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. Rico Rossi

    Let's keep thing in perspective. When Jesus was on this earth the Romans had a mighty army. Jesus also said : Matthew 22:21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
    Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
    In regards to the rich man selling all that he has and giver to the poor. It was not about giving to the poor but about faith in the Lord: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2010:17-31&version=MSG
    Jesus did continually talk about taking care of: Children, widow's and the poor. He told that to us not "government."

    February 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Mike

      No Rico. It is about giving money to the poor, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, etc, etc. There are countless references to that. Republicans want to mandate that their religious beliefs on abortion and gays, etc should be enforced through government. However, when the issue is about the poor, suddenly it's no, that's not for the gov't to do. As a former christian, I say if you believe in the message of Jesus, you should support his message in private AND through government. In a democracy, government are the people.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Anglican

      Ric. Christ was very serious about care for the poor. The rich lawyer mentioned above was called to faith, but also to give up money to the poor, not to Caesar. Deves did no evil, but ignored laz. You can not dilute Christ's call to serve the poor.

      February 28, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  2. Rabel Fibal

    One say a week close all shopping. From Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, no buying, trading, selling working...just resting. This is what Jesus taught and followed...even King David sung about the Sabbath day.

    It's called a Sabbath day. You have 6 precious hedonistic, coveting days "I want what he has" mentality and then one day you rest. Let your body and mind relax, visit family.
    The savings would justify the means across the board!!! Shut it down one day per week or month or year? What you say Dems and GOPs?

    February 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  3. L. Lorenz

    Mr. Kerns: you draw the wrong conclusions.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • mike kerns

      such as?

      March 1, 2011 at 5:21 am |
  4. Mike

    Jesus would cut down military spending to 0 dollars. Those who "fight by the sword, die by the sword.
    He would tell everyone to turn the other cheek. He would also raise taxes on the rich and continue saying things like "It is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to the kingdom of heaven." He might have to update it to something like this, it is easier for a fat man to fit in one airline seat than for a rich man to go to heaven.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • DE Steve

      The teachings of Jesus were to function in the world (render unto Caesar) without being a part of the world (unto God what is God's). His admonition to a particular rich man was to sell his possesions and give the proceeds to the poor,... afterwhich he would be a candidate for decipleship. Jesus didnt actually promote taxation but instructed an obedient tolerence of it and other forms of lawful living. His teachings indicate that he wanted his followers to be obedient to GOD above all and that when no conflict between the two exists, the the former obedience (Caesar or the LAW of the land or government as it were ) was in essence obedience to God. He has never requested defence spending. He did indeed command us to GIVE to the poor. of our own free will. He would not take part in telling a government how much to tax or how much to spend on the poor. The Government is not one of his Desciples. His Kingdom trandsends governments, lands, ethnic and economic groups.

      February 28, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  5. jarrod rager

    assuming we have even a remotely close picture of the man Jesus, and what he claimed to stand for, we would find a person who would be overwhelmingly unimpressed with our notions of government and modern compassion. "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God." However proposterous my assumptions are about what I think Jesus may or may not think – it is equally outlandish for anyone in politics to claim Jesus as their main litmus test for spending. The restrictions, requirements, and limits of government have no bearing on what people claiming Christianity should be doing. The words creditted to Jesus in the new testament seem to require anyone being a follower of Christ to literally spend their life in the service of humanity. Take for example the simple command that if someone demand from you your tunic that you should give your cloak as well. Jesus says give double what anyone asks of you without qualification save that you love with everything you have. This is not only radical but incredibly impractical in our modern material world. If people of faith have a genuine desire to follow their beliefs i encourage them to truly unpack them and understand the choice they have made. I am not anti-faith, i hope everyone takes a good self examination of themselves and chooses some sort of spiritual narrative – Christianity, Hinduism, Agnosticism, Atheism – really, to me it doesn't matter what you choose – just know what sort of a commitment you are making.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  6. TheRealJesus

    End tax-exempt status for churches.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  7. Grey, Atlanta

    Jesus would defer cutting the budget to Caesar (Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus).

    February 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  8. G. R.R.

