The Common Good

Our Pastoral Letter on the Budget — And My Hope for the Common Good

The sequester battle is a good but tragic example of how the idea of the common good is failing in American politics. By contrast, the growing bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform is an alternative example of how a moral issue can rise about our ideologically driven politics.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in Hart Building on the impacts of sequestration. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

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The faith community has stepped into both issues with a call for political leaders to serve the common good. On immigration, political leaders are listening to the faith leaders; on the debates about our nation’s fiscal soul, political leaders need to listen better.

This pastoral letter released today is an attempt by faith leaders to get political leaders to listen — to avoid brinksmanship as the sequester looms; to make the right choices, the moral choices to protect the most vulnerable as the religious imperative in this debate; and to begin to replace poverty with an opportunity agenda. Taking a look at the signatories shows how broad and deep the concern is in the faith community. From the Catholic bishops, to the National Association of Evangelicals, to major denominations across the church spectrum, to Black and Hispanic churches, to large faith-based organizations that directly serve the poor like World Vision, Catholic Charities, World Relief, and The Salvation Army, to mobilizing organizations like Sojourners and Bread for the World — the unity of the faith community is clear here. It is time to move responsibly toward fiscal responsibility and protect the poor at the same time. That is our commitment and our principle — and both political sides should embrace it.

Our hope is that the political leaders will listen. Our hope is that both sides will agree to the moral and biblical principle to protect the poor and vulnerable in making these important decisions about the nation’s fiscal future. As religious leaders, we insist that a nation’s righteousness will be tested by how it treats the most vulnerable; that’s what our Bible tells us. Both sides, Democrats and Republicans, many of whom are also people of faith, should agree to that principle. Once everyone agrees to protect the most vulnerable, we can then make the necessary compromises in reforming both the private and public sectors to reduce our deficits and encourage economic growth. And in our economic recovery we must ensure that number of people in poverty, the highest in 50 years, is significantly decreased —by replacing poverty with opportunity.

That is our hope, one that requires faith.

Read the letter HERE.

Jim Wallis is CEO of Sojourners. His forthcoming book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good, is set to release in April. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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