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. Thinkifyoucan

    This is an interesting point of veiw and makes a conundrum... I have my next blog subject. "Religous right, Political Right, and reality." This is going to be fun.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  2. Rabel Fibal

    A day of rest will save money...no work ,buying, selling, ebaying, gambling, running kids to soccer, basketball, baseball games. No competing on this day, just rest for your sake. God gave it to man. He created the heavens and the earth and everything in it (6 days) and rested from His work on the SEVENTH. It was given to man, but nobody pays attention to the 4th commandment, Keep My Sabbath Holy, for I am Holy.

    Stop what you are doing for one day, bet none of you can? You are too busy, busy, busy...

    February 28, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • John

      I agree. But resting for a day won't feed my sheep:)

      February 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I, and many others, are not subject to your book-of-silliness. We have not joined, in fact many explicity reject, your cult. I'll use my time as I see fit, not according to some 2000+ year old book of fiction. Please stop trying to impose your mythical religious beliefs on the rest of us.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      You should take the whole year off. No, really.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • @Buster Bloodvessel


      February 28, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  3. some emo kid

    Jesus, with tears running down His cheeks, would say "My churches are wealthy beyond belief. Please, tax them as if they were ordinary corporations, and use the money to feed the poor."

    February 28, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  4. mttrailboss

    Sometimes, I think that the Republican Party and The Tea Party movement wants the 'middle class' to become poor or homeless. Without social programs, there will be more unemployment, poor and homeless. I also believe that the suicide rate will go up, even more than what it is now, for senior citizens, poor and the homeless. I am beginning to lose faith in the Republican Party and its so call 'agenda' for Americans'. Well.., we voted them in, we can sure as well, vote them out. The sooner the better. Mike in Montana

    February 28, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The republican fiscal policy has been the same for over 30 years – trickle down economics.
      This is based on the faulty premise that above all else, you must keep the ultra-rich elite of society happy. When they're happy, then the benefits, theoretically, move down the pipe and everybody else gets happier and more affluent.
      Unfortunately, after decades of running the Reaganomics experiment we have found that the ultra-rich do not share their wealth – they hoard it. The end result has been that the top one percent are now estimated to own between forty and fifty percent of the nation's wealth, more than the combined wealth of the bottom 95% (source: Lcurve.org)

      February 28, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  5. Suzy Kuhlman

    Jesus did not call you to give your money to the government so that they could give it to the needy. He told YOU to give it to the needy. You are a better steward of your money than the government is. He is not calling the government to be cheerful giver.....but us. Do you see the difference?

    February 28, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Dave

      Yeah...I remember that verse where Jesus decries a high tax rate...somewhere in the back, right?

      The government is an extension of the people through it's elected officials and the policies those officials implement. So it is perfectly consistent for the government to run a program that helps the poor. And likely will do a better job that a private corporation looking to make a profit.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Thinkifyoucan

      Jesus was also addressing a government that was taking everything away from the jewish population and taxing them into gut-wrenching poverty. Christ would approve of universal health care and government funded food kitchens.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • John

      Yes but the wealthy are not really inclined to give, hence the need for government interference. Sorry:)

      February 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Suzy Kuhlman

      The point here is that the government is not a great steward of money. Programs for poor people are really important. And government should absolutely provide for the least of these. But when we look to government to be charitable for us, we are in deep trouble. It can be a disincentive for individuals to give. Having lived in post-communist countries, I have seen it firsthand. It is even more effective to personally give to charities and to struggling family members and "neighbors". I love giving to them. Giving deeply. What is given to charities and directly to those in need is better stewarded to those people than when my taxes go into a whole somewhere.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  6. Dave

    Jesus: History's most famous liberal.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  7. Rabel Fibal

    This is what America needs, is a Sabbath Day . One day of rest, from WORKING, traveling, buying cars, gas, food...running around like crazy people. From Friday night to Saturday night, one full day of savings and family time. Yes, I know it will not work for eveyone. But I call it a "National Day of Rest". Think, how much money is saved from one day by let's say 180 million people...Selah.
    I know this is not popular from the Sunday church crowd, but maybe Sunday churchgoers do the same thing. No buying selling, working, creating...just rest. You have 6 days during the week to get your stuff done!!!

