« Majority of Americans, Evangelicals Disapprove of Obama & Congressional Leaders | Main | Panel Cites Egypt for Religious Freedom Violations »

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.


The best way to help the poor is to provide more job opportunities for them. Additionally, a total restructuring of social welfare programs needs to be done such that maintenance of the traditional family unit is undergirded, not compromised as has been done for over 40 years.

If you could only do one thing--reduce single parenthood--you would eliminate much of the poverty we see in the US. Yet, governmental programs have had the opposite effect.

Christian/societal compassion is measured best NOT by how many people are on government assistance but by how many no longer need it.

To those concernd about so-called cuts in federal programs for the poor, I have a question for them. Where in the Constitution is the justification for these programs in the first place?

I am sick and tired of my fellow Evangelicals belly aching about cuts to these programs. It is the church and individuals who are responsible for helping the poor. Stop running to the government for these hand outs.

(Representative of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference on the Social Action Commission, NAE, 1983-2003

Mr. Williams, the preamble to the U.S. Constitution says that one of the purposes of the federal government is to "promote the general welfare." Section 8 says that Congress shall have power to "provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States." Glad I could help.

"Mr. Williams, the preamble to the U.S. Constitution says that one of the purposes of the federal government is to "promote the general welfare." Section 8 says that Congress shall have power to "provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States." Glad I could help."

One could surmise that spending what doesn’t exist is not in the “general welfare” of the United States. Praying for ourselves, our leaders and voting our beliefs while focusing on the “people” running and not the "parties" is.

Mat. 6:16-18 comes to mind always when leaders publicly proclaim to the four winds their's "fastings".

Mr. Williams, I agree that is should be the church's responsibility to care for the poor. Are we? Are you? As for "bellyaching", it is the responsibility of God's people to look out for the welfare of the needy and less fortunate. That's not in the Constitution, it's in the Bible.

Charles Fergusson's movie "Inside Job" which won the Oscar for best documentary in 2011,is a good starting point for looking behind the veiled, awkward causes of the 2008 Meltdown.

My understanding of a fast, at least in this context, is to humble yourself before God, confess that He alone has the answers, and that you are helpless to change the situation. It appears this fast is designed to provoke God to take their side in this political debate in which they believe themselves to be on the right side already.