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  • Faith Leaders Meet with Obama to Protect Welfare State

    On July 20, 12 Christian leaders met with President Obama at the White House to voice concerns about the prospect of budget cuts to government welfare. The group included Jim Wallis of the liberal social justice organization Sojourners and representatives from the National Association of Evangelicals, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Salvation Army, and several humanitarian development agencies.

    The timing of the meeting was significant. One day earlier, the so-called “Gang of Six” in the Senate announced its proposal to address the budget deficit—a proposal that did not confront the explosive growth in anti-poverty spending that is contributing to our nation’s fiscal crisis. And shortly after talking with the religious leaders on Wednesday, President Obama entered budget meetings with congressional leaders.

    The Christian leaders used their 40 minutes with the President to discuss the Circle of Protection, an ecumenical statement that asks for government anti-poverty programs to be walled off from budget-reduction debates. According to Wallis, “The most vulnerable need a special exemption from all spending cuts.… We told President Obama that this is what God requires of all of us.”

    Unfortunately, these kinds of sentiments are helpful neither to the ongoing budget debates nor to Christian citizens seeking thoughtful engagement in the public square. And they also fail to do true justice to the poor.

    First, statements like “Funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut” are simplistic and lack discernment. Such declarations imply that every government program that intends to help the poor actually does so. It would be great if that were true. But with over 70 federal welfare programs on the books, it’s naïve to suggest that they all work effectively to lift people out of poverty. Yet the faith leaders who met with the President seem to lump all government programs together. They therefore fail to call government to exercise good stewardship of its resources by determining which programs are more and less effective.

    Second, it’s not helpful to reduce complex issues like the federal budget down into moralistic sound bites (e.g., “budgets are moral documents”) and biblical phrases. When Christian leaders do so, they undermine thoughtful Christian engagement in the public square.

    After his visit to the White House, Jim Wallis told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that he was pleased to hear President Obama use the phrase “the least of these.” “When [the President] said ‘the least of these,’ we all knew that he knew Matthew 25, where Jesus said, ‘as you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.’ So it’s nice when the President knows the text.” It’s problematic, though, to suggest that government officials should jump directly from a line in the Bible to specific policy decisions. It’s also problematic to confuse the audience of Jesus’ message in Matthew 25 with the modern nation-state. The fact that Jesus calls his followers to care for the poor is not a mandate for the government to expand the welfare state.

    Finally, as critics have rightly noted, some religious leaders speak as if only government entitlements and transfer payments count as legitimate expressions of Christian charity. These leaders therefore ignore the tendency for government welfare programs to foster among those in need unhealthy dependence on the dole. They also ignore the way in which these programs often crowd out civil society efforts to fight poverty, leaving the poor with less personal and comprehensive care.

    The budget is indeed a moral document, but it is also a morally complex document. Protecting ineffective government programs doesn’t protect the poor, and reducing the debate to simplistic catchphrases doesn’t foster an informed public discussion. Religious leaders could serve this discussion better by modeling more discernment in their application of ancient biblical wisdom to modern policy issues.


    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    28 Responses to Faith Leaders Meet with Obama to Protect Welfare State

    1. AlmostBroke says:

      Jobs are the most effective form of help for all unemployed, especially the 2 million unemployed single moms who are head of household. The fastest way to open-up jobs is to pass mandatory E-Verify for all employers. Cutting all foreign aid would also help. Imagine if Congress transferred all foreign aid $$$ to programs for "the least of these". Amen!

    2. AlmostBroke says:

      So much for Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment.

    3. AlmostBroke says:

      From Wikipedia:

      Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on libel, slander, obscenity, incitement to commit a crime, etc. Restrictions on the freedom to speak is sometimes called censorship.

      The right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR recognizes the right to freedom of speech as "the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression."[1][2] In addition, national laws of many countries, in various forms, recognize a basic freedom of speech.

      It is different from and not to be confused with the concept of freedom of thought.

    4. AlmostBroke says:


    5. mdmandklm says:

      Faith Leaders is a strange title. In none of the sacred writings of these folks do we read about working the budget of the state to meet their "demands" for a welfare society. I would venture to guess that they arrived in their "limos" and never once raised issues of the sanctity of life or the sacredness of the marriage bond. The great one would never have entertained real "leaders" only the "a–K——" money seekers.

    6. russ in nc says:

      Government doing the job the Churches won't.

    7. Chris Bieber says:

      the Church and the State.who worships who????

      The socialist Siren Song….on the ears of the conditioned State Worshippers of the Church…. throwing alms at the altar of Baal…..

      ugh…and this is America…and America’s “church”

      and the socialism is BIPARTISAN…the socialist warfare state for ME but not for THEE!(theyDEMS get the Welfare state)

      we all lose..

    8. Indolamine says:

      First off, where are the atheists when you need them? Secondly, Christ never told his followers to go forth and steal from others so that one can care for the poor.

    9. Tom says:

      Conservatives and liberals are too much alike: follow the altruist's code – for different reasons – and ignore the capitalist principles that made this country exceptional.

