Eugene Cho

A moral budget: What would Jesus cut?

Update: I’m joining in solidarity with others in expressing deep disappointment and anger over the recent news and decision by the House Agricultural Committee’s decision to cut the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) by more than $35 million over the next 10 years.

While it should not make it past the Senate, I’ve emailed my elected officials to express this disappointment and to take actions. Regardless,  you have to wonder where our priorities are.

I am all for reducing our national deficit. It must be a priority but to do it at the expense of those who need food via this program is morally wrong.

Wrong.

Here’s a brief synopsis from Bread for the World’s blog:

Bread for the World is infuriated by the House Agriculture Committee’s decision today to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by more than $35 billion.

“Cuts to SNAP, particularly at a time of continued high unemployment and unprecedented need for food assistance, are a moral outrage,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “SNAP is working exactly as intended. It has grown to meet increased need and is expected to decrease to pre-recession levels as the economy recovers.”

You can read the full article here or one via Reuters and I encourage you to join Bread for the World’s efforts to advocate for the poor.

WWJC? What would Jesus cut?

I have reasons to both like and dislike Tupac but his words when he was alive still hit the core:

“They have money for war but can’t feed the poor.” – Tupac

Original Blog Entry:

Several weeks ago (right before I left for my sabbatical), I joined with six other pastors from around the country – in partnership with Sojourners – to draft an open letter to Congress and President Barack Obama regarding the budget and the proposals to cut certain programs that aid the poor in our country. Our hope was to invite at least 1,000 pastors to join us in signing this document.

As of today, we’re had nearly 5,000 pastors & Christians leaders from all 50 states join us in signing this open letter and we hope to keep adding voices and signatures. As a pastor and Christian leader will you add your voice to let our political leaders know that you stand with the poor?

Read the letter below and if you resonate with our message, please sign your name.

I’m not interested in politics for the sake of politics.

But I care about politics because politics impacts policies which ultimately, impact people.

And by people, I mean that everyone matters. We’re all important but in a system where the poor are often without powerful lobbies, platforms, and megaphones, I believe that the Christian community has both the obligation and privilege to assist them and their needs to be heard. Let’s not be mistaken. God does take sides but they have nothing to do with the sides of liberals or conservatives, Republicans or Democrats, but rather, God takes the sides of the poor and marginalized.

So, I encourage you, with humility and wisdom…engage politics; Be civil.

Here’s the letter:

We are local pastors. Our lives are committed to our churches and communities. Every day we work to preach and live the Gospel of Christ. We challenge our congregations and parishes to live lives of personal responsibility and encourage them to live good and righteous lives. This also means calling our communities and nation to live up to corporate responsibilities.

In every one of our congregations we have programs that help those in need with jobs, clothing, food, or counseling. We gladly take up the challenge of encouraging our congregation members to give more, but in these past few years, it has been difficult for us to watch the need around us rise while the resources we have diminish. We work, pray, and do whatever we can to remain faithful to the responsibility of every Christian to help the poor. Still, we can’t meet the crushing needs by ourselves. We do our best to feed the hungry, but charitable nutrition programs only make up 6% of total feeding programs in the country while the government makes up 94%.

In every one of our congregations we have members who receive much-needed support from government programs. We have seen this support allow young people to be the first members of their families to get college degrees, ensure mothers can feed their children a healthy diet, enable those with disabilities to live fulfilling lives, give much-needed medical care to those who can’t afford it, support seniors, provide housing for families, and help people in finding a job.

SNAP, WIC, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Head Start, Pell Grants, and Community Development Block Grants aren’t just abstract concepts to us; they serve the same people we serve. There are changes that can be made or efficiencies that can be found, but every day we see what government can do. There is more need today than Churches can meet by themselves. This is why we join in the “Circle of Protection.”

As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up–how it treats those Jesus called “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45). They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected. We know from our experience of serving hungry and homeless people that these programs meet basic human needs and protect the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable. We believe that God is calling us to pray, fast, give alms, and to speak out for justice.

As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We want to support you in reducing the deficit. Small business and job growth are essential part of the path to prosperity for all Americans. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that threaten the well-being and, in some cases, the lives of the neediest among us. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad. We urge you to prioritize them, and we pledge our support and prayers for you in doing so.

Blessings,Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, House For All Sinners and Saints
Rev. Eugene Cho, Quest Church
Rev. Carlos Duran, Hombres de Palabra
Dr. Cynthia L. Hale, Ray of Hope Christian Church
Rev. Adam Hamilton, Church of the Resurrection
Dr. Joel Hunter, Northland – A Church Distributed
Rev. Rich Nathan, Vineyard Church Columbus

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14 Responses

  1. Sejin Park says:

    This is interesting. It is the work that I’m doing at my summer internship right now. I’m working with the National Council of Churches in D.C where my job is to “empower and mobilize the faith community to lend its moral and public voice to the ongoing debate around poverty”.

    I forwarded the letter to my supervisor who is a reverend.

    I hope things are well with you in your vacation since the wallet incident occured.

  2. Sue says:

    Thank you and others for your leadership on this. We need to raise our voices.

