Encouragement for resources to be directed to the common good with attention to the least of these.
This article was submitted by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston; Bishop Janice Huie-Riggle, Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church; The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Texas; Bishop Michael Rinehart, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Rev. Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, pastor, St. John Fisher Catholic Church; Rabbi David Rosen, senior rabbi, Congregation Beth Yeshurun; Rev. Mike Cole, general presbyter, Presbytery of New Covenant; Rev. Harvey Clemons Jr., pastor, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church; Rev. John Bowie, pastor emeritus, True Light Missionary Baptist Church; and Rabbi David Lyon, senior rabbi, Congregation Beth Israel
For decades, presidents and congressional leaders have struggled to break the political gridlock that perpetuates federal deficit spending. Success has been elusive - especially when trying to strike the right balance between living within our means and protecting our poorest and most vulnerable.
The federal government's latest failure to address the deficit problem came at the hands of the recently disbanded Congressional Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, more commonly referred to as the supercommittee. This bipartisan group had been tasked with identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit-reduction measures over the next 10 years or face automatic across-the-board cuts in 2013. Despite the dramatic risks involved, neither side ultimately demonstrated collective responsibility to control government expenditures while passing a sustainable spending plan for future generations.
Now we are back to square one. President Obama has said he will veto any bill that seeks to postpone the draconian cuts the supercommittee was supposed to avoid. Uncertainties abound, as we inch ever-closer to fiscal calamity. Our greatest fear is that whatever approach policymakers try next will disregard morally appropriate solutions and disproportionately reduce spending for programs that care for the unborn, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, educate the young and care for the sick both at home and abroad.
The task at hand is vital. The ranks of the nation's poorest have climbed to a record high, with some 46 million Americans living in poverty. That's more than ever before in our history. Unemployment rates remain dangerously close to double digits and one in four children go to bed hungry each night. Despite the obvious need, only one in seven Americans (some 36 million people) receives government food assistance to ensure they have enough to eat; approximately 3.5 million are homeless.
We cannot let this situation continue. As we approach the holiday season, with its shared messages of charity and love, we would do well to remember that the federal budget is a moral document. Within its line items are essential programs that millions rely upon to sustain and secure themselves and their families. It would be wrong to balance future budgets by burdening those who already suffer by cutting programs for food support, affordable housing, child nutrition, health care or international poverty assistance.
As a nation we have long prided ourselves on possessing strongly held values: reliability, faith, compassion. Our history demonstrates an ongoing commitment to those values here in America and throughout the world. We pray that our lawmakers uphold those values when taking into account those who depend on them - including the unborn, schoolchildren, the elderly, struggling families, those who are homeless or sick, and refugees in our country and abroad - by maintaining and prioritizing funding to the most vulnerable.
Our congregations and other faith groups assume much of the responsibility for serving our vulnerable brethren, but we cannot do so alone. Recognizing the responsibility of government to provide for the common good, we join as an interfaith community to encourage lawmakers to use their authority to direct resources where they will best promote the common good of all, especially "the least of these" who struggle to live in dignity in difficult times. Limiting spending requires shared sacrifice by all, and we encourage lawmakers to consider eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, while also raising adequate revenues to fund critical programs and services.
A fundamental moral measure of our nation's budget decisions is whether they enhance or undermine the lives and dignity of those most in need. We hope and pray that our nation will be proud of the decisions our president and congress must make to limit unsustainable spending while simultaneously demonstrating the integrity that our nation is known for - integrity that demands that we hear and heed the cries of those most in need of our support and protection.
- "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
- "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
- "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
- "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
- "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
- "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
- "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
- "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball