Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Our Moral Choice

A speech by Jim Wallis at a Rally in Washington DC yesterday.

I want to begin with what the Religious Community said all last year: A budget is a moral document! That was our clarion cry in the 2006 budget debate. If some political leaders haven't got the message yet - just wait until this year.

You see, we believe that fiscal choices, economic choices are also moral choices and, for us, even religious choices. Who is important? And who is not? What is important? And what is not? Who do we most value? And who don't we value at all? They are fiscal choices, but also moral and religious matters.

Jesus actually got uncharacteristically judgmental about these kinds of choices. He said, "As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me." Are you paying attention yet, members of Congress?

Because of moral pressure - much of it from the religious community who every day care for the poor that our national politics neglect - last year's budget almost didn't pass. It took a fast trip home from Dick Cheney to pass the budget in the Senate and, in the House, the final budget measure only passed by a few votes. Some elected officials were making new moral choices. But the White House and the Republican leadership seem not to have gotten this message from the religious community, by the look of the new budget they now propose. I thought we were supposed to be their base?

You see a budget process is just a series of moral choices: tax cuts for the wealthiest, or services for the poorest? Congressional pork and earmarks, or investments in the common good? Searching for security through endless expenditures for war, or seeking to end the insecurity of poverty to make our nation stronger? Ignoring the costs of deficits for our children's children, and making the most vulnerable pay the price of fiscal responsibility; or sharing the burdens of financial responsibility more fairly by not asking the poor to carry the heaviest load?

These are all moral choices. Those with the power to make budget proposals have made their moral choices; and so will we. They are choosing to bestow more windfalls of benefit on their wealthy donors - that's their moral choice. We will stand up for the low-income families that we know and serve and whom they will again ignore - no, assault - that's our moral choice.

They are choosing the corruption of rewarding the special interests who pay for them - that's their moral choice. We will defend those who have the most need - that's our moral choice. They will place no limits on money for wars that have no end, and weapons systems that have no need - that's their moral choice. We will not let them cut vital programs of nutrition, health care, child care, and education to pay for their bad choices - that's our moral choice.

Here is what the biblical prophet Isaiah says about their moral choices: "Woe to the legislators of infamous laws, to those who issue tyrannical decrees, who refuse justice to the unfortunate and cheat the poor among my people of their rights, and make widows their prey and rob the orphan."

Last Dec. 14, 115 Christians who work with the poor every day, interrupted their works of compassion to come to the Capitol-to pray, preach, and prophesy. And we were taken to jail. Mary Nelson, from Chicago, looked up at the congressional staff and members looking out their windows and invited them, "Come walk with us."

John Perkins, 75-year-old evangelical and Black church leader who has spent his life in faithful ministry with poor people, told the story of his mother's death from a nutritional deficiency when he was seven months old. John said he was breastfeeding at the time and thought for years that he had killed her. Only later, he said, did I realize that a white society doesn't care about the nutrition of poor black women and their families. And now they're trying to cut food stamps from this budget. Then he emotionally said, "This is my last stand," before he was arrested.

Due in part to the pressure from religious community - we saved food stamps from cuts. Now, the proposed cuts stamps are back. People should know that many of those arrested last December voted for George Bush, some twice. Now they get arrested to protest his moral choices. They were his base, they are no longer.

The media noted that the words religious, Christian, even evangelical, are no longer just alongside the words abortion and gay marriage, but now alongside words like food stamps, health care, and education. Get used to it. When the politicians pat faith-based organizations on the back for doing such a wonderful job, they are now turning around and saying, "Stop hurting the people we work with and care about!" Come walk with us.

After the vote, Republicans e-mailed me, "I just want you to know that I voted against this budget and am listening to the religious community." Bless you. Overcoming poverty must be a bipartisan commitment and a nonpartisan cause. The religious community will ask Democrats to stand firm against this budget violence against poor people, to make the moral choice of favoring the poor over the rich - which is also a biblical choice. Democrats must get religion on the budget.

