‘Whom Would Jesus Indebt?’

by David French

Over the past several weeks I’ve been writing about the religious Left’s relentless effort to wrap its arms around big government and, disturbingly, the progress it’s making in divorcing evangelicals (especially young evangelicals) from fiscal and economic common sense. Jim Wallis and other religious leftists have formed a so-called “Circle of Protection” whose purpose is to ask, “What would Jesus cut?” This coalition — which gained an audience with President Obama two weeks ago — views federal budgeting practices that would ruin households, corporations, and local and state governments as not just fiscally appropriate but morally imperative.

The time has come to push back, to let the president and the public know that the religious Left does not speak for the entire faith community and that there is another relevant question to ask as we face a deficit crisis: “Whom would Jesus indebt?” I — along with my ACLJ colleague Jordan Sekulow — have joined an informal coalition of Christian leaders called “Christians for a Sustainable Economy.” As our first act, we’ve sent our own letter to President Obama. It begins:

Recently, in the midst of the debt-ceiling crisis, a group calling themselves the “Circle of Protection,” led by Jim Wallis of the activist group Sojourners, met with you and your staff to claim that biblical mandates preclude limits to federal programs for low-income people. The Circle includes representatives of the National Association of Evangelicals, Bread for the World, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Wallis and the “Circle of Protection” do not speak for all Christians. However laudable their intentions, the consequence of their action is to provide a religious imprimatur for big government and sanctify federal welfare programs that are often ineffective — even counterproductive. Contrary to their founding “Statement,” we do not need to “protect programs for the poor.” We need to protect the poor themselves. Indeed, sometimes we need to protect them from the very programs that ostensibly serve the poor, but actually demean the poor, undermine their family structures and trap them in poverty, dependency and despair for generations. Such programs are unwise, uncompassionate, and unjust.

The answer is not higher taxes and more government spending:

The debt disaster is a spending issue. Tax revenues are finite, while the growth of government is unceasing. By any measure, federal spending has skyrocketed, from $2.9 trillion in 2008 to $3.8 trillion in 2011. We presently borrow over forty cents of every dollar we spend. While increasing taxes will generate additional revenues and reduce the deficit in the short term, it will ultimately harm the economy, constrain economic growth, and hasten the out-of-control growth of government. To give more money to Washington is to give the sickness the remedy it requests. The last thing the government needs is more money. It needs to cease its unwise and profligate spending.

And what is the true moral imperative? The letter puts its well:

 We believe the poor of this generation and generations to come are best served by policies that promote economic freedom and growth, that encourage productivity and creativity in every able person, and that wisely steward our common resources for generations to come.

The letter represents just one step in a long battle to educate Americans — of all faiths — that the poor are not best served by welfare and that hundreds of billions of dollars of Great Society entitlements have not eradicated poverty but have instead created a permanent underclass and stifled the social mobility that is one of the cornerstones of the American dream. You can sign the letter as well and lend your voice to a new and vital effort.

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