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The morality of the 2011
federal government budget

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The following essay is by Jim Wallis, the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He posted it on SojoMail on 2011-FEB-24

He blogs at You can follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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It's not fiscal conservatism. It's just politics:

The extreme budget cuts proposed to critical programs that save the lives, dignity, and future of poor and vulnerable people have crossed the line. Politicians have only just begun to hear from the many church leaders who are ready to wage the good fight over these bad decisions.

Those with money and armies of lobbyists have their interests protected. They won’t bear the burden of reducing the deficit. As this debate continues, we want to flood Capitol Hill with the voices of those who stand with and for poor and vulnerable people. “What Would Jesus Cut?” has resonated with people of faith across the country. Thanks to you, a WWJC bracelet was delivered to every member of Congress, a full page ad ran in Politico, and thousands of emails were sent to politicians asking them the same question. But more needs to be done. We want to run radio and online ads calling other Christians to add their voice to this campaign and pressure Congress. But we can’t do it without your support. ...

While following this budget debate, you might be wondering: What happened? How did we get here? First, we saw the proposed budget cuts to many critical programs that directly impact the lives and survival of the poorest people -- both at home and around the world. Life-saving and life-changing initiatives that previously had bipartisan support, and were proven to be cost-effective successes, are now on the chopping block. But enormous military expenditures, corporate subsidies, tax breaks, and loopholes have all been left alone. No attention has been paid to the long-term challenges of Medicare and Medicaid. It was not spending on poor people that created this deficit, and these cruel cuts in programs that help poor people will do little to get us out of our deficit.

Now the budget debate continues to get worse. Plans are underway to single out programs for low-income people and cut them the most. The Republican Study Committee wants to radically scale back all programs for hungry and poor people, cap the programs, and prevent their expansion. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the premier Republican budget cutter, claims that the safety net has become a "hammock." So those who are already hurting will now hurt even more. We are moving from neglecting the poor to targeting the poor. Theologically, this is an assault against the very people God specifically instructs us to protect, and whose well-being is the biblical test of a nation’s righteousness. ...

Over the past few weeks, I have personally felt in my heart a call to fast and pray about these issues during Lent, and to turn to God for wisdom, help, and direction. As I talked to other leaders, I found that I am not the only one. Former Ambassador Tony Hall called and told me that fasting and prayer had been on his heart too. In 1993, he fasted for 22 days in response to similar cuts. Now, almost 20 years later, with the stakes even higher and more lives at risk, a broad circle of faith-based and secular organizations have organized to form a “circle of protection” around vulnerable people. So I am joining Ambassador Tony Hall, David Beckmann of Bread for the World, ONE, American Jewish World Service, Meals on Wheels, Islamic Relief, and a broad coalition of many others to fast, pray, and act during Lent.

In the book of Esther, we see an example of fasting, praying, and petitioning political powers to change unjust actions by the government. We want to follow that model of prayer, fasting, and action. In the coming days and weeks, we will ask you to join us.

With your help, we will reach out to other Christians and people of faith and conscience to ask them to join us through the ads and work you support.

Our nation and its leaders need to do some soul searching. All of us need to do some soul searching. The attacks coming out of Congress on programs that help poor and vulnerable people are unprecedented in my lifetime. Now, more than ever, people of faith need to speak and act. We need to turn to God for such a time as this, and seek God’s wisdom and power, which is far beyond politics. Many of us are choosing to fast and pray. I hope you will join us, each in your own way, so we can act together during this season of Lent.

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  • Jim Wallis appeals for funds to fight for the poor. See:

  • If you value a strong military over help for the poor and disadvantaged, please consider Emailing us a rebuttal to Jim Wallis' essay. We will consider it for the visitors' essays section of this website.
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