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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"He must become greater; I must become less." - John 3:30 We have to remind ourselves of this truth every day lest we forget:

Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant.

Be faithful.

PS: Also, it helps to get some Vitamin D especially if you live in the rainy Northwest Thank you, Brooklyn, for the reminder. Umm, @jlin7 is a Christian but he wasn't very Christlike with me on the basketball court. He muscled me into the paint, dunked on me, mentioned my momma, and then said, "Stick with preaching." Just kidding. Kind of.

If you haven't heard, Jeremy Lin is donating his one games wages (approximately $140,000) and an additional $100 for every 3 pointer made to support Girls' Empowerment and Education through @onedayswages. That game is this Friday vs the Boston Celtics!

Join his campaign as he's inviting his fans to donate just $7. - http://onedayswages.org/jlin

Did you know that 32 million girls of lower secondary school age are not enrolled in school.

Did you know that every year of secondary school increases a girl’s future earning power by 20 percent.

Did you know that if all girls in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia had a secondary education, child marriage would fall by 64 percent.

We can't change the entire world but we can impact the lives of one, few, and in some cases...many.

#jeremylin #jlin #linsanity #onedayswages Don't be held captive to either praise or criticism.

Know who you are.
Know what you're about.
Know WHO you serve.

The answer to who you serve makes all the difference... It's the day after International Women's Day - and it's still important to celebrate the contribution of women in our lives, society, and world. As we honor women all around the world, I'm also reminded of how women and children are those who are most deeply impacted by injustice - especially poverty.

Sadly, I have witnessed this reality in too many places. ​In 2012, I traveled to a remote area in Eastern Kenya as part of a @onedayswages response to a famine that struck the Horn of Africa region. This famine impacted nearly 13 million people and according to some sources, took the lives of about 250,000 people. During my trip there, I had the chance of meeting many people but the person that still remains in my memory was a Muslim woman named Sahara.

She was so hospitable in inviting us to her small and temporary home. During our conversation, I learned that ​Sahara traveled 300 kilometers (a little under 200 miles) – some by cart and some by foot – as they sought to escape the worst drought that has impacted East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) in the past 60 years.

This is not a misprint.
200.

She traveled about 200 miles on cart and foot. ​And all along, she was ill. If you look closely ​at the photo, you might notice the large lump in her throat - likely a large cancerous tumor.​ She did not travel alone. She traveled with her husband who I was not able to meet because he was staying with one of his five other wives in this polygamist community.  She did not travel alone. She also traveled with her six children – the youngest being about 1 and the oldest being around 8. She had just given birth to her sixth child when they began her journey. Her youngest was severely malnourished when they arrived to this new settlement in a town called Benane. 
Sahara and her children all survived this journey. They survived because she persisted. 
In honor of Sahara...and so many other women who keep...keeping on.

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