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. RealityCheck

    Maybe Jesus would want the churches to start paying taxes like everyone else!

    February 28, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Takilesi

      You can't have your "separation of church and state" cake and eat it too.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Jesus would never cutt malaria nets. He loved everyone.

    February 28, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  3. BWMessenger

    bwmessenger dot blogspot dot com

    February 28, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  4. Bruce Ericson

    The whole premise of "what would Jesus cut?" strikes me as unChristian." First, Jesus shunned material possessions... "The foxes have their holes, but the son of man has no where to lay his head." or "Take no thought of tomorrow." Yet, here we are as a society forcing people to give to the poor. Is THAT what Christ would do? If so, why didn't he preach to the Roman governors of Judea to raise taxes and give to the poor? He didn't. He was for building a society in which material things would be secondary. Jesus cutting budgets, as if he would be a politician... Absurd!

    February 28, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  5. CWMessenger

    Moderator doesn't like me tonight. See if this posts.

    February 28, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  6. happyangel

    Once Abraham Lincoln said “I don't believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good. [But] while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else."

    February 28, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  7. scroo yoo

    Jesus would cut anything religious or republican,because jesus was a liberal

    February 28, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  8. James

    # Corrections
    No 'e' in forgo in that usage. (Graph 6)

    February 28, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  9. Takilesi

    Regardless of your political leanings there are some basic facts to consider regarding the role of any good government, especiallly our own. Governments are responsible for the rule of law, the defense of our safety from foreign and domestic enemies, and providing opportunities for success (fair business environment, infrastructure, and education).

    You may think the US is the aggressor in the Middle East, it is certainly a popular opinion, but not entirely true. Blaming the behavior of bullies and fanatics on the presence of an authority figure, even a flawed one, is ludicrous. Our nation has its faults, our politicians are particulary decent examples of poor decision making skills, but then everyone can look like a fool in hindsight. Calling our efforts at peace for ourselves and the world imperialistic blood lust is simply stupid.

    With that in mind, any government that seeks to do more than this is likely to crumble under the weight of overextension. But people are likely to think that big brother is supposed to solve every problem not just the big ones, and are therefore likely to amend their theory by trying to establish a hierarchy of need to determine where big brother should exhaust his effort. For some it may be the homeless, divorced moms, cancer patients, etc and for others it may be gay marriage. If there is a penny to spend it should certainly go to the best cause, right?

    Do you really think any social program the governemnt could possibly administer will matter to you when you are surrounded by religous Zealots hell bent on punishing our "Evil" nation for its Crusades and crimes against Allah and are blowing themselves up at a mall, hospital, or airplane near you in exchange for a bevy of beautiful virgins?

    Ask the Lord of the gospels who should be watching out for those in need in our great nation and he will tell you the parable of the Good Samaritan and ask you to be a good neighbor. Because that is our job. If YOU see a need then YOU should make an effort to take care of it. This approach would cost a lot less than hiring people to find needs for the government to address and will save us from wasting precious common resources in the process. We have to stop trying to put our responsibility as Christians on the backs of the Government.

    The government is not supposed to be Christian, we are.

    February 28, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  10. Albert

    Jesus wouldn't cut anything because he would not get involved in politics (he didn't when he was on earth). In fact he said to be no part of the world. His Kingdom is no part of the world. Read Daniel 2:44 for a real eye opener.

    February 28, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  11. Albert

    Jesus wouldn't cut anything because he would not get involved in politics (he didn't when he was on earth). In fact he said to be no part of the world. His Kingdom is no part of the world. Read Danial 2:44 for a real eye opener.

    February 28, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  12. Common Sense is not Common

    Sorry to be the one to tell everyone. But OIL is not priced based on what country it comes from. It is brought out of the ground and sold to the highest bidder!! If china wants to pay 100 dollars a barrel. Guess what america is going to have to pay to get it??? 101!!! Free Market...unless the people who keep talking about breaking americas dependency on foreign oil want the government to get involved to keept he price down...but that would be the big SOCIAL word that scares everyone!

    February 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  13. MB Barnesville,Ga.

    You people do you think government should care about it's people? You pay taxes so if you have a life crisis that the taxes you paid should take care of you it's not just moral it's a commitment to you!!!!!! You just have people in this country just don't care as long it is not them, but one day it will !!!

    February 28, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  14. Brent

    I'm amazed that the GOP is considered the Religious Right, yet they are more concerned about the profits of the rich than caring for the poor and needy. Hypocrites.

