Religious Leaders Lobby for the “Least among Us”

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    A diverse group of religious leaders who have signed on to a set of principles to lobby for the protection of programs targeted to the poor, programs that are at risk in the ongoing budget battle in Washington, met today with President Obama and several of his senior aides. The pastors represent a coalition of evangelical, progressive, Catholic and other religious denominations that have launched an initiative called the Circle of Protection, aimed at preserving social programs like food, medical and nutrition assistance for the poor and elderly.

    President Obama, group leader Jim Wallis said, affirmed his support for the group’s principles, “that low income people – the vulnerable – need to be protected in these debates about the budget and the deficit.” Wallis stated that the President was particularly concerned about protecting Medicaid.

    In a pointed message to those House Republicans who profess that they are strong Christians, the group noted that the budget is not simply an economic document. It is also a deeply moral one. As the group’s statement of principles says, the questions those who wear their Christianity on their sleeves in Congress need to answer is, “What would Jesus cut?”

    President Obama himself quoted the passage in Matthew 25: 31-46, the one where Jesus tells us how our lives must be judged. Did we feed the hungry, did we clothe the naked, did we visit the sick and imprisoned. Obama stated flatly that the budget must not be balanced on the backs of “the least among us.”

    Perhaps those of us who have one of those representatives in Washington who uses religion as just another political tool to get more votes should ask them, “Would Jesus protect the tax break for corporate jets and instead cut Medicaid and food stamps?”

    If Eric Cantor is your representative, you might ask him to explain the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, “to heal the world,” which calls on Jews to use social action to make the world a more perfect place. Then, he could try to reconcile slashing social programs designed to lift people up with tikkum olam.

    Sometimes, having to be exposed to the hypocrisy of those jokers makes me unsure whether to laugh or to cry.