Frequent Flyers Move the Hearts of Congress.

ImageMany have already begun to experience the harsh impacts of the foolish Budget Sequester that set in motion indiscriminate slashes to government funding on Friday, March 1, 2013. Budget experts said it would be very difficult to reverse the sequester, and most did not have insight into how to help the 600,000 women and young children projected to lose nutrition aid from the Women, Infants, and Children program, or the estimated 70,000 young kids projected to lose access to Head Start preschool. All we could do was keep advocating for a change of heart in Congress and to finally create our long-awaited “grand bargain” bipartisan budget deal. Some thought we’d have to wait for the second coming before that happened.

When the Sequester created furloughs for air traffic controllers who ensure flight safety, Congress received many complaints about delays from those who fly and the industries that support them. Lo and behold! Where there is a will, there is a way. The U.S. Congress speedily responded. Fight delays have been eliminated overnight. Then, they went home for a week long recess.

They went HOME?! They should have been just getting started.

Christians have long looked to Matthew 6:21 to understand the federal budget from a faith perspective: “Where your treasure lies, there will your heart be also.” Where are the hearts of Congress? Why respond with such urgency to flight delays, and leave waiting – indefinitely – the thousands for whom the sequester could mean homelessness, hunger, and family hardship. If our hearts are with “the least of these,” that is where we should invest our treasure. We have a Congress whose actions just sent our nation’s most vulnerable a message that their hardships are less of a priority than the inconvenience of light delays.

We are also a people of hope, and long before the sequester started, we said that there are faithful alternatives to sequestration. We still believe that, and we see the hope in Congress’ action, however flawed the timing and prioritization. It is not too late to reverse the sequester and pursue these faithful alternatives.

It is up to us to generate the will in Congress to make a better way forward. Tell them they must fly back from recess, fix the sequester, and set things right.

Please adapt and personalize your message to your Senators and Representative. If you or someone you know are personally impacted, it is important they know, so they can put face those who they are harming, and put you and those you care about in THEIR hearts. Ask them to reverse the sequester’s impact on the most vulnerable, and instead embrace a Faithful Budget that creates a Circle of Protection around the programs serving the most vulnerable — a budget that puts our treasure where our hearts lie.


Please Sign Religious Leaders’ Pastoral Letter to President and Congress

On Friday, if Congress allows the Sequester to set in, children and families living in poverty will be among those most hurt. There is a need for people of faith, particularly clergy and religious leaders, to bring a moral and compassionate voice of reason to Washington.

That’s why yesterday morning, more than 100 religious leaders from a spectrum of Christian communions and organizations joined together under the banner of the Circle of Protection to release a Pastoral Letter on Faith, Finances, and the Federal Budget to the President and Congressional leadership. Now, the Circle of Protection is inviting all clergy and religious leaders to join and sign the letter. I hope you will click here and prayerfully consider signing. You can find a short summary of the contents of the letter below, and the full text with a list of original signers on the petition site.

Lenten Blessings,


Below are the main points of the Pastoral Letter to the President and Congressional Leadership about Faith, Finances, and the Federal Budget.

Faith leaders have urged you to maintain a Circle of Protection around effective programs focused on hungry and poor people in our country and around the world. This pastoral letter offers faith-grounded counsel on the current stage of the budget negotiations.

  1. Thank you for reducing the deficit while limiting cuts to programs serving poor people.
  2. We are praying for you.
  3. We plead for a renewed commitment to respectful bi-partisan dialogue and an end to brinksmanship.
  4. We understand that the country’s fiscal health will require further cost savings and additional revenue.
  5. We strongly affirm the government’s responsibility concerning poor people.
  6. It is time to frame the budget debate in terms of moral choices that are understandable to the American people.
  7. We ask both parties to work together toward ending hunger and poverty.

Please prayerfully consider clicking on the petition and signing on to the full letter, and forwarding to clergy colleagues and friends.

Also, both clergy and laypeople are invited to click here to directly email your Senators and Representative about the Sequester.

Ask Congress to Consider Matthew 6:21: Put Our Treasure Where Our Hearts Lie.

ImageClick here to send a message letting your U.S. Senators and Representatives know you treasure God’s children and struggling families, and so should our Federal Budget.

In the past two years’ budget and deficit struggles, we have repeated the wisdom of Matthew 6:21: “where your treasure lies, there your heart will be also.” If we treasure God’s shalom – the biblical vision of wholeness for communities – we need a Faithful Budget that creates a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable. Prayers, letters, phone calls, and vigils make a difference. One Senate staffer told me half all the letters his office received about budget issues came from faithful constituents concerned about poverty.

But, with a Sequester eight days away, we’re not done yet. Send a message to your U.S. Senators and Representatives here.

The Sequester will undermine much of what our nation should treasure. For example, 600,000 babies and young children will lose the nutrition aid afforded by the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, and 70,000 young children will lose access to Head Start. We want to treasure our nation’s children, yet one in four kids under age five live in poverty. Please keep the faith and send a message to your members of Congress TODAY.

Lenten Blessings,


Remarks by Rev. Michael Livingston at Circle of Protection press conference

Circle of Protection leaders share about poverty and the election at the National Press Club in Washington, DC before they release videos made by both presidential candidates that explained, from a faith perspective, what they would do to form a circle of protection around people living in poverty.

Remarks by Rev. Michael Livingston at Circle of Protection press conference upon release of videos made by the presidential candidates explaining how they will form a circle of protection around the most vulnerable.

