Leave Jesus Out of the Budget Battle

Jim Wallis, a self-identified “Christian leader for social change,” has embarked on a crusade against Republican budget cuts he believes are “unbiblical.”  But Wallis and others on the evangelical Left are on dangerous ground when they claim to know exactly which budget items God would approve and which he would cut.

Wallis has launched the “What Would Jesus Cut?” campaign to fight against Republican cuts in the 2011 and 2012 budgets—cuts to welfare programs, college grants, and international aid—and against Republicans’ proposed 2% increase in defense spending.

The campaign’s premise, as the group declared in a recent Politico ad, is that “cutting programs that help those who need them most is morally wrong.”

In a February Huffington Post op-ed, Wallis lashed out at Republicans after their Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government until the end of the 2011 fiscal year passed the House.  The budget cut $43 billion in international aid and other programs that, Wallis wrote, “benefit the most vulnerable members of our society, such as nutrition programs for our poorest women and children.”

“This proposal,” Wallis added, “comes just months after billions of dollars were added to the deficit with an extension of tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans.”

Wallis neglects to mention that the wealthiest 2% of Americans already bear a disproportionate share of the tax burden.  Nor does he acknowledge that those tax cuts will make it more likely that small businesses will hire more workers.  Wallis wants jobs for everyone, but he doesn’t like employers.

Liberal evangelicals have been moralizing about budget cuts for years.  When George W. Bush proposed budget cuts back in 2006, he was accused of “trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.”  In a 2006 e-mail to supporters, Wallis wrote, “Spending more money on nuclear warheads and tax cuts that benefit the rich is not a strategy that would be affirmed by the biblical prophets.”

I’m glad Wallis knows exactly where each budget item ranks for Jesus.  As a Christian conservative, I often think about political issues and ask, “What would Jesus do?”  But, unlike Wallis, I don’t conclude that He wants us all to become Big Government, pacifist, income-redistributing, tax hikers and deficit spenders.

We have an obligation to help the poor.  But nowhere does the Bible state that the power of government should be used to take one man’s money by force of law and give it to another man.  Jesus’ admonition was a personal command to share, not a command for Caeser to “spread the wealth around.”

We certainly can live Christ’s admonition to assist “the least of these” through international aid.  And our government will continue to give billions of dollars a year, even if the cuts are enacted.

But even the modest cuts proposed by Republicans will not be enough to lift the severe debt burden our children and grandchildren are being forced to bear.  It is not “biblical” to burden our children with such crushing debt.  In fact, it is immoral.

Wallis says he believes that the moral test of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable and poorest citizens.  If that’s true, then Wallis should call for cutting subsidies to Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion business, and other groups that promote abortion—the killing of the most vulnerable among us. 

But I haven’t seen Wallis or other evangelical liberals complain about the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Obama administration is spending to promote abortion here and abroad.

The only budget cuts Wallis seems to approve of are those that reduce military spending.  “The most corrupt government spending is military spending,” Wallis has said.

I’m not surprised that some on the evangelical Left are attacking the military.  Many evangelical liberals seem to believe all wars are unjust and that even defensive violence is immoral.  Their morality would leave the weak and defenseless at the mercy of thugs, dictators, and tyrants.

Not long after 9/11, I debated religious Left author Tony Campolo at Wheaton College in Illinois.  During the debate, Campolo suggested that the Patriot Act and war in Afghanistan were unjust.  I told him, “I know this is hard for you to believe, but the enemy is not John Ashcroft, the enemy is Osama bin Laden.”

“I’m not sure about that,” Campolo responded. “When you start taking away the rights of the American citizens, when you undercut the Bill of Rights in order to pursue security, I think you become more dangerous than bin Laden.” Not surprisingly, these remarks elicited a chorus of boos from the audience.

I think Wallis and Campolo may be confused.  They appear to be asking themselves not what Jesus would do but rather what Obama, Reid, and Pelosi would do.  The answer to that question isn’t in the Bible.  It is in the headlines:  They are driving us deeper into bankruptcy.  If their policies aren’t reversed, they will lead to a level of suffering and economic collapse that would make Jesus weep.