When hundreds of religious activists try to get arrested today to protest cutting programs for the poor, prominent conservatives such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will not be among them.I have to say, I appreciate the Washington Post casting the article as they do. Too often, the mainline denominations are given short shrift against the "religious businessmen" of Dobson and Falwell. But this time the article starts with the right question: "What's Christian about saying 'screw the poor, we want power!'?"
That is a great relief to Republican leaders, who have dismissed the burgeoning protests as the work of liberals. But it raises the question: Why in recent years have conservative Christians asserted their influence on efforts to relieve Third World debt, AIDS in Africa, strife in Sudan and international sex trafficking -- but remained on the sidelines while liberal Christians protest domestic spending cuts?
Conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family say it is a matter of priorities, and their priorities are abortion, same-sex marriage and seating judges who will back their position against those practices.
"It's not a question of the poor not being important or that meeting their needs is not important," said Paul Hetrick, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, Dobson's influential, Colorado-based Christian organization. "But whether or not a baby is killed in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, that is less important than help for the poor? We would respectfully disagree with that."
Jim Wallis, editor of the liberal Christian journal Sojourners and an organizer of today's protest, was not buying it. Such conservative religious leaders "have agreed to support cutting food stamps for poor people if Republicans support them on judicial nominees," he said. "They are trading the lives of poor people for their agenda. They're being, and this is the worst insult, unbiblical."
To mainline Protestant groups and some evangelical activists, the twin measures are an affront, especially during the Christmas season. Leaders of five denominations -- the United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church USA and United Church of Christ -- issued a joint statement last week calling on Congress to go back to the drawing board and come up with a budget that brings "good news to the poor."
Around 300 religious activists have vowed to kneel in prayer this morning at the Cannon House Office Building and remain there until they are arrested. Wallis said that as they are led off, they will chant a phrase from Isaiah: "Woe to you legislators of infamous laws . . . who refuse justice to the unfortunate, who cheat the poor among my people of their rights, who make widows their prey and rob the orphan."
"I would like to say 'This book is written to the glory of God', but nowadays this would be the trick of a cheat, i.e., it would not be correctly understood."--Ludwig Wittgenstein
"Talk to me about the truth of religion, and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand."--C.S. Lewis
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Not for the first time, I agree with Jim Wallis. And I wish there more pastors and priests of prominence who had the platform he does:
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