Dan Nejfelt, Faith in Public Life’s Senior Editor and Training Coordinator, worked at Sojourners magazine as part of his graduate study of journalism at the University of Missouri before coming to FPL. Prior to that, he taught remedial reading and writing to 7th and 8th graders in rural Arkansas as a Teach For America corps member. Dan blogs about health care, the Religious Right and budget issues.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who has an extensive record of lying about and hatefully attacking people with whom he disagrees, outdid himself recently when he accused President Obama of having “disdain for Christianity” and said Christians who voted for him in 2008 should repent (which pretty clearly implies that he believes supporting Obama was a sin).
This smear not only maligns the President in service of a political agenda, but also insults Christians who believe faith doesn’t belong to one party. Such charges are not only arrogant, ignorant and cynical, they promote a theologically dangerous commingling of faith and partisanship.
Politics is by no means a vocation for the thin-skinned, but some lines of attack are inexcusable. Perkins’s accusation definitely falls into that category. Even though Perkins exhibits unChristian characteristics of dishonesty, hate and cynicism in the service of an agenda that promotes bigotry, exalts greed and inflicts suffering on the powerless, I would never call his faith fake.
Perkins should have the decency to give the President and people who supported him the same respect. In his rush to point out the speck he perceives in Obama’s eye, Perkins misses the log in his own.
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Tim King has a great post over at God’s Politics identifying a core flaw of our nation’s economic debate:
If you didn’t watch last night’s [GOP] debate, I’ll save you some time and sum it up for you in seven words and a em dash.
Taxes and regulations — we’ve got too many.
Now, this isn’t surprising. Last year, in President Obama’s State of the Union address, he talked about cutting bureaucratic red tape and reviewing regulations that would hurt businesses.
What was missing from the GOP debate was a discussion of consumer demand.
Tim goes on to cite a McClatchy study revealing that small business owners are being held back not by onerous government red tape, but rather by lack of consumer demand. He then makes the important connection that government programs can help address this problem.
The good news is our country can tackle poverty and the lack of demand in the market at the same time. According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities the effect of the 2009 Recovery Act:
- Expansions in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) kept 1.6 million people out of poverty.
- The Making Work Pay tax credit, which expired at the end of 2010, kept another 1.5 million people out of poverty.
- Expansions in the duration and level of unemployment insurance benefits kept 3.4 million people out of poverty.
- Expansions in SNAP benefits kept 1.0 million people out of poverty
That means nearly 7 million people have been kept out of poverty, but it also means 7 million people have been boosting consumer demand.
This chart from Moody’s elaborates further:
I’ll add two things:
- Tim wasn’t cherry-picking the McClatchy investigation about demand rather government regulations’ effect on small businesses. The AP, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, the Economic Policy Institute and the New York Times’ Bruce Bartlett all came to similar conclusions, drawing on Bureau of Labor Statistics data and business surveys.
- Conservatives attack the programs Tim correctly identified as stimulants of demand. In addition to talking points about the supposed failure of the 2009 stimulus, folks on the right decry the fact that many Americans don’t have an income tax burden even though tax credits that contribute to this reality – like the EITC, CTC and Making Work Pay tax credits — keep low-wage earners from being taxed into poverty.
When you hear religious right leaders talk about job-killing regulations or the injustice of too many people not paying income taxes, remember that they either aren’t telling the truth, aren’t doing the math, or aren’t honoring Christian teachings on poverty.
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The success of the campaign to repeal SB-5 yesterday was a significant achievement for the faith community in Ohio. As we’ve noted before, religious leaders and organizations were part of the statewide opposition to SB-5 from the beginning. Most notably, over Labor Day Weekend clergy across the state preached in their places of worship about their faiths’ teaching about workers’ rights and against SB-5. Faith leaders also took part in the signature drive to get repeal put on the ballot, spoke at press conferences, and organized and delivered petitions to state lawmakers regarding the importance of protecting the rights of working families.
Polls also showed that religious voters disagreed with the law’s restrictions on collective bargaining rights. A Quinnipiac poll in May showed that a majority of evangelicals favored repeal of SB-5, and a poll commissioned by FPL and conducted by Public Policy Polling in March showed that strong majorities of Catholics and evangelicals thought restricting collective bargaining for public employees was the wrong thing to do.
