This Week in God

First up from the God Machine this week is a look at an unexpected religious coalition that’s trying to influence the outcome of the debt-ceiling fight on Capitol Hill. This coalition, made up of several different Christian denominations, has an important goal: looking out for those likely to be hurt the most by the Republican crisis.

It is, one participant said, “an unprecedented coalition,” including leaders from the Episcopal Church, the Salvation Army, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ.

The reason it’s unprecedented is because “we don’t agree on much else,” said John Carr of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The coalition focuses on those Jesus called “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45), which speaks to obligations to look to the less fortunate. One goal it to get lawmakers to consider, “what would Jesus cut?”

“Poor people don’t have an office on K Street,” said Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals. “They don’t have lobbyists, so their voice is muted. That’s why it’s important for people of faith to step into the void.”

The coalition is called the “Circle of Protection,” but to date, has struggled to influence policymakers. Congressional Republicans, who traditionally present themselves as allied with religious morality, continue to believe cutting public investments is paramount, whether Jesus would pursue a similar course or not.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a prominent atheist group, filed suit recently to block Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) participation at a massive Christian prayer rally next weekend. A federal judge this week rejected the group’s argument.

* A school board in Missouri this week banned Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five from the local high school curriculum this week, after a local resident complained the book includes “principles contrary to the Bible.”

* And radical TV preacher Pat Robertson still believes his viewers should steer clear of the Harry Potter series, telling 700 Club viewers, “You don’t need to involve yourself in witchcraft, and the occult. It’s dangerous. It will, it is seductive. It is seductive.”