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August 3, 2011

Sojourners, FRC Ads Duel over Poverty Programs

Family Research Council (FRC) recently released a new ad, saying that Christian leaders who are trying to protect poverty programs “well-meaning but misguided.” FRC's Faith Family Freedom Fund released radio ads in Ohio and Kentucky in response to a Sojourner-sponsored campaign. Sojourners' ad calls on Christians to join the Circle of Protection, a broad coalition of Christians that wants to reduce the debt without harming programs aimed at helping the poor.

Sojourners' ads hit the airwaves last week, targeting Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). The Sojourners ads feature local pastors calling for protection of the poor. The Ohio ad, for example, featured Pastor Nan Erbaugh (Lower Miami Church of the Brethren) who lives in Boehner's district. She said in the ad,

The Book of Proverbs teaches that “where there is no leadership, a nation falls” and “the poor are shunned, while the rich have many friends.” Sadly, Congress has failed to heed these Biblical warnings, and our own Rep. Boehner is risking the health of our economy if America defaults on its debts. All to protect tax cuts for the rich and powerful.

In budget debates, the rich have many political friends and lobbyists. The poor and needy do not. That's why thousands of pastors are joining a Circle of Protection to protect programs that keep the most vulnerable from going without food, shelter, and medicine.

Please join this growing chorus of faithful Americans by telling Representative Boehner not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. He is responsible to all of us, not just a few at the top. (listen to the Ohio ad)

The FRC countered the Sojourners ads with one of its own. The group said it was “countering an ad campaign by Sojourners opposing necessary cuts to government spending.” The FRC ad featured pastors who said government programs hurt the poor and get in the way of charity. The Ohio ad featured Pastor J.C. Church (Victory in Truth Ministries, Bucyrus, Ohio) and Bishop Harry Jackson (Hope Christian Church, Washington, D.C.):


There's a group of well-meaning but misguided ministers who believe that the government is responsible for meeting the needs of the poor, calling proposed budget cuts immoral. But Jesus didn't instruct the government of his day to take the rich young ruler's property and redistribute it to the poor. He asked the ruler to sell his possessions and help the poor. Charity is an individual choice, not a government mandate.


Multiplied billions in government spending has not eradicated poverty. In fact runaway government spending and increasing debt have actually crippled our economy and now churches have even less to spend to meet the needs of the poor, so that we might tangibly show them the love of Christ. (listen to the Ohio ad)


The ad concluded with a call to tell Congress that the “moral choice” is for Congress to live within its means. The FRC broadcast its ads in Ohio and Kentucky only, not Nevada.


Sojourners communications director Tim King said the FRC's response goes against the teachings of most denominations. King said most churches believe that government is responsible for making sure the poor have their basic needs met.


The Circle of Protection includes a broad coalition of Christian groups. Evangelical supporters of the Circle include leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, World Vision, the Salvation Army, Evangelical Environmental Network, Willow Creek Community Church, Vineyard Columbus, Evangelicals for Social Action, and the American Bible Society.


“These groups might disagree on how to implement those values from a policy perspective, but they at least agree on the premise that when it comes to concern for the poor, there is a role for private charity and government action,” King said.


King said the FRC position on the budget would hurt the work of evangelical groups such as World Vision, the Salvation Army, and the International Justice Mission. King cited the FRC's support for cuts to USAID. The FRC does support cutting $1.39 billion in support for USAID from the federal budget. Interestingly, the FRC's justification for the proposal was taken verbatim from a January 2011 report by the Republican Study Committee on a bill to cut the federal spending.

Comments

Tobin, did you ask FRC for a comment? This seems one sided.

"There's a group of well-meaning but misguided ministers who believe that the government is responsible for meeting the needs of the poor, calling proposed budget cuts immoral. But Jesus didn't instruct the government of his day to take the rich young ruler's property and redistribute it to the poor. He asked the ruler to sell his possessions and help the poor. Charity is an individual choice, not a government mandate.

Multiplied billions in government spending has not eradicated poverty. In fact runaway government spending and increasing debt have actually crippled our economy and now churches have even less to spend to meet the needs of the poor, so that we might tangibly show them the love of Christ."

Thank you, Bishop Jackson. ...this deserves repeating.

I find it interesting that what the government should or should not do seems based on political and cultural norms more than independent thinking and Bible scholarship. Many Conservatives love government when it kills through the death penalty, prohibits abortion, determines who you can and cannot marry, etc. But do not like it when it comes to consumer financial protections, assisting the poor, protecting the environment, etc. There seems to be a historical precedent for invoking the Bible to justify one's political and cultural beliefs (e.g. maintaining slavery Vs. abolition). I know that I engage in this practice myself and of course, I am not alone in thinking that my stand on various matters are correct.

