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. Yarrrr

    Jesus would use his golden uzi to go all rambo on anyone who disagreed with him. He'd also send disciples to abortion clinics as suicide bombers. Nobody messes with Jesus.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  2. mypitts2

    However the Republicans cut the budget, do the reverse and that's how Jesus would cut the budget.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  3. Do not Worry!

    The resurrection proved that Jesus is at the right hand of God. From the wimpy rhetoric by christians today, Jesus is someone whom they see on Sunday and talk to in the third person. Ask him now yourself and continue every minute after.You will be surprised!

    February 28, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  4. WDC

    It isn't the Government's responsibility to provide aid to charities – it is PEOPLE's responsibility to help other people in need. Instead of stuffing our faces and growing fatter and fatter – how about we share with other people who do not have enough to eat? Instead of having a TV in every room – how about we provide maleria nets to those who need it? It isn't the Government's responsibility to help those in need – it's ours. That's what Jesus would say.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • mypitts2

      Americans are very giving at both a domestic and international level, so your premise is flawed. But government has the infrastructure and tools to make sure money goes to where its needed. And if it doesn't get there, we have someone to hold accountable.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Patricia

      What gets to me with some of the arguments I see on this board about redistributing the wealth is that this same line of reasoning is not used when corporate welfare is involved. The oil companies receive billions in corporate welfare, as do corporate farms, big pharmaceuticals, etc. The very wealthy wallstreeters and bankers received blank checks for trillions. The ceo's received billions of bonuses at taxpayer expense. No one knew where all this money went. The same criminals that brought the entire economy to a halt were given welfare checks. No problem with the conservative christian right. Give a small stipend to some poor elderly disabled person for home heat during the coldest weather months and its all about redistributing the wealth. All the christian right come out from under their rock to raise their voices. Christ would never have anything to do with a corrupt man's devised government or the corporate greed they serve. But the people who claim to be conservative christian right the same ones who use abortion and christ as their personal campaign manger during elections; complain when they are called on to explain their opposition to the very values they claim to have. Alot of the poor now in this economy were made so due to direct criminal actions by the top elite wallstreeters and rich bankers and the politicians that serve them. The politicians pad their pockets with lush millionaires salaries for life and one of a kind pork healthcare all the while talking about fiscal responsibility. Hypocrites.

      February 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  5. Malibu1369

    Don't believe in Jesus, the bible or the god from that book. Don't want any religious group running the country hiding behind some book or some god, but I sure agree with the sentiments of these Christian groups.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  6. Yoly

    Guess would say, "Give all your belongings away, and follow me." He would then distribute everything equally and there would be an abundance.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  7. ChristianSoldier

    Wallis is mistaken in his premises. First, he assumes that the ends (i.e. ending poverty, misery, etc.) justify the means (i.e. using government force to redistribute wealth to solve them). Jesus never advocated using unjust means to produce just ends. His intent was that taking care of others should come through love (i.e. giving freely, without compulsion), and his directives were to his followers, not society as a whole. Second, Wallis confuses the proper roles of government. The government should be more concerned about military equipment than bed nets because providing for defense I emphasize defense) of the people of the US against those who would threaten our lives, liberty or property with force is one of it's primary roles; being a charity is not. Jesus understood the proper roles of government (force) and charity (altruism), that's why he wasn't a political revolutionary.

    On a separate note, as a born again Christian and a military officer, I leave you with these two thoughts: 1. Jesus' political philosophy can best be described as libertarian. He emphasizes freedom of moral choice over physical coercion to do what's morally right. 2. I managed a $450M security contract for the military. There are some abuses in military spending. The most significant ones (and most expensive) are when Congress mandates the production of equipment or use of bases simply to save jobs in their districts even though they have no relevance on the readiness of our military. That's the pork that inflates the Defense budget. Unfortunately, what gets cut is equipment and training funds that we do need.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Doug

      I agree with everything you said, except that Jesus did tell his disciples to go and steal a man's horse in Luke 19, verses 29 – 36. So he apparently didn't have a problem with breaking that commandment. the disciples do tell the guy that the lord has need of it, but they don't say what the guy says back. Also, if the guy who questioned them had not seen them take the horse, they would have just taken it without a word to anyone. So it seems to me that the ends here do justify the means.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      I agree with everything you said, except that Jesus did tell his disciples to go and steal a man's horse in Luke 19, verses 29 –36.
      You may want t o re-read that and this time with some understanding. Jesus stole nothing! His disciples stole nothing! Think about the reaction of the owners when they were told "The Lord has need of it". Nobody called the cops. Yet that would have been the normal reaction in the case of theft!

      February 28, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  8. Butler

    I am really surprised that CNN would have the audacity to legitimize such an article. There is no difference between this and the egotistical Alabama governor telling the world that "only Christians are his brothers." I guess the conservative right can't function without guidance from the a higher being. It is a little refreshing, however, that he's using Jesus' as a source rather than Limbaugh, Palin, Boehner or Gingriss. Suggestion-why not change the words on the Statue of Liberty to read something like, "Give me your Christians, your wealthy, your corrupt, etc., etc."

