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. Eilif O Aune

    Who is Important? Who is Not?
    Republicans are fighting for billionaires & millionaires, oil subsidies for the oil companies, tax loopholes for corporations, taxbreaks for companies that send American jobs overseas.

    Who is not important? The most vulnerable people in our society: women, children, and the elderly. Teachers, students, and even first responders, police & fire are on the Republicans enemy List! American freedoms are at risk; collective bargaining and unions. Who is fighting for you?

    March 2, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  2. Dozel

    Jesus will cut your foreskin.

    March 2, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  3. Jim Rousch

    This is a stupid question, as we are talking about a man not only paid His taxes, but told others to do the same.

    Christ never charged anyone for a healing and fed 5,000 men with just five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:14-21). Notice that the King James Version states Christ was moved to compassion in verse 14. Does this sound like the same Republican Party that wishes to shove the Christian religion down the throat of every freedom-loving American while they attempt to take away their right to affordable health care?

    Jesus Christ would be accused of child molestion today (as He invited children in Matthew 18!) because He would insist that we pay our taxes (as He did!) and because He would NOT cut a single dime from domestic investment.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  4. YoungSonofLiberty

    It is not our governments place to provide any of those services. It is the role of individuals and churches. Maybe this religious group should have spent it's money on helping the needy instead of taking out expensive ads or buying stupid bracelets. I am sick and tired of our government taking my money and sending it where they want. Let Americans make their own decisions and donate money to causes for which they feel convicted to do so.

    March 2, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  5. Scottro72

    Everyone needs to understand that the term "Progressive" is PC Left-Speak for "Marxist."

    March 2, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  6. ttruong

    Jesus wouldn't cut anything; he would say let caesar decide whatever he wants and tell people to start fasting more often and reading the bible as food. If he did cut anything it would be any funding for media like cnn and organizations like planned parenthood.

    March 2, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  7. david bidlack

    her is a test i give to conservitive christians. if i own a food store and every thusday i let people who were hungry come and get food and i didn't charge them for it what am i? answer YOUR A LIBERIAL if i were a doctor and every monday i let people who did not have health insurence or money in their pockets come to my office so i could heal them what am i?answer YOUR A BLEEDING HEART LIBERIAL if i let you hit me right up side of my head and all i did was to turn my other cheek to you what am i? answer YOUR A LIBERIAL! than the conservitive ask me what is your point? answer with a question. how do you who worships a man that feed the poor healed the sick without billing them (which is a very liberial thing to do) find your home in the right wing of the republican party which has no concern for the people who are hungry or sick and loves going to war a the drop of a hat?

    March 2, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  8. Ken Coit

    What a shame that Compassion has to be explained and that attacks are thought to be an answer.

    March 2, 2011 at 6:16 am |
  9. Earl

    Well if you really want to take it to the Jesus level, you'd have to put the Romans in the place of the government, and we know what they would do. Jesus would not have assumed that we trust the government to take care of the poor. He would have encouraged all of God's people to step up and help the poor as if they were helping themselves. Do unto others did not include by supporting a political adgenda. The government can't get out of it's own way most of the time. Why not just take care of business and cut out the blood sucking middle man. Their only perogative is to buy votes anyway. Cut the budget and give the money back to those who can best use it for the good of all.

    March 2, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  10. Robert (speedy) Gonzales

    The Bible is by the preponderance of sheer fact the basic moral code of American Society. We will all die and go somewhere in spirit. I personally have felt to power of GOD and trully believe that all will answer for what we do on this dot in the universe called Earth. If by chance you wish to read what Jesus states humanitys responsibility is toward the poor and the oppressed read Matthew Chap 25 verses 31-46. Good luck to all with that ETERNITY thing

    March 1, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  11. Brian Macker

    Now the democrats are pushing theocracy. Who cares what Jesus would cut.

    March 1, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  12. antonio velasquez jr.

    everything that is anti christ.

    March 1, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  13. DCJeff

    I guess I missed the part of the bible that tells us to borrow money to give to the poor. I guess also missed the part where it tells us to confiscate other people's money to give to the poor.

    March 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Rev. Enno Limvere

      Matthew 6:42 "Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you." Matthew 25:35-36" "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." Seems to me that Jesus a thing about helping those poor. Luke 6:24 "But hoe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation."

      March 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Renee

      What you missed is that nothing in this worlld is really yours. You're only stewards of what you have. You came here with nothing and you will leave here the same manner in which you came.