    The very same man that was part of the recent spending bill that added .5 trill/year to our deficit is now saying 'We have a moral responsibility to address the problems we face. That means working together to cut spending and rein in government '.
    This is no different than reagan claiming that he will balance the budget.

    I really hate to say it, but America is now a state of fascism.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  9. Pau

    May be the church should start paying some tax too. Instead just wanting money from tax payers.
    do we really need 5 church to each city blocks. Just taking up land and not producing anything.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  10. Jesus

    As Jesus, your savior, I say cut all the welfare for the lazy free-loaders. We need to spend more money on weapons and blowing stuff up. Amen.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Alientech

      Jesus, get back to work.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Or a genocidal flood because someone p!ssed me off... oh, wait we already did that.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Robert

      This must be the antichrist version speaking.

      March 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  11. Sara62285

    Republicans, Democrats, Independents, ALL Politicians are corrupt. They ALL worship money & are slaves of Satan. Not one is Christian. The majority of the US population says they believe in God, but continually disobey him & love worldly things more than they love him. If you're really a Christian, God must be first in your life, in all areas of your life. Disaster is coming on those who refuse to heed him & his word.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Bill

      Sara, you must not understand the language you are using; it comes off as if you are filled with hate, not love. You may have good points to say, but you certainly sound like a judge perched on your high horse, assuming you are the voice of God. Virgin Mary without sin? I doubt it. Take care of your own life and allow others to take care of their own. Did God not give us free will? Did Jesus not allow for humans to sin? I do not understand your judgemental approach to life. Perhaps we will all meet on the other side, perhaps not. But sound as if you are the one with corruption in your life, and you should be focusing within before preaching on the internet. Last time I checked, there was no dude called Satan hanging out with our Senators and Governors telling them what to do. There may be a dude called Stan who drinks too much and is pretty greedy and wants his share of your tax dollars and he is the one we need to watch out for. People have people problems, not Satan problems.

      Just sayin, watch the hate, your true nature is showing...

      February 28, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  12. BigEP

    I truly cant stand these things, but couldnt resist. Jesus said, He came to do His Fathers business. What was that business? feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, loving the unlovable, mending broken hearts. Christian or not, shouldnt that be a good template to follow? If you dont believe in Christ, your business, I wont have to give an account for you in judgement and I dont thrust my beliefs on anyone. But I cant help think that if thats the example we follow, the example of LOVE, the rest would work itself out.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Zur

      Seems like you want everyone to follow your myths and fantasies, regardless if they believe in them or not.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Alientech

      His father's business was human sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Somebody had to die to satisfy god.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  13. RONNIE

    First he would cut out everything the republicans wanted ! Cut their free health care and give it to the poor.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  14. Steve the real one

    Why are we forgeting these simple words: If man does not work, he does not eat? Those words describe ... oh no not THAT word! Oh yeah! THAT word...RESPONSIBILTY! !
    In saying that all cases are NOT the same! I am however, saying we should NOT be raising generations on welfare!

    February 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • moomoo

      I sincerely hope you suffer a debilitating illness or injury and find all your pleas for help to fall on the deaf ears of your stingy fellows.
      May you suffer horribly, you unconscionable prlck. Disabled people cannot work. So I guess we'd better kill them all, eh?

      February 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • paul

      why do conservatives always use the most extreme examples? most people on public assistance are WORKING poor or unable to work. because some are too lazy to work and abuse the system, we should deny assistance to those who work hard and still need some help to make ends meet? neo-cons never consider the millions of americans who are hard working AND poor. why????

      February 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Robert

      We should NOT be raising generations of CORPORATE welfare!

      February 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • kaserf

      What ever happened to teaching a man to fish as opposed to giving a man a fish? Again, personal responsibility. I know, some people are "disabled". There aren't many people who can't learn how to run a computer regardless of most disabilities. I don't want to take benefits away from the truely disabled but lets stop feeding the lazy and drug addicted. I see them the first week of the month at the grocery store where I work. They buy more junk food in one week than I can or want to buy for my large family in a month. I agree with the scripture that says "Those who do not work shall not eat."