And we will ask Republicans: Follow your conscience, not your party. Help your party make better moral choices than favoring the rich over the poor - stop turning the biblical wisdom upside down - and then having the nerve to claim that you are the religion-friendly party! It's time for Republicans to get religion on this budget.

We've had a year of organizing around the budget in the religious community. We are watching this debate very carefully. We will hold our elected officials accountable in 2006 and 2008 for their votes on this budget - whether they vote for or against poor families.

If you think we were aroused last year, we were just getting started. Budgets are moral documents and we will fight this budget. And that's our moral choice.


The Yepiz Zone said...

I think all your issues here are a lot more complicated than the simplicity you put on them.

You said...We will not let them cut vital programs of nutrition, health care, child care, and education to pay for their bad choices - that's our moral choice.

Hmmm. What about the bad choices (i.e. prosmicuity, dropping out of high school, and irresponsible spending) made by the people who brought these problems to themselves to begin with? Is a "social gospel" the answer?

Overcoming poverty must be a bipartisan commitment and a nonpartisan cause.

I agree. However, the disagreement does not come from an un-emotinal want from both sides to help the poor, but from methodology. Liberals want a socilistic program that has the government controlling the poverty issue. Conservatives want to encourage responsible behavior so that these programs will no longer be necessary.

They are choosing to bestow more windfalls of benefit on their wealthy donors - that's their moral choice.

That's because the tax bracket is unfair? Why should rich people be taxed more than anyone else? Why should rich people be penalized for working hard and getting good money? Also, these people give to help the less fortunate even though they are ALREADY giving to the government to solv th problem. In fact, the organization that employs you recieve most of their money from people who will get "windfalls" from the government. Wouldn't these alleviations help get your organization more money?

By the way, what was the reson for jailing you in the protest?

I'm sorry bro, but the "social gospel" argument is just not the answer to HELPING the poor. It seems that people with this philosophy want to ERADICATE poverty. Jesus said it best "the poor will always be here." All we can do is try to alleviate it BUT also expect people to move out of DEPENDENCE of others in things that should be THEIR responsibility to take care of.


pableezy said...

i think that alex brings up a strong point in saying that it is not about people not wanting to help, but in methodology. people aren't sitting up on capitol hill thinking "how can i screw the poor some more and help bill gates?". it's a methodology issue.

here is my thought though. i have been thinking it in a very general sense with politics, but maybe it would be best for us christians to focus on making the church do what it is supposed to do, instead of making government do what it should do.

there are enough resources flowing through the church that if we abandoned the need for our pastors to drive fancy cars and for our buildings to have gold toilets, maybe we could actually do something for the poor. instead, we keep wanting to take the fight to congress as if we want to do what god asks us to do on the gevernments dime. i know we already pay taxes, but there is a breakdown in the system here. are we really gonna wait until the government gets it together to do something practical for the poor?

The Yepiz Zone said...

Good points Pablo. I think that when it comes to being practical about helping the poor we need to look at giving people tools that will help them get out not stay in poverty. i think this is where the methodologies have debatble issues. For example, why aren't Christians focusing on the fact that Poverty is brought upon by Prosmicuity, irresponsible financial behavior, and dpendence on goevernment?

J-Lou said...

i have been waiting for Alex to respond. my purpose for posting was to create discussion. i think we have some things to learn in regards to what we as believers call moral issues. we put a lot of money and write a lot of letter in regards to the issues of homosexuality and abortion. the aspect that jim wallis is pusing and i have been intrigued to continue to read and understand more is to increase the vision of what are moral issues in respect to the scripture and god. i will work on some thoughts in response to alex, but i am not jim or pretend to understand a lot of these issues. i am trying to better understand how my faith affects my politics. i am really trying to be more political, so be patient becuase i am asking questions and searching. don't think i have all the answers, but i will probably continue to post on this issue as i am learning.

The Yepiz Zone said...

