The Religious Left’s Photo-Op Martyrdom


Mark D. TooleyChristians around the world often risk arrest (and worse) by repressive Islamist or Communist regimes because of their deep faith.  (One Iranian pastor is currently imprisoned after 2 years for objecting to compulsory Islamic teaching of his children at school.)  In America, left-leaning church officials seek symbolic arrest for public show in their defense of Big Government.

Religious Left officials on July 28 successfully sought arrest for “faithful civil disobedience” in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda to protest any consideration of limits on the Welfare and Entitlement State.  They were also demanding tax increases. Unlike more courageous and spiritually insightful fellow believers imprisoned in Iran, China, and North Korea, these U.S. activist prelates were presumably arrested, booked, bonded and released back to their nearby air-conditioned offices in time for posting fresh news releases.

Arrestees included United Methodism’s chief lobbyist Jim Winkler; former United Church of Christ President Paul Sherry; and multi-faceted Bob Edgar, himself an ordained United Methodist, former NCC general secretary, former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, and now chief of the liberal advocacy group Common Cause, the secular chief organizer of the “prayer” witness at the U.S. Capitol.

"Why do these church officials associate the Gospel with unlimited government, spiraling debt, higher taxes, and dysfunctional welfare policies that perpetuate poverty?"

Why do these church officials associate the Gospel with unlimited government, spiraling debt, higher taxes, and dysfunctional welfare policies that perpetuate poverty? “Budgets reflect the priorities of a nation, and we are not a nation that puts its biggest burdens on the backs of those who have the least,” Edgar explained in his own Common Cause news release. “We believe Congress has a moral obligation to stand strong against cuts to our most needy and to assure that corporations and billionaires pay their fair share.”

With the others, Edgar vaguely admitted that “spending has to be controlled, long-term” without specifying how. He insisted that higher taxes on the “wealthy” were the answer and attacked plans from House Speaker John Boehner and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid because they omitted tax increases.

Are there enough “wealthy” to cover multi-trillion dollar deficits?  Would tax increases not have to include the middle class? How would tax increases impede investment, job growth, and consumer spending? Would tax increases only fuel further government growth? These questions did not seem much to interest Edgar and the religious arrestees in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, whose faith in ever larger Big Government is nearly without limits.

Across the street from the U.S. Capitol on the lawn of the historic Methodist Building, United Methodist chief lobbyist Jim Winkler, in addition to his arrest, has been hosting daily “prayer” vigils in defense of Big Government with other left-leaning church groups and the Islamic Society of North America. (See my assistant Bart Gingerich’s onsite report.) To the media, Winkler explained of his arrest:  “We are sending a visible signal to those in power that we do not believe the negotiations over the debt ceiling and budget can be resolved on the backs of poor people.”

"Ignoring scriptural warnings against covetousness, the Religious Left likes to rant against unnamed 'corporations and wealthy individuals.'"

Adding to the religious class warfare rhetoric was former NCC President Michael Livingston, who declared: “Our elected officials are protecting corporations and wealthy individuals while shredding the safety net for millions of the most vulnerable people in our nation and abroad.” Ignoring scriptural warnings against covetousness, the Religious Left likes to rant against unnamed “corporations and wealthy individuals.” These prelates do not typically acknowledge that many poor people would like the understandable opportunity to earn wealth themselves, and possibly create their own corporations, rather than remain appendages of the Welfare State. But free markets that allow new wealth creation and independence from Big Government frighten the Religious Left. After all, its “Kingdom of God” is centered on a coercively centralized redistributionist state that rewards political homage and correct opinions rather than merit and entrepreneurship.

Livingston further claimed: “Today, we ‘offer our bodies as a living sacrifice’ to say to congress ‘Raise revenue, protect the vulnerable and those living in poverty.’” In fact, these lobbyists and activists were not “offering their bodies” towards any personal sacrifice but to news photographers and reporters as a photo op. One liberal church demonstrator failed to cite to a reporter any specific budget limits that were upsetting, instead exclaiming: “All of them concern us.” In other words, no limits on government social spending are ever acceptable.

Naturally, there were the inevitable claimed parallels to the Civil Rights Movement.  But civil rights demonstrators often paid a real price and were demanding equal legal rights for all. In their contrived “prayer” and pursuit of arrest in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, these modern Religious Leftists linked their faith to an uncontrolled and suffocating entitlement state in which government benefits equal salvation. The needy for whom they claimed to speak deserve better. And the overseas Christians who risk far more dangerous and permanent arrest for much nobler causes are vastly more deserving of media attention and reverence.

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and author of "Taking Back the United Methodist Church." Republished with permission.from FrontPage Magazine.