April 21, 2011
Fast over Budget Goes Without Gushee
Activists and members of Congress are nearing the end of a fast over cuts to federal programs aimed at assisting the poor in the U.S. and globally. HungerFast.org, a collection of relief and hunger organizations that opposed cuts, says more than 30,000 people have joined the fast, including members of Congress and celebrities.
There is one notable—and vocal—absentee: David Gushee of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. Gushee said that the fast was well-intentioned but did not address the nation's fiscal issues in the right way.
“While I admire the compassion for the poor that motivates these actions, I think this is a time for deliberative decision-making about our nation’s long-term fiscal responsibility and moral sanity rather than a moment for dramatic gestures,” he said.
Gushee said the U.S. needs to address its structural fiscal problems. He called for a debate over the size and role of the military, the cost of health care, means-tests for Social Security, reductions in government spending and tax breaks, and tax increases for everyone but the poor.
“If we followed this kind of rational path toward fiscal solvency, tackling the big issues in a grown-up way, then we wouldn’t have to resort to showy, irrational budget-hacking or dramatic gestures of protest in response,” Gushee said.
Sojourners president Jim Wallis, a participant and advocate for the fast, said that deficits are moral issues, including how they are reduced.
“Of course, many Americans, including in the faith community, believe that rising deficits are immoral and a threat to our future,” said Wallis. “But how you reduce a deficit is also a moral issue, and to do so by further impoverishing the poor in order to add more wealth to the wealthy is not an acceptable political or moral strategy.”
The fast has been spearheaded by former Congressman and Ambassador Tony Hall. He said budgets are moral documents and that the recent budget compromise shows that the poor are not a national priority.
“I believe fasting, when done with the right heart and the right motive, gets God’s attention,” Hall said. “Hopefully this fast also gets the attention of politicians who would balance the budget on the backs of the poor. It’s time to call on God.”
Criticism of the budget as immoral has also come from the right. Social conservatives backed efforts to ban any federal funding of Planned Parenthood, to curtail the Environmental Protection Agency, and to repeal the health care law passed last year.
“Sadly, the Senate rejection of the defunding of Planned Parenthood and of ‘Obamacare’ means that these two moral blights on the American governmental landscape survived for a little longer,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins also agreed that budgets are moral documents.
“Budgets that shift the burden of responsibility to future generations, while seeking to use taxpayer funds to eliminate those same future generations through abortion, are not only immoral choices, but irresponsible as well,” Perkins said.