Also, i have little sympathy for poor people in the U.S. This is a nation of opportunities. Where else in the world can a poor man get vocational education, academic education, and become rich within a year than here? i mean all you need is "C" average in Junior college and you can get full blown scholarships to attend any state college! Again, it goes back to personal responsibility and decision making, not the role of government. The government already gives many opportunities for "bettering" our lives out of poverty. We need to help the poor take advantage of these opportunities. Not ask for more, more, more!

The Yepiz Zone said...

John said..."we put a lot of money and write a lot of letter in regards to the issues of homosexuality and abortion...i have been intrigued to continue to read and understand more is to increase the vision of what are moral issues in respect to the scripture and god."

Are those two issues not moral? And the econoic issue with homosexuality and abortion is that OUR tax payer money pays for some of these decisions and lifestyles. Lifestyles and decisions that as a Christian I don't agree to have to pay for.

pableezy said...

he isn't saying that those are not immoral, he is saying that all of the efforts are funneled primarily into those 2 things. however, the issues are much broader than just those 2 issues. you listed others (promiscuity, financial irresponsibility, and dependence on the government) that are important to look at too.

in my opinion there are 2 things that we can look at, and we need to see them as exclusive to some degree although they are not.

1) how does the government aid in people's road to the streets? should we revise welfare? should we revise bankruptcy protection? those kinds of things..

2) ok, there are people on the street. regardless of HOW they got there and what government program SHOULD HAVE been revised before the fact, what do we do for them NOW?

we should fight the battles that make our system better, but also fight the battles for the people that need help, even if it was their fault.

The Yepiz Zone said...

I agree Pablo. My problem with this post is that it is an opposition to a budget that will decrease the amount of spending on "welfare" programs. Look we spend way too much money on people who don't want to leave the welfare system. Why would they? Why would any of us? I mean, comn' Who would'nt love to sit on their fat butt and let the government take care of them? Just go to my house and you'll see 2 reasons for why I am saying this.

Look, If budgets are "moral" as John suggests, then lets balance it.

1.Cut social programs because they are costing us way too much money!

2. Cut education. I mean ANYONE can go to college these days. Yet people decide to bone down and have 25 kids that now I and every other tax payer has to take are of? Please.

3. Cut unemployement checks. Research after reaserch shows that within the last two weeks of a person receiving their last check all of a sudden find a job.

It currently costst us $8 for every dollar of welfare given. It is a broken system. Telling "Democrats to oppose" a republican budget that will cut the victicrat mentality is not the answer. they should focus on the fact that people of color have the highest rate of crime, violence, high school drop outs, prosmicuity, teengae pregnancy, drug abuse, alcoholism, and financial irresponsibility. if these things continue to occur, thn what good will continued money to these programs do?

ughh..J-lou's confused alright

J-Lou said...

Pablo that is exactly what i am talking about. We need to increase our vision on moral problems. The poor, single moms, kids in foster care that are ignored is a moral issue. Companies in America who create injustice all over the world. I think Jesus would see these as moral problems. And the one Alex will totally diasagree with me on... is war. War is a moral problem. Jesus told us to love our enemies and not kill them. I believe everyday more and more that war is not a moral choice.

Our budget in America affects not only America but the world. We have the ability to influnece our government to choose and make these issues moral issues.

I will never sign off on... "God Bless America" becuase it is not biblical. "God Bless Everybody" is biblical.

"Leave your country, your relatives, and your father's house, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you." Genesis 12: 1 -3

This may all not make sense as you read it, but i am excited to think about how MLK Jr. allowed his faith and dream for America become a moral problem that fueled his deisre to see change. I am not trying to condemn anything, but ask questions and think about what we value and hold so valuable in the political realm.

J-Lou said...

I am confused and I am not afraid to admit it. Hey, you can talk your shots at me and i am cool with that becuase i want a third way. I want a way that is biblically balanced and addresses the true needs of the poor.

I was on welfare growing up, my dad looked for a job for two years and was unable to find work. I remember him riding a bike around looking for a job, but unable to find work. I don't think he was lazy, but i appreciated the help from the government.

