Shutdown Turns Americans Into Captives in Need of Delivery

On Friday, 25 calls came into the two churches I serve from people -- many with children -- seeking emergency assistance such as food and shelter.

Congress, which just voted to dramatically cut food assistance to veterans and children, is ready to make matters much worse for all Americans -- those middle class or poor -- by shutting down the government as they attempt to keep 30 million Americans from getting basic health care.

The words heard in the Book of Isaiah should ring in the ears of every member of Congress who support a shutdown of the government:

Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees,
who write oppressive statutes,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be your spoil,
and that you may make the orphans your prey!
(Isaiah 10:1-2 NRSV)

During a time of record poverty and growing economic inequality the majority of those in the U.S. House of Representatives have decided to cast their lot with the one percent of Americans, of which they are all mostly members, while workers and families suffer. This is nothing short of sin.

Tea Party Republicans, who so often argue that America is a Christian nation, have turned their back on the most basic of Christian values: concern for those in poverty, compassion, justice, and setting the captives free. Instead the Tea Party and their Congressional allies have made all Americans captives of their demands to do away with Obamacare. But the Bible argues that government has an important role to play in protecting those in need.

Already Sunnyside Church, one of my churches, operates Portland, Oregon's oldest faith-based shelter: the Common Cup Family Shelter. University Park Church, the other congregation I serve, offers a food pantry and regular outreach to a neighborhood with entrenched poverty. Houses of worship across the nation, from diverse faith backgrounds, do the same and more. Yet the National Council of Churches and others have been clear, based on our understanding of God's word, that care for those in need is a responsibility that government must play a leading role in.

The U.S. House has decided on a thought-out strategy of letting the country burn rather than to deal with the problems that plague our nation. Their deep hatred of President Obama, some of that rooted in racism and not just politics, has forced the nation to lurch from economic crisis to economic crisis.

I don't always agree with President Obama or the Democrats, but right now they are the only leaders offering a vision for America where all thrive, not just the wealthy.

No politician or Tea Party activist who supports a shutdown or government default should invoke faith in his or her rhetoric. A Christian nation would not abandon families, children and veterans to hunger. A Christian nation would not keep people from a doctor when it has the capacity to offer care. We are all falling short.