Don’t forget the poor.
And don’t forget that Christians and their ground troops are watching Washington — not to mention a higher power.
That’s the message in new radio ads launched Tuesday in Nevada, Kentucky and Ohio by Christian leaders seeking to protect the poor in any U.S. debt deal.
The $50,000 in ads running through next week on Christian and country radio stations are targeted at the home states of the key congressional leaders: Nevada’s U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate; U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader from Kentucky; and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
In the one-minute Nevada ad, Pastor Tom Jelinek of Las Vegas says the Book of Proverbs teaches "where there is no leadership a nation fails." And he criticizes members of Congress for trying to protect the wealthy from tax cuts, while ignoring the needs of those living in poverty as the national economy struggles to recover.
"In the budget debate, the rich have many political friends and lobbyists," Jelinek says in the ad. "The poor or needy don’t."
Jelinek, pastor of the Heritage United Methodist Church, said his congregation is at "ground zero" of the jobless and home foreclosure problems in Nevada and the nation.
The ad campaign and the group behind it — the liberal Sojourners network of Christian organizations — is getting attention and support from thousands of pastors across the country and across the political spectrum. The new campaign also is getting national attention in stories from the CNN cable TV network to the Washington Post.
Last week, members of the Christian coalition’s "Circle of Protection" group met with President Barack Obama to turn up the pressure to solve the U.S. debt crisis as well.
Tim King, a spokesman for the Sojourners, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the Christian groups are upset with both political parties and the president for focusing the debt debate mostly on issues important to the rich and the middle class while all but ignoring poor people.
"All the Democrats do is talk about the middle class and all Republicans do is defend the rich," King said. "We’re upset with both parties. As Christians, we’re stepping up for the poor. We’re concerned that the president hasn’t said more about the poor and vulnerable."
In most states, including hard-hit Nevada, unemployment has skyrocketed during the recession to double-digits and the need for food stamps has risen sharply as well.
The Christians worry that poor families, seniors, adults and children have been left out of the debate as time runs out to raise the U.S. debt limit above $14.3 trillion to avoid a U.S. default.
"If the politicians saw what we saw, they wouldn’t be fighting," King said. "We just want them to cut out the political games."