I know single moms who work two or three jobs to pay the bills, but have no relationship with their kids. Thier kids end up making bad choices and continuing the cycle.

I know kids in the foster system, who have no parents. People's bad choices affect more than their own lives and these kids are the product and get left behind.

Take your shots... but i am not done asking questions. I will not settle for what the religous right has done or the democrats have done. It is not about being left or right. Its about being biblical. What can i learn from scripture that should affect my opinion on the budget that we are passing as a nation.

Gosh... you should be happy that i am interested in talking about politics.

The Yepiz Zone said...

Our budget in America affects not only America but the world.

Which is why we went to Iraq. Which is why we will probally go to Iran, themn North Korea. If we are to be peacemakers then we need to use our "big Stick" and stop people from hurting others. Rememeber Hitler? Are you saying that that war was immoral? Cause if you are, then i suggest you re-evaluate the "morality of War."

Second, The experience with unemployment and welfare that your father had and my mother had are similar. The system was meant for people like them. Not the majority of who abuse it.

Third. Yes, people make bad choices and it has an effect on their children. So whay don't we focus on that rather than on government doing something about it with more inneficient programs?

Lastly, for every dollar the U.S. gives in Taxes do you know how much goes to the military? 10%! Way under for what we put for the welfare system (30). So how is it immoral if we are only spending 10% to fight the war on terrorim?

If so, then why are you going to "

Sorry if I offended you my friend. that was not my intent.

J-Lou said...

I am not offended. I am just making some statements that i think we need to consider. Do you think Jesus is for war? And what is the biblical context for war in the teachings of jesus? how does the take in the affect of loving our enemy? i do think saddam needed to be removed from power, but i do not believe that war is the way to accomplish it. I think a third option would have been better.

I would be very sad if we were in iraq and north korea the way we are in iraq.

how do yo know that my father's and your mother's experience are not the normal? maybe you have just met people who have abused the system.

urBenLA said...

I love how Jesus has a third way. There's the elephant and there's the donkey and then there's Jesus. And it seems like it's often not even a way that the other two considered.

BTW, Alex knows his stuff, huh? He's actually thought this out deeply... None of us are even in the same league politically to debate this guy.

I'm confused too, I don't pretend to have all the solutions and there are downfalls from cutting anything out of the budget, but the loudest wheel does get the most oil.. so it does make sense to get in front of the power brokers and decision makers to make sure your opinion gets heard. That's what's great about this country. You don't get killed for your opinion, you do GET to voice it.

The Yepiz Zone said...

John, you avoided my initial question.

If war is unbiblical, then what should we have done about Hitler?

I mean he killed 6 million people! Including Christians who were merely of Jewish descent! War should not be the answer to get more land, get more money, or opress people. Pacifism didn't even make sense to Bonhoeffer! This "Pacisfist Christian" creatd a plot to assasinate Hitler himself!

Answer me that and i will answer your question of Biblical justification for war.

The Yepiz Zone said...

Also, that article to be honest is pure #$$%^! First off, i have a hard time giving ANY credibility to the UN in dealing with issues because in their "human rights" commission. The SUDAN, Syria, Somalia, and North Korea are in the COMMISSION! Are you serious? you would want a party that has this type of policy to decide how to deal with dictators? Please, you have to do better than that.

J-Lou said...

Alex- war should be a last resort, I am not trying to say that ww2 was not the right thing to do, but as I look more and more at our stance in iraq and the massive amount of iraq people, civilians who have died and had family members die are probably asking what kind of liberation is this.

How are we tell are children in the streets to solve problems without violence, but they see their government use force to solve their problems. The war in iraq could have been solved without war. The US government is not the police of the world either.

But I expect you to feel that way about the article, because you have already made up yOur mind.

I am not asking if war is biblical. I am asking how do you balance jesus' words in the gospels with our approval and many push for violence to solve our problems as a national policy.