    February 28, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  9. Al Wagner

    If Jesus saw this chart, and the car progressive evangelical Rev. Jim Wallis drives, and the house he lives in, I'm betting Jesus would cut his throat. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-only-chart-you-need-to-see-to-understand-why-the-us-is-screwed-2011-2

    February 28, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  10. Toni

    We should leave the poor alone. Modify how and to whom we distribute Welfare to. State and senate should take a pay cut(they wont miss it). The very wealthy should be made to pay higher taxes than the average working person they can afford it. Stop spending our money on foolishness. Support the people that pay your salaaries!!!!!.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  11. manicdrummer

    Jesus would bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, close all US military bases overseas and shrink America back down to actual size. And then he'd dissolve the GOP. And THEN he'd house the homeless and feed the hungry.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • ChristianSoldier

      He'll do that when he comes in his Kingdom. In the meantime, it's our job to practice true justice: get rid of legalized plunder through government redistribution of wealth, and each of us give freely and voluntarily to care for our neighbors. The ends NEVER justify the means.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Doug

      Unless they didn't believe in him. Then he would burn them forever in eternal torment.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  12. lmartin

    He wouldn't give to the rich and take from the poor.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Jim

      How does one take something that doesn't exist (poor are poor and don't have the oney to take)?
      Since the poor don't pay income taxes and most get back far more than they pay in tax total through tax credits, it would seem the "taking from the poor" concept is a concept that is akin to having a square that is round.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  13. hellotiki

    Jesus would first cut the hypocrites out of the budget with his golden uzi.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  14. Steve the real one

    2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV
    If MY PEOPLE, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray , and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
    The WWJC argument is silly and ridiculous! God is calling out His people to task and not the world! WWJD? Sorry, He already did what was required. Our turn! He told the Church to take care of people, we did not and the government did! Now we are upset at government? If we are not willing and ready to step up to the plate, we need to be quiet!
    What would Jesus Cut? If we have been about the Father's busines like we should have, there would be no need to even ask that question! Dear Church, repentance is appropriate right here!

    February 28, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • W247

      Thank you Steve! Jim Wallis is a dangerous man. Sheep in wolf's clothing.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      Thank you Steve! Jim Wallis is a dangerous man. Sheep in wolf's clothing.
      Government does have its place as it was given to man by God. At the same time Government cannot assume God's place. I am not sure about calling him dangerous. I just think he needs to be reminded government is not higher than God!

      February 28, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  15. MightyMoo

    Jesus would swing things to where they would do the most good for most people. What we as American's are stuck with are Republicans and Democrats who swing things to those with the most money that lobby them regardless of wither they are good for the country or not.

    My guess would be a lot of tables overturned in areas we'd expect and not expect if he were actually in charge of things. Since I'm not Jesus I can't say for sure, only speculate.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  16. Dave

    Would Jesus vote Republican or Democrat ?

    February 28, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Toni

      I think he would vote for the best person . Which is what im going to do from now on it dosent matter if your Dem or republican i want the best person.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  17. Howard

    Cutting stuff that helps the poor while maintaining the death and destruction side of the budget? These lawmakers are Christians? Jesus Christ! I can only imagine what the budget would look like if a bunch of blood thirsty heathens put it together.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  18. duh

    The point is what is the morally right way to cut the budget. it doesnt matter the religion. do we spend it on our own people's needs or send it to military companies who focus on foreign interests and basically killing people.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  19. rivirivi

    2 solutions: (1) Why don't the Republicans give us regular always working still poor American people their guns so that we can shoot ourselves, that way they can destroy our Country, sell every stone to the best bidder, including their oil king friends and they have nothing to worry about us anymore- or (2) let's we, the good poor working people fire everyone of them ASAP.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Bob

      It seems retarded taking a country-wide problem then pigeon holing it into two crappy solutions.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  20. demiurgeous

    Excellent point. I'm all for cuts but let's cut it right! Military spending is one of the most unproductive, corrupted and useless waste of budget. And if you want to stop government spendings, stop it here first. There is an argument that military spending gives us technology back. Ok, then spend on "green" tech! It's "people friendly" and improves our security and energy independence. There are ways to spend smart, it's just that "exploding" our money is not one of them!

    February 28, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Bob

      "Green tech"? What does "Green tech" mean? You mean like waste thousands of crops on Ethanol while people starve in developing countries? Yay environmentalists. Subsidize the green tech in the name of humanity.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • demiurgeous

      Bob, we have an enormous amount of renewable energy to tap in. Google "environmental technology" and learn before calling something "stupid".

      February 28, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • ???

      Bob is sort of right on the ethanol issue. Corn based ethanol is a waste. There are higher ethanol yield crops that can be grown in areas unsuitable for corn. In addition there are versions of corn that can be grown where the stalk and leaves have been modified to produce the material for ethanol while the grain can be harvested for food. The subsidies encourage a poor way of creating renewable energy.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • demiurgeous

      ???, Ethanol issue does not invalidate the whole idea, right? We are here to solve problems and to find solutions. It takes brain, not whine.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:30 am |
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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.