    February 28, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  8. Big_D

    The money changers we call lobbyists would probably have some rude treatment. Taking almost half of foreign aid to pay the lobbyists is like thieves running a charity.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  9. Dave

    It is heartening to finally see some pushback against the right's co-opting of Christianity to push a malignant and mean vision that completely twists what Jesus' preaching was all about. For Speaker Boehner to claim cutting the debt is a "moral" imperative and then attempt to do so by cutting food aid for children while giving millionaires tax breaks... I think Matthew 15:8 sums it up nicely: "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me."

    February 28, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Tim

      It's a moral imperative not because of the people that it's supposedly taking money from, but because the people that will ultimately be paying the bill for this spending haven't been born yet and are unable to vote. It is immoral to burden the generation in the future who do not have the power to change it now. That's the immoral part. And that's what Boehner is taking about. And btw, there were no "tax breaks for millionaires", Congress simply extended the current tax rate which has been in place for the last 10 years. And your class warfare idealism is an unintellectual argument proven to be a failure as demonstrated by the USSR and Germany during the 20th century. Liberals suck.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      See Dave, his Jesus is better than your Jesus. My Jesus says I am doing fine, even if I lie, cheat and steal all day, because he's MY Jesus. Yours might be concerned about some poor folks, but not mine.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • some emo kid

      "Liberals suck." Nice. Is that from your silly Bible, too? Christians suck.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  10. Topkitty

    I think that the tax -free churches should put up the cash for morality related debates. Conservatives are a real piece of work lately. Republican Conservatives are screaming for smaller government yet spend millions on anti-abortion lobbies, a failed drug war, immigration reform (only since President Obama has been in office, GW got a pass), and creating more laws to extricate money from the people and avoid taxes on the wealthy, and further burden the court system. I'm tired of supporting religious political views with tax dollars. The REAL freeloaders are the Republican Conservatives that suck away government tax dollars to support their pseudo-Christian values. Right wingers are anything but Christians. Does anyone remember a story about a wolf in sheep's clothing?

    February 28, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  11. shawnrohrbach

    Like he did with the loaves and fishes, he would take plain old paper and turn it into money...oh yeah we already do that.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  12. Austin T

    I wonder if Jesus would cut funding for planed parenthood.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Linton Dawson

      Since PP aids low income women and families I'm inclined to say he would not cut funding to PP.

      just as a bit of a int – PP does way more than provide referrals for abortions. they counsel young women on how to keep their child and give that child a good life – whether it be putting the child up for adoption or having the young parnets' families help out, etc.

      Those who blindly state that all PP does is provide aboritons probably think Sarah Palin is intelligent....neither, of course, are correct.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  13. Monty Gaither

    Why did my 1st comment get the "Your comment is awaiting moderation." comment, but the 2nd comment did not?

    February 28, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Jane Doe

      When you find out, let me know. I have had a few of those myself, and I don't post controversial things. I was totally confused by that!

      February 28, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Keywords. You used a word it didn't like. Some human is going to have to look at it and say yes/no.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  14. Frank G

    If the Bible contains the *real* teachings of Jesus, its pretty clear he was an anarchist so the question is relatively moot. He certainly was not a friend of the state or supportive of society turning over responsibility of "keeping ones' brother" to the state.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Steve the real one

      Frank G
      When reading the four gospels you will know that Jesus RARELY addressed issues with or about the Roman Empire! He challenged the religious! Those who preverted the Word of God! As I said before the Romans alowed the Jews very little leeway! Although the High Priests and Sanhedrin had authority over the temple and Jewish culture, the Romans were THE authority and Jesus HARDLY mentioned them!

      February 28, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Frank G

      Thanks for your reply Steve.
      When you examine the story of Adam and Eve, it demonstrates that Gods ultimate idea of paradise for man describes an anarchist society. Remember, anarchist societies come in all forms and ARE NOT necessarily devoid of laws. Now consider that the entire purpose of Jesus' dieing on the cross was so that man could realize the anarchist paradise that was lost by man as a result of the original sin. This in many ways hints are what God/Jesus view's as the *perfect* society.

