Tens of millions of Christians decorate Christmas trees each year to celebrate the marking of Jesus’ birth. They perform generous acts of kindness for their family, friends and the less fortunate, mindful of the Christian teaching that “faith without works is dead.”
House Speaker Dennis Hastert has decided to mark the season by loudly insisting that the Capitol’s decorated spruce be called a “Christmas tree,” as opposed to a “Holiday tree.” He is right on this point. It is a Christmas tree. And while the Speaker may consider his action a “work,” the message of Jesus means more.
If Speaker Hastert really wants to put Christ back into Christmas, he should start by joining a long list of religious leaders in supporting a budget that isn’t balanced on the back of the poorest and most vulnerable.
Before the House went on Thanksgiving break, it passed $50 billion in spending cuts that target millions of poor and working-class Americans. The budget’s Medicaid provisions “would allow state governments to impose co-payments even on the poorest beneficiaries for emergency room visits for non-emergency health problems and for drug prescriptions not on a list of preferred treatments.” The Congressional Budget Office estimated the House bill “would cut food stamp benefits by about $45 a month for 225,000 people” and that 40,000 children would lose their eligibility for free meals at school. At the same time, conservatives are seeking to “extend several of Mr. Bush’s biggest tax cuts, including those on stock dividends and capital gains” — over half of the benefits from those cuts go to people earning over $1 million per year.
Hastert should heed the true spirit of Christ by caring for the vulnerable. As Jesus reminds us in Luke 4:18-20, by following his example we can “bring good news to the poor.”