If I am to believe the economic analysis that I read from a variety of sources (e.g. "The Business Insider" utilizing economic research information from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Data from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, etc.), it was the policies of George W. Bush (e.g. 2 unfunded wars, unfunded Medicare Part D, disproportionate tax cuts for the wealthy) that result in the Lion's share of our current debt. Yet, not a word from the FRC about how "W's" policies have hurt.

I saw a special on Public TV (something I am aware that conservatives do not like, but what I find more edifying that the crud on commercial TV) where Richard Cizik--former Vice President of The National Association of Evangelicals--commented that Evangelical Christians sold their birth right to the Republican Party.

It seems to me that once people have all of the facts, sincere people of faith may disagree on various issues. What bothers me is the "knee-jerk" allegiance that Evangelical Christians have with Conservative Republican politics (conflating Christianity and Republican politics). I think that I would feel the same way if the scenario were the opposite and there was an over-identification and allegiance to Democratic-Liberal politics on the part of Evangelical Christians. When are we as people of faith going to start thinking for ourselves? Knee-jerk political allegiance is easy but not particularly constructive.

AMEN SARAH! The idea that the government has no responsibility to maintain a safety net for the poor is insane. I seriously question the biblical basis for a view that government is not obliged to be moral...as I believe it clearly calls neglect of the poor a sin for believers and immoral in general. How in the world can we expect the government to behave morally if we do not hold it to this basic position. I am so tired of Christians who do not think...for anyone, let alone themselves. This level of self interest (political blindness) could be idolatry...putting an ideology above God.

This the same Sojourners group which is headed up by Jim Wallis? They frequently take scripture passages out of context and use them to endorse democratic and communistic ideals, while twisting positions on abortion, homosexuality and poverty. His associations are clearly outlined in a recent article by David Noebel.

Aligning with Sojourners is suspect, but perhaps these ministries and churches are unaware of Sojourners’ positions on controversial topics. Some of the organizations listed in the article receive millions from the federal government and stand to potentially lose significant income.

Certain programs within The Salvation Army are prohibited from freely speaking of Christ because of government grant restrictions that they not proselytize. Since their mission is “To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination”, this restriction seems to have prompted a compromise in mission.

It would be nice if this story had been better researched and included clarification from the Family Research Council also. Just because the “Circle of Protection” includes what a Sojourner spokesman calls a “broad coalition”, doesn’t mean it is truly based on biblical ideals.

Scripture calls for Christians to give the poor. Jesus never demanded that the church forcibly order the government to take from believers and non-Christians alike and then empower the government to decide who is deserving of the money. That is Sojourner’s position.

Statistics clearly show that while the wealthiest are owning more of America's wealth, the middle class is declining. Conservatives who decry aid to the middle class and poor are strangely silent when it comes to corporate tax loopholes, subsidies to oil companies making billions in profits, bailouts of failed financial institutions and large corporations. The Bible clearly mandates caring for the widow and orphan and the poor; it doesn't mandate who does that caring, and in paying taxes 'render to Caesar unto Caesar.' We must change from a consumer capitalist society based on greed, to a more Christian one based on our unity with and care for one another and creation.

Paul, and let's not forget that it was obama and the dems who bailed out the banks and insurance companies and car companies, etc. The debt went from approx 9.5 trillion to 14 trillion under obama (so far, in 3 years) and that is without his wonderful healthcare plan kicking in yet. Nobody has ever been so reckless with a tremendous amount of money like this ever before. It is shocking and terrible.

Everyone is so used to blaming the republicans for all of this, that they forget it was obama and his gang throwing money to the billionaie bankers, who could give no accounting for what they did with the money (except split it among themselves and lay off thousands of people), and obama and his gang who stopped the cost of living increases for the poorest of the poor on social security, for the years 2009, 2010, and 2011. Of course Congress gave themselves COLA increases, and obama gave everyone on his staff much larger increases than that. Meanwhile, some of us have had no pay raises for 3 years, and if anyone hasn't noticed, groceries and everything else are skyrocketing.

