Budget foes, unsatisfied, to continue fast through Easter

April 14, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) The congressional budget compromise reached last week
did not go far enough for some progressive Christian leaders who have
vowed to continue their liquid-only fast in hopes of a "better budget."

Sojourners founder Jim Wallis and Ambassador Tony Hall, executive
director of the Alliance to End Hunger, say the poor stand to lose the
most in the $38.5 billion in budget cuts, and plan to continue
protesting by fasting through Easter.

"This compromise represents the interests of all those who make big
campaign contributions but betrays the poor and vulnerable," Wallis
said, referring to the 11th-hour compromise brokered Friday night (April
8).

"This compromise has only strengthened my resolve to continue
fasting, and we call for any person of faith or conscience to keep
joining the fast and spreading the word."

The two activists were joined in their budget protest by more than
36,000 fasters who vowed to pray and advocate for the poor as Washington
attempts to get its fiscal house in order.

No one at Sojourners anticipated the massive response to the hunger
fast, spokesman Tim King said, noting that it was "the largest fast of
its kind in recent U.S. history."

"The budget issue really energized and mobilized the faith
community," Wallis said. "It is our vocation as the people of God to
protect the poorest and most vulnerable."

The left-leaning budget campaign has its critics, however. Mark
Tooley, president of the conservative Institute on Religion and
Democracy, chided Wallis and others for misusing the holy season of Lent
and Easter.

"It is inappropriate to use a Christian holiday for a political
gain," said Tooley, who said the purpose of Lent was self-reflection and
self-denial, not activism.

Although Hall and Wallis have given up all solid food for only water
and juice since they began their fast on March 28, participants are
allowed to fast in whatever manner they choose. A group of 28
congressional Democrats are fasting a day at a time until Easter.

Wallis rejected the idea the U.S. is strapped for cash, and accused
lawmakers of simply spending money in the wrong areas.

"A budget is a moral document, it expresses morals and priorities.
It says who's important and who is not," Wallis said. "The fast will end
at Easter, but the battle for a moral budget will continue in the days
ahead."