Evangelical Leaders Challenge Trump’s “America First’ Budget”

The leaders of the nation’s major evangelical aid organizations and several denominations are urging Congress to vote against cuts to foreign aid proposed by the Trump administration.  The president argues that the United States should focus on domestic concerns, including defense and homeland security and reduce its aid to other nations.  “It is time to prioritize the security and well-being of Americans,” Donald Trump declared, “and to ask the rest of the world to . . . pay its fair share.”

More than 100 prominent Christians signed a letter opposing these reductions.  “As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the ‘shining city upon a hill,’” they wrote.  Currently, the money the United States gives to promote health care and development efforts in the world’s poorer nations is less than 1 percent of our federal budget.

Those who signed the letter include the leaders of World Vision USA, Catholic Relief Services, Compassion International, Living Water International, World Relief, Food for the Hungry, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, the Wesleyan Church, the Church of Nazarene, the Anglican Church in North America, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and the National Association of Evangelicals.  Two of the clergy who prayed at President Trump’s inauguration—National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Samuel Rodriguez and Cardinal Timothy Dolan—also signed the letter as did the presidents of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Fuller, Gordon-Conwell, Denver, and Princeton seminaries and recording artists Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant.

These Christian leaders exhort members of Congress to preserve international programs they consider “instrumental in saving lives, safeguarding religious liberties, and keeping America safe and secure.” Their work has enabled them to see firsthand the benefits of American foreign aid in the lives of those they serve.

In their letter, they insisted that the United States must not stop helping “those in desperate need” given the great resources with which we have been “blessed.”  Rich Stearns, the president of World Vision, a respected child sponsorship ministry, argued that reducing funding could stop or even negate advances in eradicating diseases, reducing poverty, and improving education. “We risk losing the hard-won progress against poverty, wasting billions of dollars and decades of efforts,” he warned.

In a recent op-ed in Christianity Today, former senator Bill Frist rightly argued that foreign assistance both saves lives and furthers American security, making it “a win-win” approach.  Both scriptural commands and prudential considerations demand that we continue to provide our current level of foreign developmental aid. 

Gary SmithComment