forehead as "Christian ".Saying you are a "Democrat " does not make you a demon ! If yoy really love Jesus,if you truely believe in GOD,then theres no way you can deny help,love and compassion for fellow human beings.IF we cannot work together,we will go down together.When the helpless,poor,working mamnmiddle class no longer exist,WHERE will you sell the goods these people made and made you rich ???We can not survive in a " RICH-MAN,POOR MAN "society.Each one depends on the other for survival.GOD sees the greed,He sees our true motives,He sees our lies.No wonder MY COUNTRY is going down,WE HAVE TURNED OUR BACKS ON WHAT MATTERS AND TURNED TO OUR BANK ACCOUNTS !HE WHO DIES WITH THE MOST MONEY, GOODS ,POSSESSION,WINS !! Thank GOD for this group,I have been waiting for GODS SHEPHERDS to speak up.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Zur

      God is a myth.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Fool Alert

      And myths were created to hide the real meaning from fools and yet you still don't understand.

      March 3, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  15. John B

    Would Jesus have advocated giving as much of your money as possible to the Romans in order for the Romans to then use that money (hopefully) to serve the needy?

    Or would Jesus have advocated giving your money (and time) to serve the poor directly?

    February 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Haemisch

      The king of Israel had the task of safeguarding the rights of the poor in the Bible, which were the right to eat anything growing in a field (as long as they didn't carry anything away), and the right to glean the fields behind the reapers. IN ADDTION, the individual believer was called to serve the poor directly. ALL of society is supposed to be engaged in the support of those who cannot take care of themselves.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • dwight

      maybe both...from the gospel of Mark – “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” this is in reference to paying taxes.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  16. chyrd

    I have to say that I am very impressed. I'm also an atheist.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Zur

      I am not too impressed. Why are we dragging religion into this? Shouldn't we also have what would Allah cut? Or what would Mohamed cut? How what would Buddha cut?

      February 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Bryce

      I agree, and I'm also an atheist.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Bryce

      @Zur- Too often the religious right is all about cutting education and care programs, leaving the military untouched. It's just nice to see it not going the same way for once. Lighten up.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Zur

      @Bryce – I am not going lighten, because I am tired of people using their myths and fantasies to try and push public policy.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  17. Ali

    I agree, clemsondave! It makes me angry every time I see a massive new church going up. I know people need a place to gather, but it should be bare bones. That said, the majority of the time churchmembers spend together is spent in service, at least in my experience, so it's not all bad. But we can do much better.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Haemisch

      If Ali is short for Alison, I have no issue with you're comment. If you're a man named Ali, I would suggest looking at some of teh Mosques built in the Detroit area and refrain from casting stones.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  18. humtake

    Sorry, the poor have ruined our society and have caused the biggest impacts on our entire economy. By poor I don't mean those going through hard times. I mean those with 20k in credit card debt and the ones too stupid to understand their mortgages before they sign them. That large majority of the poor are taking advantage of their situation and making me pay more for every staple of my life. I'm pretty sure Jesus would have an issue with those people, I think there is something in the Bible about taking advantage of your fellow man. If there isn't, I guess I still wouldn't be very surprised.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Ali

      Shakespeare certainly says something about it! (Neither a borrower nor a lender be.) But the Bible says that if a man doesn't work, he doesn't eat. For those who legitimately are in trouble, there should be a safety net, but for those who are milking the unemployment benefits while they wait for the "perfect" job (and don't tell me it's a myth, because I've seen it from two old friends of mine over the past year, and they say outright that that's what they're doing), the rest of us shouldn't be subsidizing their vacation. Especially not those of us who are in jobs that AREN'T ideal to support ourselves, while they sit around and wait for perfection to fall in their laps.

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

      I am sure there are disreputable people among all walks of life, but to make such general accusations about a group is a bit judgmental, don't you think?

      February 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Mary

      What about all the people who do have jobs. Are all of you getting rich by being ETHICAL?? No if you were there would be less coruption. And yes I have a nice job, I make a nice living. However to say that about a whole group of people is a little uncalled for. What about these famous people who lose it all? Oh it's okay then if they live off the government. And what about the people who are corupt and put alot of people under because of their greed and dishonestly. Wow winners they are.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • rick

      im pretty sure are continued reliance on a boom and bust economy has done more damage then any of those tarts have

      February 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  19. Sanoran Triamesh

    Jesus would abolish the alcohol tax! Well, at least the tax on wines.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • NewMalthus

      And it would come out of the water fountains!

      February 28, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  20. clemsondave

    While I appreciate and fully support this campaign, it saddens me that we Christians must lobby the government to take care of the poor rather than doing it ourselves. So much wealth in the American church, and so much spent on meaningless things. What would the world look like if we tore down our massive cathedrals and church buildings and rather met in public spaces, homes, school cafeterias (as many churches do)–and instead we built housing for the homeless, community centers for decaying neighborhoods, discount grocery stores in food deserts... ? What need would we have for campaigns like this then?

    February 28, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Floyd

      Jesus would put everyone on the same payroll scale. At the end of the week we all would make the same paycheck no matter whom we wanted to be in our professions as long as we could make the grade to become what we wanted and each would share the same.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • SandyB

      Good point. To make matters worse, the mega churches are building fancy gymnasiums, daycare centers, large meeting rooms, auditorims, etc., and all tax free. Think how much the government could earn if churches had to pay tax on all frivolous spending.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Bart

      Perhaps you should convert and become Amish. That's pretty much what they do.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Zur

      Meh...instead of relying on your Zombie god. Why not go out and help people yourself?

      February 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • ReneeinTexas

      I am not sure what church you go to, but my (mega) church does A LOT for those in need. So much so, that during Katrina, the City, started sending displaced victims to our church for help. You may need to find another church.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.