September 12, 2012 – National Press Club

By the end of July, over 1 billion dollars had been raised, and most of it spent, by the presidential candidates, their respective parties, and just one primary Super Pac supporting each candidate.  Fifty-five days from the election that number is much higher.  Over a billion dollars!  And our candidates have not been talking about helping the people of our nation, over 12 million of them children, living in the most desperate conditions.

Since the recession began in 2007 two congressional districts in the entire nation have seen poverty decrease significantly.  In 388 congressional districts poverty has deepened.  Our congress, our candidates are not talking about this.  It doesn’t seem to matter.  Shame on us.

Children and families living in poverty don’t have a Super PAC representing their interests, buying commercial airtime, making back room deals to improve their lot.  Well, their interests are our interests.

People of faith in our congregations can’t compete with the shadowy contributions of millionaires hiding behind bad campaign laws. We can and do stand with people living in poverty and lift our voices on their behalf.  And today we are asking the 350,000 congregations we represent in the U.S. to make hunger and poverty a core issue when they go to the polls in November.

Rev. Michael Livingston, former president, National Council of Churches and Director of National Public Policy, Interfaith Worker Justice

Poverty and the Election: Listen in on What Some NCC Leaders are Saying

Kathryn M. Lohre,  President, National Council of Churches

Jesus worked and lived with people on the margins of society, and our call as a church is to continue that ministry. We are called as God’s church to build a kingdom of God where all are fed and community shares with each other. God’s church is at work bringing offerings of food to share with hungry people, sheltering those without homes in our fellowship halls, and creating support networks like job clubs and employment ministries. Yet, that is not enough. We must also create a society that provides for those in need. Senior religious leaders from the National Council of Churches joined with other religious leaders through the Circle of Protection, calling on our presidential candidates to address poverty. In response, Presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle have articulated how they plan to exercise their leadership in order to alleviate poverty. We, as the church, join them and encourage the nation as a whole to make eradicating poverty a national priority.

The Rt. Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, Bishop 

Office of Ecumenical and Urban Affairs, African Methodist Episcopal Church

We must not be misled into believing that the recession is the primary cause of increased poverty in America, for while poverty has increased during the recession, poverty was also increasing before the recession. A decade before the recession, while the nation’s economy was booming, poverty was on the rise. The gap between the middle class and the poor was widening and more and more people and families were falling out of the middle class. This is especially true among African Americans and other minorities.

The people of God, regardless of political party or affiliation, must raise our voices and call upon our political leaders to face and address the issue of poverty, and do it now. Leadership demands it, and the hurt and suffering of the poor, especially children, requires it.

Dr. Sharon E. Watkins

General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

The Biblical vision of wholeness (shalom) includes a world in which there is enough for everyone. As people of faith who are committed to this vision of wholeness, the members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are deeply concerned about the poverty that currently plagues so many of God’s children. We therefore support all efforts to end this poverty, from the courageous compassion of our local, regional and general ministries to the public policies that affect all of us. We are pleased that the Presidential candidates from both major parties are giving time and attention to the issue of poverty, and we look forward to hearing more from them about their specific plans to address this problem.

Nathan Hosler
Advocacy and Peace Witness Ministries, Church of the Brethren

The Church of the Brethren has firmly believed that as followers of Jesus we are called to serve one another in the way that Jesus demonstrated by washing his disciples’ feet. We urge all leaders to support programs that care for persons in poverty. We recognize that as individuals and families are assisted they will not only lead healthier lives but will be able to assist others in need.

 Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., President

Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

The Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. (PNBC) is the denominational home of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” Organized in 1961, the PNBC has a rich and lavish history of championing the cause of social justice issues and public policies for the voiceless and the most vulnerable of our global society.

The scriptures tell us that the poor will always be with us. But, we are not to neglect caring for the poor. The measure of our society and humankind in particular, is how we address the least of these. People who are destitute have no lobbyists or any media machine to advocate for them. That is why the Christian faith community is called upon to constantly bring this issue to our politicians. This is the first step to feeling the discomfort that is necessary to make a change. We must lift the veil of denial and neglect that keeps our nation from confronting poverty.

In this election year, the PNBC calls on our politicians and elected officials from the local and federal government entities to break the silence in dealing with issues of poverty. We can do better as a nation. It is unjust and immoral to constantly ignore the issues of poverty and push the least of these aside as if they do not exist. We must make the issue of eradicating poverty a top political and social agenda in this decade.

Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ

Our faith calls us to place the poor and most marginalized in our communities at the forefront of concern.  Those who struggle economically in our society, the most vulnerable  — children living in poverty, people living with chronic health issues, seniors, women trying to escape violence in their homes – do not have a voice at the policy-making table or a hand in influencing political campaigns. The United Church of Christ has a long history of actively serving the needs of vulnerable populations in our communities and advocating for systemic solutions that lift people out of poverty and uphold the common good. We urge all people to let your voices be heard through your vote. As our faith teachings remind us, nations are judged by how they treat the poorest and most vulnerable people.  Our faith calls us to consider how our choices this election affect the “least of these.”

Rev. Michael Livingston

Former President, National Council of Churches

National Public Policy Director, Interfaith Worker Justice

“Since the current recession began in 2007, only two congressional districts in the entire nation have seen poverty decrease significantly. In 388 districts, poverty has deepened. We cannot fix a problem we don’t acknowledge exists. There is precious little conversation about the millions of Americans living in poverty and the swelling numbers of children and families falling into poverty. Our presidential candidates can lead the way in a broader and deeper wrestling with our moral obligation to care for the poor. These videos are a good start on a much needed, much avoided national conversation. Next, let’s get to work repairing our safety net, putting people to work in good jobs and caring for the most vulnerable among us.”