This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the moral implications of the budget fight in Washington, and the ways in which faith communities are getting more involved in the debate.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delivered a speech to a religious right audience in Tennessee this week, arguing that his budget choices are guided by “a moral responsibility.” He added that the deficit that he and his party helped create is “a moral threat” to the country.

This helped capture the attention of more progressive faith leaders, who had a more compelling case to make.

Sojourners, a progressive group of Christian leaders, looks at the GOP’s deep slashes to the budget in a different light and bought a full-page ad in Politico yesterday that asks legislators to consider, “what would Jesus cut?

The leader of Sojourners, Rev. Jim Wallis, notes that the GOP’s cuts would severely slash spending for the WIC program, which helps women and infants, Head Start and international aid programs, but would leave “military spending untouched.” […]

The “What would Jesus cut?” ad is signed by many Christian leaders, including the evangelical leader David Beckman, president of the charity Bread for the World. Beckman said in a statement that “[c]utting programs that help those who need them most is morally wrong,” especially because “when Jesus talked about how God will judge nations, he said that God will focus on what we did or did not do for the neediest among us.”

It’s refreshing to hear about this, in part because it represents a break with how the political world traditionally perceives religious intervention in policy debates. In general, if Christian leaders are weighing in on a contentious issue in Washington, it only gets attention if it relates to abortion or gays. This effort is a reminder that there are still large parts of the faith community who are willing to defend struggling families against those who would make things worse.

As Wallis put it, “They’re talking about cutting bed nets for malaria and leaving every piece of military spending untouched. Are we saying that every piece of military equipment is more important than bed nets, children’s health and nutrition for low-income families? If so they should be ashamed of themselves.”

What’s more, it’s worth noting that it’s not just Sojourners speaking out. Faith in Public Life is also helping organize related efforts with a similar message.

“How we balance our national budget is first of all a moral question. That we must do so is clear. But the bible says God measures societies by what they do to the people on the bottom,” said Dr. Ron Sider, founder and president of Evangelicals for Social Action.

It’s a principle congressional Republicans have obviously forgotten.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Losing a giant: “The Rev. Peter J. Gomes, a Harvard minister, theologian and author who announced that he was gay a generation ago and became one of America’s most prominent spiritual voices against intolerance, died Monday in Boston.”

* The Rev. Grant Storms, a Christian fundamentalist preacher known for hating gays, was arrested this week, caught masturbating in his van near a New Orleans playground.

* And the pope doesn’t want Jews blamed for JC’s death: “Pope Benedict XVI has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ in a new book, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity.” (thanks to D.J. for the tip)