(Photo: Reuters / Jason Reed)
The newly formed Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE) wrote a letter asking President Obama and congressional leaders to help the poor through economic growth, rather than through funding ineffective government programs.
The letter, found at case4America.org, takes issue with the “Circle of Protection,” a coalition of religious groups that met with President Obama during the debt limit negotiations to ask that programs for the poor be spared in the spending cuts.
“[Jim] Wallis (President of Sojourners) and the 'Circle of Protection' do not speak for all Christians,” the CASE letter states. “However laudable their intentions, the consequence of their actions is to provide a religious imprimatur for big government and sanctify federal welfare programs that are often ineffective – even counterproductive.
“Contrary to their founding 'Statement,' we do not need to 'protect programs for the poor.' We need to protect the poor themselves. Indeed, sometimes we need to protect them from the very programs that ostensibly serve the poor, but actually demean the poor, undermine their family structures and trap them in poverty, dependency and despair for generations. Such programs are unwise, uncompassionate, and unjust.”
In an interview with The Christian Post, Timothy Dalrymple, managing editor of the evangelical portal at Patheos.com, said that the group came together “organically” out of concern that the Circle of Protection represented “something less than the full biblical counsel, and the variety of moral dimensions involved in government spending and debt.”
The Circle of Protection includes representatives from Sojourners, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, among others. They met with President Obama on July 20 to voices their concerns over spending cuts on programs for the poor.
Signers of the CASE letter agree with the Circle of Protection that “the budget is a moral document,” Dalrymple said, but they are concerned that “only a part of that, only one moral dimension is making it in the conversation.”
“We'd like to bring into the conversation other moral imperatives – the moral imperative of avoiding crippling debt, the moral imperative of wise stewardship for this generation and generations to come, and the moral imperative of spending our common resources in ways that do not encourage creatures made in the image of God to become dependent on the government, but encourage each person to express his or her passions and gifts, to take initiative, be creative, and flourish as individuals and communities in a free and thriving economy,” Dalrymple said.
He clarified that he does not doubt the sincerity of those who support the Circle of Protection, or that they represent a constituency among Christians, but they do not represent all of those in the “faith community.”
“There are many of us who view the moral conversation about spending and debt much more broadly, and who believe that high spending and an expanding government bureaucracy are themselves immoral and unlikely to serve us well,” Dalrymple stressed.
Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is one of the co-founders of CASE. He made a similar point in an interview with The Christian Post.
“I signed because those religious leaders who met with the president and urged a 'Circle of Protection' around the poor, gave the impression that they represented the views of 'all Christians' on this important and complex topic. In fact, they do not. They represent a minority view,” he said.
“The letter from CASE is an attempt to remind the president that there are serious Christians who share a different view – and one just as equally concerned for the poor and justice for all,” Cromartie added.
The CASE letter was opened to the public this week. Supporters can sign the letter at the CASE website. At the time of the interview, Dalrymple said that there were 345 signers so far and “the response so far has been encouraging.”