      When we look at Jesus' entire life we see that it began and ended in defiance of the State. Jesus often preached of the law of God being the ultimate law, which would place it above Roman law and the State. What State can exist where its laws are not the ultimate ones that govern society?

      When we consider the golden rule, which Jesus spoke of, the state is automatically put in conflict of this law. Every state by virtue of what it takes to be a state, which is the use of force and coercion to get people to obey the laws of man, runs contrary to the golden rule. No government could live by the golden rule.

      Lastly, for Jesus to actually preach against the State would have meant immediate death, so there is good reason why Jesus would not openly preach against the Roman Empire. If he did, there is a good chance that no one today would know who he was.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      "for Jesus to actually preach against the State would have meant immediate death" Yes, he might have been crucified instead of living to a ripe old age. Are we talking about the same Jesus?

      February 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  15. Bender

    Jesus didn't have any other power that any man had. Keep faith out of Gov.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  16. Bsol9791

    It's good to see an article on CNN that breaks away from the caricature of American Christians as ultra-conservative, rabid nationalists. Reading stories in the news media, one could be forgiven for forgetting that most people in this country are Christian, no matter what their political orientation may be.

    The questions are spot on as well. Why is military spending sacred? It only ever increases, never decreases. Why? Are we more secure for spending a trillion+ dollars (nobody knows the real figures!) per year on defense spending? Even our own military leadership are telling us we really made some bad decisions in getting involved in land wars in Asia and the Middle East (something EVERYBODY understood back in the 70s, yet somehow we forgot?). We even caught a reminder of the price to be paid for overspending on defense with the fall of the Soviet Union, which was in large part driven by their ruinous defense spending.

    For me there's no question. You want to cut spending? Cut defense spending first. It's the biggest expenditure and it's chock full of items that nobody really knows what they are or what they cost. Just cut it and withdraw from questionable endeavors like Afghanistan and Iraq. Face the fact that we can't control everyone and everything in this world and that if we overreach, eventually we'll be the ones to take the fall – just like the USSR!

    February 28, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Wzrd1

      I see, questionable wars, like Afghanistan. So, it's OK for jet airplanes to be rammed into large office buildings? We'll just replace them, right? It stimulates the construction sector! It stimulates employment, as the dead workers, my cousin included, can be replaced by the unemployed, right?
      You remember those airplanes, don't you? *I* can't forget them.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  17. Monty Gaither

    BAM – I agree with you.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  18. Forreal89

    Mister creative this is so stupid

    February 28, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  19. Peter Wolfe

    Totally have to agree with this comment about military spending especially on federal retirements for military and civil servants. It's time people toinvest in who is producing not on past contributions to the federal government and to our states. This means to prioritize spending on affectiveness and transparency to the U.S voter. Moreover, understanding the waste and bureaucracy involved to assess these factors to a more accountable government for U.S citizens. Another thing is to evaluate quality of government workers and to allow policies to be reread as well. For example, look at SSI recipents who are questionable (e.g mental disabilities) such as bipolar, aADD, ADHD, learning disabilities, anger management, emotional issues and other issues. There are leaches out there taking away from us the legitament blind out there trying to get employmenent. By the way, Vocational Rehabilitation could be trimmed some on affecctive more up-to-date practices on qualifications as well.
    note: I'm a political science junior with a moderate democratic streak in me.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Wzrd1

      You are an idiot, political science major who does NOT understand that SSI is NOT part of the federal budget, never was part of the federal budget and never WILL be part of the federal budget.
      But, thank you for wanting to REMOVE RETIREMENT PENSIONS FROM OUR MILITARY! We endanger our lives protecting you and you want to take away my pension after over 20 years of service?!
      Maybe I spent all those years defending the wrong nation.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Jefe S

      Very Republican of you to want to remove military pensions. How about we stop giving so much money to the weapons manufacturers and start taking better care of our veterans. I remember when there were people who thought of the Republicans as the "pro-military" party, until everyone finally realized during the last presidential election cycle that the Republicans, LED BY John McCain, were doing everything they could to reduce veterans benefits, while finding ways to pour more hundreds of billions into the military-industrial complex.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • GT66

