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J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

(Updated): Prayer, politics and the debt crisis

  • Article by: SUSAN HOGAN
  • Star Tribune
  • July 28, 2011 - 2:27 PM

Several religious leaders were arrested today inside the nation’s Capitol for refusing to disband a prayer service.

The leaders are urging members of Congress “not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor,” according to a press release from the National Council of Churches.

Among those arrested were the NCC’s president, the Rev. Michael Livingston; Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Shalom Center in Philadelphia and the Rev. Jim Winkler, a United Methodist.

U.S. Catholic Bishops, are also weighing on the debt ceiling debate in Congress as advocates for people living in poverty. 

Bishops Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., and Howard Hubbard of Albany, sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives this week on behalf of the nation’s Catholic bishops.

They’re saying all the things you’d expect bishops, whatever the religious brand, to say. Don’t make budget decisions that hurt the poor, the homeless, the hungry.
 
Yes. Yes. Yes. All good things.
 
But after a few generic pleas for the common good and shared sacrifice, the bishops rattled their mitres about more specific policy issues: Eliminate unnecessary military spending. Deal with the long-term costs of health insurance.  Protect child development and education programs.
 
The bishops’ letter echoes sentiments expressed to President Obama by Christian leaders at recent White House gathering. Many of the religious leaders – evangelicals, Catholics, mainline Protestants -  urged the president to stave off cuts to programs for the poor.
 
The leaders also prayed with Obama for a solution to the debt crisis. Days have passed and there’s still no end to the budget crisis.
 
Only time will tell if prayer carries as much sway in the debate as the Tea Party. Or whether, as the debt ceiling crisis loomed, it was productive for Obama to spend time with religious leaders whose stances were predictable.

Susan Hogan is a Star Tribune editorial writer.

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