Everyone needs to rememorize their lines on the blaming game, because it was the liberals throwing away the money to the corporations and not demanding any accounting for how the money was spent. We need REAL change. We don't need someone driving this economy into being worse than the 30s depression, but that's what we got. And I'm tired of the liberals *trying* to explain away the no COLA for those on social security. They did not get it under the democrats, and they always did under the republicans. Sorry if that's a hard pill to swallow, but easily verifiable on the Internet.

Hey, the secret is out of the bag. Obesity rates are even higher among the poor than among the general pop. So you are way, way more likely to be making someone fat with your big spending food stamps and similar programs than you are to be saving somebody from starvation. But a local program, especially one at a church or elsewhere in the private sector, can deal with each unique situation as seems best, and can do much better with the same money. (Or, really, with half as much money!)

Paraphrasing Keith Green:

If the Church did its job, we wouldn't need poverty programs.

I would agree whole-heartedly with Family Research Council's stance on protecting the poor, except for one huge problem: Christian churches and organizations either cannot or will not cover the gap. This renders their entire argument empty and void. If you want to believe it's not government's job to provide the safety net for the poor, then you need to put your money where your mouth is. How many families could have been helped for the price of those expensive ads? 100? 1000? Meanwhile, for the elderly and disabled, Social Security checks have not been increased in more than three years, and there is talk to freeze them again (under the new formula). Are you going to tell me food, utilities, and the cost of living have not increased AT ALL in this time? All lies as usual. The federal government will attempt to fix itself on the backs of the poor, I have no doubt. I say shame on all of you! I really hate this country. It is no longer the one I was born and raised in. I say again, I hate America now. God will require every sin and all the blood on your hands. This nation will be held to account for its evil and sins. Don't think for one second there will be forgiveness. It's way too late for that. Next for America is continued punishment, then the fall. We have truly become a Nation of Swine.

Sorry, the NT clearly teaches that giving is to be voluntary, not of compulsion (II Cor 9:7) There is no way to spin tax funds as anything other than compulsion, so those pushing to use taxes to replace compassion are way off the Biblical reservation.

The Word says that God loves a cheerful giver but references no such expectation with respect to taxpaying. God may be a stickler and demands perfection (which He graciously provides us through the cross) but His divine wisdom shines through for not telling us to be cheerful taxpayers. Praise God! He is not unreasonable. :)

Also, it's hypocrisy to tax another (through gang vote)at a higher rate than you pay. It's none of your beeswax how much money he makes. Get your eyes off his stuff (as per the 10th commandment)and onto God.

Can the FRC name one of their leaders or supporters, individual or churches that have pledged to give all their wealth to the poor as Jesus commanded? If not then stop the hypocrisy. Let the government do what they have refused to do.

I say that we can cut the money that the sword takes and spends... AND help the poor, at the same time! Many of the poor in America simply need a clearer track toward gainful employment. The sword of civil government cannot provide gainful employment, without first coercing the money from someone else! That is not charity...it's vote-farming.

We need a sword that does what a sword does best: be a terror to those who would practice evils like theft and murder. And no, getting profit from selling your good to someone isn't "theft"...it's called the FREE MARKET and it works. It's freedom. The Bible talks about freedom, too.

The purpose of helping the poor is to help them get back on their feet whenever/however possible. It is not simply to "give" to them with no end in sight. That's INSANE.

Hey Gary, you said: "Can the FRC name one of their leaders or supporters, individual or churches that have pledged to give all their wealth to the poor as Jesus commanded? If not then stop the hypocrisy. Let the government do what they have refused to do."

So... Let the government TAKE ALL OF THE WEALTH of the leaders, supporters, individuals and churches that support the FRC... and give it to the poor. Is that what you are saying?

You first. All of it! Come on! All of it! You sound like a class-warfare geek fresh out of college. The real world doesn't operate that way. But totalitarian dictatorships and military coups sure do! You would have done fine in the Cuban "Revolution" my brother. Or should I address you as "comrade"?

@ E Harris

Hi, the quote you replied to ("Can the FRC name. . .") was not mine but someone posting as "Dave". Mine was the one above that post. The format for CT comments is to blame because it is not clear.

Actually I agree with your point, but I might be a little gentler on Dave--at least on the 1st iteration. LOL

I would add to my point by saying that those who argue that the poor will suffer if the government doesn't redistribute wealth (by force) are not trusting God to help the poor His way, which is through the church.

Liberalism robs God and glorifies government. Libs encourage the poor to worship Uncle Sugar as an idol.

The folks making the false comparison to military and police activity need to read and heed Romans 13 which establishes the authority of the Government to use the sword to punish evil doers. Government is not authorized to redistribute wealth. --Gary