  3. This is no easy position for someone who identifies as a Libertarian.

    On one hand, I’d like those who rely on the care of the government to be taken care of financially. On the other hand, I believe the policies of D.C., over the many decades, has harmed those they’ve been meaning to esteem. That, in the long run, everyone will suffer for the burden of debt the government has taken upon itself.

    And sure, I’d like to see Social Security, Medicare and all of the programs relied upon by so many to dissolve in favor of market solutions; but not like this. Not all at once so those who’ve paid dutifully into the system (not by choice, mind you) are left out to dry.

    The question is never should we take care of the poor and the widows, but what is the best way. But I fear the debt has and will make everyone poorer, causing more poverty and tipping the scales even further past the 94% the people rely on their government for help.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Garrett:

      Great comment. Thanks for the ‘push-back.’ Love this especially:

      “The question is never should we take care of the poor and the widows, but what is the best way.”

      And yes, while I support the heart of the letter, I am aware of the nuances of the harm that dependence can have on personal, local, national, and even global levels. While I agree with you on the “how,” I am very skeptical that your thoughts are shared by our political leaders…

  4. KC says:

    As someone deeply impacted by cuts that have already happened in WA state, and would be by the proposed federal cuts, I thank you very much.

  5. […] I came across this great blog post from Pastor Eugene Cho of Quest Church in Seattle. In a general sense, Jedd and I really like what […]

  6. jasonwiedel says:

    Thank you. I long for the day when Christians will not be influenced by political ideology, but will take the side of of life, goodness, and people.

  7. parkhill says:

    We are supposed to take care of widows and orphans. thank you

  8. Arthur Pannell says:

    Our govt is broke and the population these social programs serve pay less than $0 income taxes due to the earned income tax credit. All govt programs need to prioritize resource expenditures and make do with less. We cannot continue to borrow unlimited $ from the Chinese, raise taxes or cut other govt expenditures that benefit a broader class of the public to support government administered charity without more rigorous evidence these programs as structured operate efficiently and achieve their objectives.

    • Arthur, I’m not going to argue with you about the government’s fiscal responsibility, or lack there of. I’m not even going to remark about how effective these programs may, or may not be because, truthfully, I wish they never existed.

      That is all completely secondary to what your responsibility is, as a Christian. You can’t get our government to stop borrowing money from China. You can however, go to work helping those who really do need it.

      You can start by going here: http://onedayswages.org/

  9. […] Don’t get cynical. We have to remain engaged because politicization aside, politics really do matter. […]

  10. […] past couple years because while I have my occasional bouts of cynicism over politics, I know that politics are important because it informs policies which ultimately, impact people – and I fear, people that are often […]

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One Day’s Wages

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Bittersweet month but so much gratitude to my team at @onedayswages. January marks a major transition as 2 of our 3 full time staff move on to their next chapters.

@melissasarapack (2nd from left) has been with me for nearly 4 years - first as our Development Director and then our Communications Director. This was her 2nd stint with me as she was my Live Music & Art Director at @QCafe many years ago. Thank you, Cush, for your friendship and commitment. You embodied our values and it kept moving us forward.

@philipkeeton (far left) has been with me for nearly the entirety of ODW. That's a long time. We've had our shares of ups and downs but  he's one of a kind. He was my right hand person that provided great leadership for our scrappy team of staff, volunteers, and interns. PK: Brother, you're gonna be missed but so excited for your next season. I didn't say this enough: I appreciate you. Thank you. And I hate Alabama football.

Changes are tough but it's also an opportunity for introspection and going deeper. I'm excited to introduce our next Ops Director next month and we're still looking for the right Communications Director. And Kenzie: What a gift to have you on our team.  Thank you. Be humble.

The world is bigger than your view of the world. And certainly, God is much bigger than your view of God.

#RedwoodTrees
#Deeper #RootsMatter 41 years ago today, our family immigrated to the United States from Seoul, South Korea. I was six years old; the youngest of three sons. My father, when he was also six, fled from what is now known as North Korea. Just recently, he shared with me that he and some of his family had been in a refugee camp when war and violence broke out on the Korean peninsula. It's emotional thinking about what my brothers and I went through coming to a completely foreign country. It wasn't easy. And then, I think about what my parents had to go through:

They fled their homes near Pyongyang which also meant leaving some of their extended families.

They experienced unfathomable hunger and poverty.

They experienced the pain of war.

They immigrated again to the United States as adults with minimal resources and a handful of English words.

All in hopes that their children would have the opportunities that were never afforded to them.

I'm thinking of my brothers today. I'm thinking of my parents and honoring them for their sacrifice and tenacity. And finally, I'm thinking of refugees and immigrants all around the world that are yearning for family, peace, hope, and opportunities. Don't reduce Martin Luther King Jr. to a yearly quote on social media. Live out the dream. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Confront evil. Be a truth-teller. Seek justice. Love mercy. Pursue reconciliation. Build bridges. Love your neighbors. Forgive your enemies. Pray unceasingly. Live a committed life of peace, love, and justice.

The God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today.

Be brave. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here's the full context of his famous quote: "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." An important word for the Church...

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