      February 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      I sincerely hope you suffer a debilitating illness or injury and find all your pleas for help to fall on the deaf ears of your stingy fellows. May you suffer horribly, you unconscionable prlck. Disabled people cannot work. So I guess we'd better kill them all, eh?
      First of all reading IS fundamental! Slowly, carefully read what I wrote! Did you happen to read this?
      "In saying that all cases are NOT the same" That is what I said!

      Secondly, As I am a child of God, you cannot curse me! I will pray the Lord rebuke YOUR words. Not for my sake but for yours!

      I know full well there are those who really need help. I was NOT addressing them. I was however addressing those on public assistance who have flat screens I every room and driving newly new Caddys. THAT is what I am addressing. I will not look for an apology because, well just read your rant! That tells me enough about you! Have a nice day!

      February 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Anglican

      Steve. Are you prepared to draw the line? Who is too poor, and who is not. Christ did not differentiate. We must not as well. Of all I care for, all are less fortunate than I.

      February 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      why do conservatives always use the most extreme examples? most people on public assistance are WORKING poor or unable to work. because some are too lazy to work and abuse the system, we should deny assistance to those who work hard and still need some help to make ends meet? neo-cons never consider the millions of americans who are hard working AND poor. why????
      Read what I wrote.. I KNOW there are exceptions and I am NOT addressing them! Read what I wrote to moomoo! Conclusion jumping is NOT an Olympic event!

      February 28, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      We should NOT be raising generations of CORPORATE welfare
      That too!

      February 28, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  15. Physicsstudent

    I think some people are missing the point. Who cares if Jesus existed or not? Most humans can stand behind his beliefs that man should help those in need. By cutting out programs to help those less fortunate, but not even touching "defense" spending is as much inhumane as it is unchristian. I mean cutting $60 billion from the defense budget is less than a 10% reduction, so why not start there? So whether you believe in God or not, you can believe in what is the human thing to do.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Zur

      No because then you bring in all the other stuff as well. Why can't we ask what would Plato cut? (Actually Plato would just turn it back into a question to you...so I guess we would never know.)

      February 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  16. Michael Kelly

    Jesus would leave spending alone and increase the taxes on the rich.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Robert

      Amen – brother!

      February 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  17. Patrish

    (a) Who cares?? (b) Just can't leave religion out of it. They think it makes them 'above everyone, else, but to me it's just stupidity at its best!!

    February 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  18. L. Lorenz

    This is a specious premise. First and foremost, Jesus would not confiscate a person’s hard earned wealth and give it to the unproductive poor, slackers, freeloaders or parasites – that is theft: “thou shalt not steal” (Ex.20:18) In fact, I quote the New Testament: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Thess 3:10)” Rather, He encourages each one of us INDIVIDUALLY to give to the poor as OUR heart leads us, or as He leads our hearts. There is a big difference between being encouraged to give to the poor and having your possessions (money) taken by force (a law or a gun) and most of it going to a bureaucracy who manages to "wet thier beaks" before they send a fraction of it to the needy. And the strings that come attached to it obligates thier vote in order to maintain the handouts. The "Great Society" did nothing more than shackle people to the plantation of poverty in order to keep thier masters in control – its all about power! If more people were in tune to Jesus, I doubt there would be any poverty at all. He even said: “The poor you will always have with you” and that is because there is sin in the world.
    For a bunch of leftists to use Jesus to justify their own political view also violates the third command: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • mike kerns

      malaria nets for poor children in africa. Food asslstence and education for poor children. Is that what you define as supporting slackers. Losers. Then you support more spending on weapon systems even the military does not want? I am afraid you reek of hypocracy.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • dc237

      Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Really forgetting that Jesus didn't say not to pay taxes?

      February 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • karmaappe

      Just curious have you heard the phrase, give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's. Besides, why does anyone think they know what Jesus would do....you've gotta have some nerve to say that to justify your own political ideologies. Would Jesus invade iraq or Aghanistan and spend billions of tax dollars killing Muslims for oil and greed? I doubt it, but none of know for sure. What we do know is that he told us NOT to do it....turn the other cheek, love they neighbors, not invade them.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Phil

      Hey there L.L.

