By Marv Knox on May 16, 2011
© The Baptist Standard
U.S. Christian leaders have created a Circle of Protection to guard "the least of these" against the devastation of budget cuts. May the circle hold.
Advocates for the Circle of Protection include evangelical, mainline Protestant, Catholic, Anglo, African-American and Hispanic Christian leaders from across the country. The Circle of Protection case statement, a news release describing the cause, and a list of leaders are available at www.circleofprotection.us.
Backers of the cause acknowledge the necessity of making difficult choices to balance needs and resources, a reference to political battles over federal and state deficits and budgets. Those choices are not only economic and political, but also moral, they note.
"As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare," the Christian leaders say in a statement on the website. "We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called 'the least of these' (Matthew 25:45). They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected. We know from our experience serving hungry and homeless people that these programs meet basic human needs and protect the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable. We believe that God is calling us to pray, fast, give alms and to speak out for justice.
"As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad."
They list eight key principles of the Circle of Protection:
- The nation needs to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.
- Funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut. It should be made as effective as possible, but not cut.
- We urge our leaders to protect and improve poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance to promote a better, safer world.
- National leaders must review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits.
- A fundamental task is to create jobs and spur economic growth. Decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits.
- The budget debate has a central moral dimension. Christians are asking how we protect "the least of these." "What would Jesus cut?" "How do we share sacrifice?"
- As believers, we turn to God with prayer and fasting, to ask for guidance as our nation makes decisions about our priorities as a people.
- God continues to shower our nation and the world with blessings. As Christians, we are rooted in the love of God in Jesus Christ. Our task is to share these blessings with love and justice and with a special priority for those who are poor.
Discussions about poverty, social justice and programs for the poor often generate more heat than light. One of the most compelling aspects of the Circle of Protection cause is its humble, balanced tone. It acknowledges the tenuous challenge of achieving and maintaining fiscal responsibility while also recognizing the horrific risks faced by the most vulnerable people across our country and around the world.
Sometimes, discussions such as this get sidetracked. Some truly believe people of faith have no right to speak to issues of public service for the poor. Still, all citizens have the right to speak to issues in the public realm. They have the right to base their positions on reason grounded in their own worldview. In this case, Christian brothers and sisters are advocating for protection of "the least of these" and calling for reasonable consideration of shared sacrifice.
That is a tremendously helpful platform from which to consider all aspects of federal and state budgets, as well as our common life together.
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