Give a Moral Witness as Alternative to Sequestration Brinksmanship


Give a Moral Witness as Alternative to Sequestration Brinksmanship | Robert Parham, Sequestration, Moral Witness, Budget

Both Obama and congressional leaders agreed to the sequester. Now they point fingers of blame at one another, another sign that Washington is broken, Parham writes. (Photo: Pete Souza/White House)
Christian leaders released a statement on Feb. 25 urging President Obama and congressional leaders to protect federal programs that provide services to the nation's most vulnerable citizens – instead of continuing the political brinksmanship over the budget.

It's a biblically sound and morally timely document at the very moment that Obama is proclaiming that the sequester – automatic budget cuts – will cause the sky to fall, and Republicans are whistling past the graveyard.

Both Obama and congressional leaders agreed to the sequester. Now they point fingers of blame at one another, another sign that Washington is broken.

Rather than enter meaningful, albeit late-stage negotiations, Obama went to play golf with Tiger Woods and congressional leaders went home for a break.

Some 60 years ago, Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said, "The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world."

The sad reality of politics is that establishing justice is a distant second to establishing political power in today's sinful world, which is what brinksmanship is really all about.

When brinksmanship is more important to Washington than justice, then faith leaders must speak out. That's what some 100 faith officials have done. That's what local clergy must do.

These signatories include bishops with the Church of God in Christ, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Lutheran Evangelical Church in America, United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church and Catholic Church.

Other signatories are Leith Anderson, president, National Association of Evangelicals; David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Sister Simone Campbell, executive director, Network; Carlos Malave, executive director, Christian Churches Together in the USA; and Larry Snyder, president, Catholic Charities USA.

Aidsand Wright-Riggins, executive director, American Baptist Home Mission Societies, and I both signed on – two board members of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

The seven-point, pastor letter

●     thanked political leaders for "reducing the deficit while limiting cuts to programs serving poor people;"

●     noted that we were praying for those in authority;

●     pled with political leaders to stop the political brinksmanship and to engage in bipartisan dialogue;

●     acknowledged that both "cost savings and additional revenue" were needed for the nation to gain "fiscal health;"

●     underscored that the government had a responsibility to protect the poor;

●     urged leaders to frame the discussion in terms of "moral choices;" and

●     asked Democrats and Republicans to strive together to end poverty and hunger.

Does such a letter make a difference?

The answer is not likely – if the statement amounts to no more than another series of denominational press releases and secular media blog posts.

Moral witness by signature can breed an agnosticism about the utility of open clergy correspondence, no matter how culturally relevant and theologically sound the document.

However, if local pastors sign the letter and speak to their congregations about it, then the common good may be advanced.

Local pastors have invaluable relationships of trust, connectivity and opportunity with the larger public that "Christian leaders" do not have.

Local pastors are the hinge to the tipping point to a favorable outcome for the most vulnerable in our society in the ongoing budget debate.

Christian faith transcends partisan politics – as does this statement. Rooted in the biblical witness and addressed to both parties, the letter deserves the support of EthicsDaily.com readers.

To read the full statement and to sign the letter, click here.

Sign on and share the letter with your congregants. Make a difference.

Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.

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Tags: Budget, Moral Witness, Robert Parham, Sequestration