      You sound like a dedicated right-wing extremist lapping up the drool of the Fox Channel.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Geoff W

      Wow your knowledge of biblical principles is truly lacking. Taxation was addressed by Jesus directly when he said "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's". Jesus could have taken that opportunity to rant against big government, but (gasp) he didn't. Jesus said that "whatever you have done for the least of these, you did for me" in other words, it doesn't matter what how "lazy" a poor person is (nice straw man by the way), Jesus doesn't distinguish between lazy and hard working poor.

      It never ceases to amaze me how "conservatives" rant about the need for God in government yet lack a basic understanding of Biblical principles, such as "love thy neighbor". Jesus didn't say "love only thy employed neighbor" or "love only thy American neighbor". This includes the people who take advantage of the welfare state. That's on them, not you.

      February 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  19. BlueHeelersRule

    Not really sure why people who do not believe choose to read the Belief Blog. I think it's just for argument sake.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Nonimus

      From the 'About this blog' above:
      "fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives."
      If you don't think that religion and belief impact the lives of non-believers, just read the t.itle of this article.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Alientech

      Maybe because it's under 'other news' on the front page?

      February 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • derp

      These stories are on the CNN front page, not just the belief blog. Besides, the witches would have faired a lot better if they knew what the witch hunters were discussing before the witch hunt started.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Nonimus


      LOL, great!

      February 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • thatmikeguy

      It's because they know the difference and are making their choice. Prey for them.

      "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8)

      Is debt forgivable? The Lords Prayer.

      February 28, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  20. Don-JaxFL

    Jesus cut the budget??? Oh no, he would increase our taxes because he would need a larger budget so he could "tend to the weak and the poor" even more than we do today. Sure he would eliminate such areas as defense spending...thus opening us up to takeover by any country who wanted us.
    Jesus would expand all services to the needy and he would denounce our current monetary programs....you won't need money to get in the way of caring for each other anyway.
    Jesus cut the budget??? I don't think so.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Zur

      More importantly, what would Allah cut?

      February 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • mike kerns

      when did jesus say you must have a military 10 times more powerful then the rest of the world combined? We could cut our defense budget 50% and still be a strongly defended nation.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Alientech

      @Zur Allah would cut our heads off since this whole conversation would be pure blasphemy.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • karmaappe

      I's interesting that Christians today like to think Jesus horded wealth to justify their own greed. What would Jesus do?? The Jesus in my Bible gave away ALL wealth and asked his followers to do the same. Greed is not compatible with Christianity, and hording money, buying bigger and bigger homes, fancy cars, and the American dream, well, that's really not what Jesus was about

      February 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @mike kerns,
      Just out of curiosity, how big did Jesus say the military should be?

      February 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Steve

      What would Jesus cut? I would think he would up for making money on the whole turning water into wine thing. The profits he could turn would be amazing.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Robert

      What part don’t you understand? "Cutting programs that help those who need them most is morally wrong," AND "We have a moral responsibility to address the problems we face….”

      February 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • karmaappe

      exactly how much money could be taken away from Defense spending and still leave this nation protected, in your eyes? Could we eliminate $500? what about $500,000? What would it mean to eliminate that much? Would we still have armies and planes and tanks and missles? What about $5 million? If you do not know how much our defense budget is and what it is spent on, how do you know that elminating it, and some of the waste in it (and there is plenty of waste), then stop defending it as if taking away $1 from defense would open us up to attack. That is ludicrous.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "If you do not know how much our defense budget is and what it is spent on, how do you know that elminating it, ...[will weaken our defense?]"
      Sorry to 'put words in your mouth,' but that seemed like the direction you were headed.
      In response, I would say that the same logic applies to you. How do you know that taking money from the defense budget wouldn't weaken our defense? Keep in mind that they're not talking about $1 or $1 million, but billions. Tens or possibly hundreds of millions won't make much difference either to the budget defecit or to the defense. It would take tens of billions to make any dent in the deficit, which may very well impact the ability of our military to do all it is asked to do (not just war by the way, the Haiti earthquake, the Pakistan earthquake, and didn't the US just reposition its navy in the Meditaranian to support the UN in Libya.)

      February 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
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About this blog

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.