After any successful election for Republicans, the Religious Left immediately becomes alarmed about supposedly massive federal budget “cuts,” i.e. some reductions in budget increases, for some social welfare programs. In the Religious Left’s ultimate vision of the Kingdom of God, the federal government spends unlimited sums on the nation’s every supposed social need, regardless of result, while spending nothing on national defense, and only increasing taxes.
In 1981, responding to President Reagan’s budget “cuts,” the Religious Left endorsed a huge “Solidarity Day” protest march in Washington, D.C. to deplore the “transfer of billions of dollars from the social needs of people to the production of massive new weapons and strategic defense systems.” One United Methodist bishop explained: “For us to take out of the mouths of the hungry and the poor and the oppressed the funds that will build bombs and bullets and airplanes seems to be terribly incongruous with our understanding and the quality of life in the world in which we live.”
Responding to the new Republican Congress in 1995, the National Council of Churches paid a solidarity visit to President Clinton’s Oval Office to “pray” that he would be “strong for the task” for resisting Republican budget “cuts.” Evangelical Left activists Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, among others, “prayed” in the Capitol Rotunda so as to invite arrest in protest against proposed Congressional “cuts.” As they were led away to their perfunctory arrest, they cited the Prophet Isaiah: “Woe to the legislators of infamous laws… who cheat the poor among my people of their rights.”
Facing the new crisis of ostensible Republican-inspired federal budget “cuts,” Jim Wallis now has launched his “What Would Jesus Cut?” campaign, with the usual insistence that federal government budgets are “moral documents.” For this audience, “moral” means only military spending can ever be reduced. Wallis ally Brian McLaren, guru of the Emergent Church movement, has supportively bewailed the “narrow, one-dimensional, reactionary” tidal wave that is “sweeping today’s Republican party like a tsunami of tea.” McLaren touted President Eisenhower’s often misunderstood warnings against the “military industrial complex,” without acknowledging that Ike favored strategic “massive retaliation” partly because nuclear weapons were cheaper than conventional forces. In their policy counsel, Wallis-style religious leftists usually avoid mentioning their own absolute pacifism, which logically means they oppose all national defense.
McLaren at least admitted that Democrats “buy votes and loyalty from poor people and want-to-help-poor people through entitlements and promises of a stronger economic safety net.” He thinks this vote buying is “more honorable… since poor people need help more than rich folks do,” while Republicans “buy votes and loyalty from rich people and want-to-be-rich people through tax cuts and promises of more security through an ever-bigger military.” Of course the “want-to-be-rich” presumably includes some poor people who aspire for a better future beyond permanent dependence on government entitlements. But helping the poor escape their poverty rarely interests the Religious Left, which intuits that enhanced government power entails endless expansion of dependence on government.
Popular Evangelical Left speaker and self-professed “urban monastic” Shane Claiborne also blogged supportively for Wallis’s “What Would Jesus Cut?” campaign. Claiborne, an Anabaptist, is author of Jesus for President, a 2008 book describing government as the biblical Whore of Babylon. Oddly, many neo-Anabaptists ferociously denounce government as demonic, almost sounding Libertarian, while still demanding more and more government for politically correct social programs. “We simply want to make sure the poorest and most vulnerable are cared for … as Jesus said, ‘when you do it unto the least of these you do it unto me,”” Claiborne explained. He cited anti-malaria and anti-AIDS programs needing protection from “cuts,” though such proposals represent a tiny fraction of any reductions. The huge entitlement welfare state is the Religious Left’s primary cherished temple.
Naturally, Claiborne targeted the military as uniquely worthy of cuts, though it comprises only about 20 percent of the federal budget. “Military money could make some good schools,” he typically suggested. “Let’s hope the politicians who claim to follow the Christ who carried good news for the poor will ask this little question as the debate goes on.” Claiborne quoted Martin Luther King saying, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Probably Claiborne doesn’t know that “programs of social uplift” have out expensed defense for 40 years, starting with the Nixon Administration.
Claiborne also cited the budget analysis of a less distinguished personage, leftist ice cream mogul Ben Cohen of “Ben and Jerry’s,” pointing to a world where most “would rather see ice cream dropped from planes rather than bombs.” Should anyone, religious or otherwise, taker seriously Claiborne’s utopian ice cream fantasy? But the metaphorical appeal for mass ice cream distribution aptly incarnates the Religious Left’s delusions about federal budget priorities, and about the world.
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