    February 28, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  15. RobC

    Even if many do not believe in Jesus here, the fact remains that a good majority of the Tea Bags claim to be Christian. What they are proposing is anything but Christian, and the religious leaders are calling them on it. Jesus said, "By your fruits you will know them." He clearly states that the care of the poor and needy is the measure by which all will be judged. Either you believe it, or you don't. But don't say you are one thing and do another. If you claim to be a Christian, then you care for the poor and needy first.

    February 28, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  16. Keith

    Sheesh, it is ABOUT TIME that progressive Christians started pushing back against the self-righteous self-centered notions of conservative Christians.

    February 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  17. Howard

    About 6 months ago, the writer was watching a news program on oil and one of the Forbes Bros. was the guest. The host said to Forbes, "I am going to ask you a direct question and I would like a direct answer; how much oil does the U.S. have in the ground?" Forbes did not miss a beat, he said, "more than all the Middle East put together." The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since Alaska 's Prudhoe Bay, and has the potential to eliminate all American dependence on foreign oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates it at 503 billion barrels. And because this is light, sweet oil, those billions of barrels will cost Americans just $16 PER BARREL!
    HOW can this BE? HOW can we NOT BE extracting this? Because the environmentalists and others have blocked all efforts to help America become independent of foreign oil! Again, we are letting a small group of people dictate our lives and our economy.

    February 28, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Rob

      Howard you are very confused about your facts. The Bakkan field is very large yes but that is where your facts stop and turn in to fiction. The fact is they have potential but they are not light crude they have to be pressed out of the earth through a fracturing process that up until the price of oil went over 75$ a barrel was deemed too expensive by the oil companies to go after. They have been aware of these fields of oil for a long time. Now lets talk about the environmental aspect the fracturing method uses tons of water mixed with sand and chemicals to consolidate and force the oil/gas to channels where it can be extracted. This method is expected to ruin the drinking water for 100's miles in every direction after a period of time. This is speculation for the most part but it is speculation by experts not environmentalists. Right now ND is one of the few states with a surplus because of these oil fields. They are putting it out as fast as they can but the process is slow and expensive. It can no way keep up with our demand because of the rate they bring it out. Also the Geological studies have been down sizing the field for years. Nice tray but take another swing batter.

      February 28, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Common Sense is not Common

      Oil is traded on a GLOBAL SCALE not on some lets give AMERICA the cheapest price we can. THE FREE MARKET at it again!!!

      February 28, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  18. OCat

    Swords into Plowshares.

    February 28, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  19. SQZ

    If Wallis really said “The most corrupt government spending is military spending, ......... Its cost overruns, outdated weapons systems, welfare checks to military contractors.” Then he is an idiot. Start with the bloat and waste in Depts of Education and Health and Human Services whose combined budgets are much larger than the DoD. Welfare checks to contractors?? Bite me. First stop welfare checks to the hundreds of thousands of charlatans sucking at the teat of the federal government. They siphon billions of dollars of fair minded citizens' money every year. Not to mention private citizen financing of federal civil service union benefits. As for the DoD, would updated weapons systems soften Our Lord's view of Defense spending. Mr. Wallis, you are an irrational knucklehead.

    February 28, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      What? I have no idea where you are getting that, unless you are breaking military spending down into many component parts and then comparing one of them to the other two agencies....Spending on the military is a greater portion of the budget than all other discretionary spending combined.

      February 28, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Mr Phil


      Dept of HHS 2010 = $78.7 bil.
      Dept of Ed = $46.7 bil.

      Drum roll please...

      DOD = $663.7 bil.

      You. sir, are either a liar or an idiot or both.

      February 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Pete

      @SQZ: The level of ignorance in your statement is astounding. I'm pretty sure the world we be a better place if we could all avoid pulling "facts" from thin air and basing vitriolic arguments upon them.

      February 28, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • truth2power

      Jesus would slash military spending and send that money to feed, clothe and educate those who need it.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  20. Clark

    Here in Georgia it seems a new multi million dollar mega church opens every week while the educational system is falling apart.
    We are also next to last in education i.e. we are among the most ignorant. See the correlation?

    February 28, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Rob

      Well Clark I am glad you do. Right now it is getting crazy with the tax cuts to those who need it most our society is becoming so callous.

      February 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • AWMessenger

      Perhaps public education needs to be replaced with the more affluent private education, where kids are still being taught effectively, and passing entrance exams in record numbers over the public kiddos. Yep, mega-churches have budgets that enable them to provide private education that seriously outscores public education. Nice point: our public students ARE getting more ignorant, and our church-supported private-school students are making all the difference in the world.

      Sideline to this would be: I researched this before I stated it and found a study done by the US department of education in 2006 that proves this point beyond doubt. Google the following: Comparing Private Schools and Public Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling

      February 28, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Darthlawsuit

      Probably this guy's voice box.

      February 28, 2011 at 10:39 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.