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Let’s call it what it is.
It’s heresy.

Now, to be sure, this charge applies only to confessing followers of Jesus Christ who are serving as representatives in the U.S. Congress.

That is, the charge can’t apply to atheists and members of other religious bodies whose teachings are contrary to what is found in the New Testament.

But, as far as I can tell, there is no way a congressperson confessing Jesus Christ as Sovereign and Savior can vote to cut funding for programs that help those in need so that money can be spent on the military/defense budget of the United States.

There’s no room for argument here. No loopholes. No exceptions.

But last week the heretics in the House of Representatives made themselves known.

They voted affirmatively on a bill that restores what would have been automatic cuts of $55 billion in the Pentagon’s budget as part of an agreement reached last year in order to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis.

To make up that amount – and a whole lot more – they slashed funding for domestic programs that feed people (such as food stamps and Meals on Wheels), fund juvenile justice, provide for foster care, allow the elderly to live in their homes rather than being institutionalized, protect consumers against predatory lending, and other programs that provide assistance to those most in need in these stressful economic times.

(The agreement stipulated that a total of $109 billion in reductions would kick in annually by extracting equal allocations for defense and domestic programs if – an important “if” – the Congress didn’t find other ways of achieving the total cuts, such as increased taxes on the wealthy or the elimination of tax loopholes.)

It was, for the heretics, better to cut the funds for those in need so that the money could be spent on a U.S. defense budget – one that ranges in size, depending on what is and isn’t counted, from a low of $739.3 billion to a high of just over a trillion dollars a year – that exceeds the combined total being spent by the remaining top 10 countries in defense spending, whether friend or supposed foe of the U.S.

(The “supposed foes” include China at $89.8 billion and Russia at $52.7 billion. As for Iran, North Korea and Syria, none of their defense spending exceeds $10 billion annually.)

Or put it another way: Of all the funds spent on militaries by the 171 governments and territories across the globe, the United States’ expenditure makes up 45.7 percent of that total. (Source: The Military Balance 2012 from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.)

A new report and set of recommendations this week suggests one way the U.S. could reduce the size of its defense budget.

Global Zero, an organization that analyzes the nation’s nuclear policy by military experts, recommends a major reduction of the nation’s nuclear warheads (900 warheads as opposed to the 1,550 allowed by the current treaties), the virtual elimination of “fixed, land-based intercontinental nuclear missiles” (which increase rather than decrease the likelihood of attack), and the end of U.S. hypocrisy when it calls on other nations to curb their nuclear ambitions while retaining unneeded weapons itself.

The New York Times reports: “The Global Zero study also says that the large reductions make sense in a time of constrained Pentagon spending.”

It cites the co-founder of the organization, Bruce Blair, as recommending that “decisions should be made soon on nuclear arms reductions, so that money is not wasted on weapons programs that should be eliminated.”

One could guess, however, that such facts, figures, reports and recommendations will have no to little impact on the heretics.

They simply refuse to accept the authoritative teachings of the one who they rhetorically confess as their Sovereign and Savior.

In both their words and actions, they refuse to forsake the sword and refuse to accept the ultimate tests of every nation upon the face of the earth: whether the nation fed the hungry and gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked and cared for the sick and attended to the imprisoned.

The heretics refuse to understand righteousness, according to the test of the Psalmist, as being “like trees planted by streams of water,” which produce fruit for life and have leaves that do not wither and die.

Let’s call them exactly what they are: heretics.

LarryGreenfield is executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago. He also serves as editor and theologian-in-residence for The Common Good Network.

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