      March 2, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  14. Tayra Antolick

    The Bible NEVER, EVER, obligates a legal fiction to do anything. The government is a legal fiction, and so are incorporated churches. The Unites States government is not "Christian". It can NEVER be Christian and, therefore, not subject to biblical mandates. ONLY MEN AND WOMEN can be Christians. WE are the only living creations upon whom God's law imposes the obligation to meet the needs of men and women of the poor SO THAT they may come to the saving knowledge of God Jesus the Messiah.The biblical church is NOT a corporate legal fiction with limited liability. Christian MEN AND WOMEN are FULLY LIABLE for ALL omissions and well of commission of HIS law. Therefore, what would Jesus cut? The question is irrelevant. Jesus would not involve himself with a non-Christian legal fiction. The better question would be "what would YOU stop giving to the non-Christian legal-fiction government and in turn give to YOUR needy neighbor so that they may come to a saving knowledge of Jesus the Messiah?"

    March 1, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  15. Michael

    When Jesus said "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and junto God what is God's" the basis of moral arguments for taxation as a Biblical commandment ... few ever consider that Jesus, as an Israelite, knew the Law forward and backwards, in fact was the Law. And the Law remonstrated over and over never to bend the knee to a foreign ruler, to cast out any who sought to rule God's people, to go Armageddon on any ruler who sought to overturn and replace God's Law with his laws, etc. And taxation by men is an act of aggression and theft. God also stated clearly "Have no other gods before Me". The act of demanding tribute (tax) is an act of ungodliness and turning the people away from His providence and grace, an act of theft and aggression and an act of supplanting His Law with the aggressor's laws.

    It hardly seems likely Jesus meant for us to embrace all of that as a moral obligation to taxation.

    Instead I suggest what Jesus was saying, and by doing so slapping the Sanhedrin in the face while doing so ... was that God commands any ruler caught attempting the above was to be killed out of hand. And any Israelite found supporting such schemes to come to the Temple to be judged. (which almost surely meant being stoned to death for leading His peolple astray into slavery and submission to "other gods")

    By asking "Whose inscription is this?" and saying "Render" I believe Jesus was telling the assembled religious authorities to remember what their God had instructed them ... go kill Caesar. Then come back to the Temple to be judged for your sins.

    I now await the fury of indignation.

    Michael Geer

    March 1, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  16. stevio

    What would Jesus cut? - Isn't the correct answer NOTHING? He'd simply divide the loaves and fishes and miraculously provide Federal programs for the entire crowd!

    March 1, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  17. vegas01

    Ignorance has reached a pinnacle with this article. Jesus has no bearing on the matter, and as the Bible records, he said plainly his interests (kingdom) is not of this world otherwise he would have sought to alter the situation.
    The new testament doesn't command governments; just individuals.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Mike

      You cannot have it both ways though. If it is not relevant to invoke the word of Jesus in the context of a budget debate because his words are meant for individuals, then by extension you cannot cite religious arguments on other
      political issues like abortion, gay marriage or foreign policy. Sounds like some people want to selectively use religion to support their points of view.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Renee

      That's the most pathetic statement thus far. Who operates in government? Individuals.

      March 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  18. Da Dude

    I love all this talk about Jesus and how people have actually used his name to bolster their own efforts. Its absolutely true and being a Christian myself it is a tough pill to swallow. The sad part is that most of the other folks who have no real understanding of Jesus or what he stands for are the first to tell people who do believe what they should believe. Having a relationship with God outside of the standard religion of the time(Which is what Jesus was doing) is the most important thing. Oh by the way you hypocrites (silly atheists) if you have such a problem with people telling others what to believe then stop telling people with a belief systems what to do! Get one of your own and see how that works out for you. God is love!

    March 1, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • fltxag

      Rant without making sense much?

      March 2, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  19. watching and crying

    The American people didn't approve what the Democrats were doing – helping the unemployed and helpless. I live in fear that when my unemployment run out, and have not found a job, that I might need to take some tough decisions to eat. Now the Republicans says off with their heads; we have to make some tough decisions. The Republicans say "thank you" for my high paying job, but the rest of the Americans need to be sacrifice. THROW THEM IN THE FIRE. And that's HELL!

    And when crime increases because people are hungry, then what?

    March 1, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  20. DK

    “Identification of Christian social ethics with specific partisan proposals that clearly are not the only ones that may be characterized as Christian and as morally acceptable comes close to the original New Testament meaning of heresy.” Paul Ramsey

    March 1, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • ApostlePaul

      Oh this is just silly. Bread for the world and mosquito nets are partisan causes? No...they come under Love Thy Neighbor.

      And if you think THAT's a partisan cause, stop quoting religious writers.

      March 1, 2011 at 4:04 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.