FPL was also part of the movement to reject SB-5′s politically motivated attack on the rights of teachers, nurses, law enforcement officers and firefighters. We worked with We Believe Ohio, Catholics United, We are Ohio, and a number of other national and Ohio-based organizations to elevate religious support for worker justice and to condemn reckless political power-grabs and schemes to give corporate special interests huge tax breaks at the expense of everyone else. We Believe Ohio’s Rev. Tim Ahrens, an FPL board member, summed up the victory quite well:
Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans have fought long and hard for the past 11 months to reverse the river of a right-wing attack on working men and women and their families. We have overcome lies and deceptions to do so. As people of faith, we need to remember that labor and economic questions are fundamentally religious questions. There are no purely spiritual interests in our times that are not made manifest in the everyday life of working people. Every day real working people get up, pray, walk out their door and give us their best. They return to their families exhausted from serving. That is spirituality made manifest. That is faith beyond belief.
As people of faith, we will make mistakes in tangling with such critical issues. But, the greatest mistake we could make is ignoring them and acting as if they do not matter. Nothing matters more than working shoulder to shoulder with the men and women who teach our children, patrol our city streets, save us from the real fires of our times. Despite the lies and deceptions, Ohioans know this. We will never abandon those who care for us and serve us with love and devotion.
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Religion News Service has a story today about faith leaders’ efforts to prevent Congress from making literally deadly cuts to lifesaving international investment programs:
As Congress prepares for a high-stakes battle over federal spending, religious leaders are lobbying senators to preserve foreign aid as a moral obligation.
“We’re talking about lives–great numbers of lives that are saved with minimal input on our part,” said the Most Rev. Denis Madden, the Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and vice chair of Catholic Relief Services, on Wednesday (Nov. 2).
Madden affirmed that poverty-focused international aid makes up just 0.6 percent of the federal budget, but that amount feeds more than 46 million people and saves 3 million lives through immunizations each year.
“Part of the discussion centered on the importance of reminding the American people that hunger and poverty around the world has a human face–that we’re not just talking about statistics, but real people,” said the Rev. John McCullough, director of Church World Service, the humanitarian arm of the National Council of Churches.
The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Christian anti-hunger group Bread for the World, said the Senate faces a proposal from the House to cut foreign humanitarian programs by 20 percent, which he said would cause “14 million of the most desperate people in the world” to lose food rations.
Hopefully these leaders’ moral witness will overcome the utter madness of ideologues who would sacrifice innocent lives to score political points by looking tough on government spending. In an encouraging sign, the RNS story noted that the Senate Appropriations Committee has recommended that the funds be protected from the cuts proposed by House Republicans.
And on a personal note, I greatly admire this effort not only because it’s such an important cause, but also because it takes very strong faith to love and to reason with people who are contemplating absurdly immoral courses of action.
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Amid the ongoing economic crisis and a host of other serious global challenges, the House of Representatives leadership determined that the best use of Congress’s time today was to reaffirm that “In God We Trust” is in fact the national motto. From Roll Call:
Republicans may be trying to focus their messaging on jobs and the economy — and hammering President Barack Obama for campaigning — but they still have time for some red meat base-baiting on the House floor.
To wit: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (Va.) decision to bring to the floor a measure that “reaffirms ‘In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States and supports and encourages the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions,” according to the resolution, sponsored by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.).
In a statement, Forbes defended bringing the bill to the floor, arguing that Congress needs to directly confront “a disturbing trend of inaccuracies and omissions, misunderstandings of church and state, rogue court challenges, and efforts to remove God from the public domain by unelected bureaucrats.”
The absurdity of this gambit is so multilayered that I don’t know where to begin. Did I miss a genuine national dispute about what the national motto is, or a huge campaign to change it?
But the core problem here, as I see it, isn’t just that the House is shirking substantive work so they can flog purely symbolic issues. It’s that distractions like this prop up the dubious, divisive narrative that religion is under persecution in America – a myth that allows politicians to cast themselves as hardworking champions of the American people while ignoring their constituents’ real needs.
But perhaps stunts like these have something to do with Congress’s 9 percent approval rating.
Photo credit; rpongsaj, Flickr
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