    10. Pat says:

      These so called religious leaders seem to forget Jesus was talking to individuals not to rulers of nations. He wanted individuals to remember to take care of one another because of their love of him.

    11. jann says:

      What kind of “leaders” are these?? Shouldn’t it be the other way around, churchs/people are supposed to take care of the needy and down and out. Somethings up with this picture?? Who are these so called “faith leaders”??? This is so wrong in so many ways, government isn’t supposed to take care of ppl, protect us from our enemies but not be the end all to everyone!

    12. Cindy says:

      Careful obama and Wallis! GOD will not be mocked. What are the tithes being used for?

    13. Cindy says:

      Careful obama and Wallis. God will not be mocked.

    14. Donla says:

      Most unfortunate that these folks of faith don't comprehend and support, first and foremost, the moral principle of subsidiarity, whereby the government is the last recourse -not the first.

      Faith is Caesar is just politics -not religion, therefore the term separation of Church and state comes to mind.

    15. Tyler says:

      When religious organizations pay taxes, they can have some say on where the taxes go. Period.

      We need to increase the tax base to include more people and all the not for profits.

    16. Big Dog says:

      Interesting isn’t it? There’s no separation between church and state when they are asking for our tax dollars is there. Just astounded by the hypocrisy! Not to mention that this is not governments role but THEIR role!

    17. heldmyw says:

      An excellent, thoughtful and insightful observation.

      You sir, are to be commended for this.

      Having said that, I cannot help but wonder if the “Faith Leaders” (Gosh! I must have missed that election!) are taking this tone and tack because it IS simplistic, sound-bite rich, generates numerous ‘easy quotes’ and is, in short, the sort of thing that Obama will comprehend.

      Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think he’s a particularly sterling thinker.

    18. Barbara Simpson says:

      The least of these?????????????????????What about the unborn baby?

    19. LC Aggie Sith says:

      Sometimes I think these religious leaders push for the liberal agenda to keep the left from lifting their tax-exempt status.

    20. CarrWatt says:

      When are WE Americans planning on uniting, putting an end to the debate of giving illegal aliens a free ride to citizenship AND benefits for Americans?

    21. CarrWatt says:

      Whatever happened to planting gardens, raising chickens to feed your family? Illegal aliens come here because they know they can receive welfare!

    22. nicole b says:

      i think that is wrong because we straggle now from gov asst an you guys wont to know why people sell drugs just to get by an make it out here in life for there familys if that happens i think our crime rate is goin to go up people are realy goin to start robbing an killing people why just now bring god in to this.

    23. Joyce Friedericy says:

      Why do we look to cut social security,medicare and defense spending first?

      Lets get the illegales out of the country. That will save huge amounts of money in healthcare, education, law inforcement and the money illegals send back to mexico.

      Next lets cut government waste starting with the politicians themselves. Lets give them a pay cut. Put their retirement money into social security and take away their medical plans and put them on medicare.

      Then lets go line by line item by item and cut out the rediculous wasteful, worthless programs that serve not useful purpose.

      After doing all these things then and only then we can look at cutting social security and medicare.

    24. Dennis says:

      If these faith leaders and other church organizations would do what they are called to do, as stated in James Chapter 2: Vs. 1-9, then we would have no need of government programs to help the poor. It is amazing how hypocritical those in the religious community can be. Church going Americans would be glad to overflow the churches' coffers if they knew the money wasn't going to be spent on the pastor's tailored clothes, fancy cars, planes, homes, etc. Wake-up church & start doing your part!

    25. V. TAylor says:

      Since when has helping the poor and needy become a partisan issue? These are Christian leaders from mainline churches. They seek to impart Christian ethics into policy not party politics or a "left" or "right" agenda.

      1 John 3:17-18 –
      "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

      Proverbs 28:27 –
      "He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses."

      We have an ever growing problem of income inequality in the country and the fact that the top 10% of the population controls about 68% of all the nation's wealth creates a situation where the government needs to maintain an ethical position in regards to the plight of the poor.

    26. Roger says:

      These faith leaders could stand to study the Bible more. Jesus never suggests or even hints that the government should take care of the poor. Rome was a super power in His day. He never said "Rome should have some special taxes and programs to care for all these poor." No. He told us as individuals and groups to be charitable and to care for the needy, but we must be free to choose to help…

    27. dan cano says:

      christian giving to the poor comes from individuals and private groups who volunteer it from the heart. not government taxation. christian giving money to a women with children of different fathers is one thing. using tax payers money is an other.

    28. mmuhammad95 says:

      Have you all forgotten the B attitude that Jesus taught? That is why America is so screwed up they can give Israel billions in aide but can't give America's own poor decent help! That's bad what does America owe to Israel that she don't owe to her own poor citizens! We could wipe out poverty in this country with one large wipe give the money going to useless wars to the poor you can give every poor person or family in America a million dollars and we would do better and be cheaper than paying for the wars and foreign aide to other countries. Charity starts at home first!

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