      Peter Wolfe: I think you have never seriously considered the benefits you have enjoyed as a result of the contributions and sacrifices others have made. Teachers spend a lot of money to get the degrees and certifications they need to teach. Those are requirement WE THE PEOPLE put in place so that our children aren't being taught by doorknobs. As for our military, the reward for the risk of giving up your life for OUR GOOD should be that, WE THE PEOPLE take care of your family while you are away or if you suffer a disabling injury and that WE take care of your health and financial needs for the rest of your life. THOSE should be the priorities for our society. We can argue about the rest bust as long as this country selfishly focuses on picking on some of the people MOST VITAL to this country's future, we will NEVER move forward and we will NEVER get at the real problem.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Eric G.

      You need to spend more time in class. Your understanding of our government structure is disturbing.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      So you think my disabled son, who gets SS,I is a leech, and you can't even spell leech? Stop by and let me break your fingers real soon, clownboy.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Suraj

      MSG is actually a nueootrxin. You'll find even more individuals who are sensitive to msg than you might thinke2€a6many don't even know it themselves but suffer the reactions never being aware of what they are reacting to. Simply finding a headache is minor in comparison to how badly MSG affects people who find themselves sensitive as well as those who find themselves not.

      March 4, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  20. GT66

    If we are talking WWJD, I'd be inclined to think he would give greater priority to programs focused on helping the people rather that killing them. So yeah, he'd turn napalm into wine and bullets into fish. Which of course, is as it should be.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • beyondo

      I AGREE

      February 28, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Topkitty

      I'm beginning to think that Jesus was a lush..... As soon as he gets a hold of a liquid, he turns it into wine! My kinda guy!!!

      February 28, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Wzrd1

      What would Jesus cut? THAT one is a no-brainer!
      He'd cut lumber, he WAS a carpenter, as was his father before him.

      As for cutting military spending, apparently the good reverend missed the news flash, WE ARE AT WAR.
      A war in Afghanistan, something about a few buildings falling down on people and airplanes causing the collapse. Something about 3000 people MURDERED IN THOSE BUILDINGS.
      We are patrolling off of the coast of Somalia now as well.
      So, to suggest that we cut military spending while our young men and women are in harms way is something to be ashamed of! It's called ABANDONMENT!

      Leave Jesus to cut the lumber. Leave the budget for those mentally qualified to understand large things, such as government. You can continue to contemplate your naval.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Jefe S

      This just highlights the fallacy of the alleged "Christian Right." While both political parties are far from perfect, as a Christian, I have been unable to vote Republican for decades. Its clear their values run completely counter to Christian philosophy. The only area I can think of where the Republicans demonstrate any inkling of Christianity is the question of abortion.

      Its time people wake up and realize that the Republican party has been masquerading as the "Christian Party", all the while doing the devil's work.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Jefe S

      Wzrd1 – we could cut the military budget in half and still rival the spending of Russia, China, Germany, UK, and France combined. There are very few Americans who still believe that the ~3,000 killed on 9/11 are worth spending $1.2T and growing, over 13,000 military personnel killed, over 100,000 military personnel disabled. All this to do what a single bomb could have done. You're buying into the lie, because there are and have been people in power who want us to continue to decimate our economy and our nation, pouring all of our wealth into the hands of a few weapons manufacturers and oil corporations.
      The Bush administration by taking the path they chose, did far more harm to our nation than a thousand radical terrorists could ever dream of. In short, their actions translated to victory for the terrorists. We could have put an end to it all for under a billion dollars and zero U.S. servicemen dead.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • GT66

      Wzrd1: The wars we are fighting now were never about seeking justice for the people who died on 9/11. We have lost far more and killed far more than could EVER be justified in the name of justice for 9/11. And let's face it, given what we spend on the military and the intelligence agencies, aren't you as well just more than a little disappointed that the government STILL can't find a guy riding from cave to cave on a donkey?

      February 28, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Jesus didn't do carpentry as far as the Bible relates. He made a whip, but no furniture.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:39 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.