1. Because I am an evangelical Christian and the root of the word "evangelical" is found in the opening statement of Jesus in Luke 4, where Christ says he has come to bring "good news (the 'evangel') to the poor." So to be an evangelical Christian is to try and bring good news to poor people.
2. Because some very bad news is happening to the poorest and most vulnerable people in Washington's battle over the budget -- both those at home and around the world.
3. Because budgets are moral documents -- they reveal our priorities, who and what is important, and who and what are not. To address excessive deficits is also a moral issue -- preventing our children and grandchildren from having crushing debt. But how you reduce a deficit is also a moral issue. We should reduce the deficit, but not at the expense of our poorest people.
4. Because it is simply wrong -- morally and religiously -- to focus our budget cuts on the people who are already hurting, and make them hurt more. Programs that are effectively reducing poverty should not be cut. They should be made as effective as possible, but not cut.
5. Because there is a selective cruelty going on in this budget debate. Instead of focusing on where the real money is, some budget cutters are actually targeting vital and effective programs that support and protect poor people and some initiatives that are literally saving lives. It was not spending on poor people that created this deficit, and these drastic cuts in programs that help poor people will do little to get us out of our deficit.
6. Because to really reduce the deficit, we should put everything on the table, especially the biggest public outlays in military spending, corporate subsidies and tax loopholes, long term health-care costs etc. -- all of which could actually reduce the deficit, when much smaller poverty programs will not. Last night, 60 Minutes exposed 60 billion lost in revenue to corporate tax havens in Switzerland -- enough to protect many programs for the poor.
7. Because there is a difference between deficit hawks -- some of whom I know, respect and work with on restoring fiscal health -- and deficit hypocrites, who won't go to where the real money is, but go instead to the poor, who have little political clout in Washington to defend themselves, and are an easy targets to score political points with a political base. We do not fast today against fiscal responsibility, but against political hypocrisy.
8. Because those of us who are Christians are bound by Jesus' command to protect the least of these. So people of faith ask, "What Would Jesus Cut?" The extreme budget cuts proposed to critical programs that save the lives, dignity and future of poor and vulnerable people have crossed a moral line. Politicians have only just begun to hear from the many church leaders who are ready to wage the good fight over these bad decisions. This crisis is bringing us together. Those with money and armies of lobbyists have their interests protected. They won't bear the burden of reducing the deficit. But the work to protect the poor is a Christian vocation and obligation, and we will be faithful to it.
9. Because I am blessed to be in the company of dear brothers and sisters, Tony Hall, David Beckham, Ritu Sharma, the 38 organizations that have joined this fast coalition, and the growing movement of people of faith and conscience who together intend to form a circle of protection around vital poverty-fighting programs. Every Christian, regardless of political affiliation, is called to take up the cause of the poor and the needy because that is God's heart, and we will be calling every legislator who says they are a Christian or person of conscience to listen to God's heart as they make their decisions.
10. Because, ultimately, this is a fast before God, to whom we turn in prayer and hope to change hearts -- our hearts, the heart of our lawmakers, the heart of the nation. We will pray and fast, each of us in our own ways, for mercy, compassion, wisdom, strength and courage as we make the critical budget choices about who and what are most important. A line has been crossed in this budget debate; extreme budget cuts are now being proposed and this fast is a spiritual escalation to bring these critical moral choices to the attention of the nation, and to seek God's help in doing so. "Is not this the fast that I choose," says the prophet Isaiah, "to loose bonds of injustice ... to let the oppressed go free?"
Join me in prayer, fasting, and action in response to Congress' proposed budget cuts.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis. +Click here to get email updates from Jim Wallis
Follow Jim Wallis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jimwallis