Ministers Challenge Congressmen to Seek Compassion in Budget Negotiations

As debate over the federal budget continues, a group of Protestant ministers are challenging members of Congress to seek compassion and consider the poor in their decision making.

"Our witness as faith leaders is grounded in love for God and neighbor and all Creation. Accordingly, we are compelled to speak out against the proposed deep cuts in FY2011 discretionary domestic and poverty-focused foreign aid spending," the leaders said in a letter sent to members of Congress on Tuesday. "Jesus challenged people to define themselves by the measure of their love for one another, with particular concern for those struggling in poverty and marginalized by society. His Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) transforms and broadens our definition of the neighbor and lifts up a model of relationship with our neighbors that should define and sustain our community, national and international life."

The ministers, which included officers from 16 different churches and associations, challenged the congressmen to recognize "our interdependence and our responsibility for the future," saying that "none of us can prosper and be secure while some of us live in misery and desperation."

"Our churches remain fully committed to our anti-poverty ministries in the U.S. and around the world. But we also know from this hard-won experience that similarly, our nation must remain committed to providing attention to and opportunity for poor and vulnerable people," they said.

"The unprecedented and dangerous cuts to discretionary domestic programs and poverty-focused foreign assistance will jeopardize the lives and well-being of millions now and into the future," the ministers said. "These deep and unwise spending cuts are a betrayal of our call to love our neighbor."

"Our faith points our nation to 'a more excellent way' (1 Cor. 12:31) that bears one another's burdens, acknowledges our interdependence, and compels sacrifice and love for our neighbors in need," they added. "We therefore urge you to reject proposed cuts that would undermine domestic and international efforts to help those who are struggling to overcome poverty."

Signers on the letter included the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches, the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black of the United Methodist Church, among others.

Meanwhile, a study released on Monday revealed that the GOP's efforts to cut federal spending could cause as many as 700,000 layoffs by the end of next year.

"While long-term government spending restraint is vital, and laying out a credible path toward that restraint very desirable, too much cutting too soon would be counterproductive," Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi wrote.

According to Zandi, the federal deficit needs to shrink by $400 billion each year for the next ten years to eventually arrive at less than 2.5 percent of the GDP. Currently, the $1.3 trillion deficit is equal to about 9 percent of the nation's GDP.

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