In America’s Gilded Age, slaveholder religion went national, blessing an alliance between industrial capital and white nationalism. “One Nation Under God” promised to save America from the “immorality” of the New Deal, Communism and the Civil Rights movement. Writing in the 19th century, when slaveholder religion was still taking root in white Americans’ consciousness, Frederick Douglass said, “Between the Christianity of the slaveholder and the Christianity of Christ, I see the widest possible difference.” People of faith have a choice to make.
Oh great mammon of form and function; careless consumerist consumption; dangerous dysfunction, disguised as expensive taste. I’m a people disgraced by what I claim I need and what I want to waste. I take no account for nothing if it’s not mine. It’s a misappropriation of funds; protect my ninety percent with my guns. Whose side am I on? Well who’s winning?
My kingdom’s built with the blood of slaves, orphans, widows, and homeless graves. I sold their souls just to build my private mansion. Some people say that my time is coming: Kingdom come is the justice running down, down, down on me. I’m a poor child, I’m a lost son; I refuse to give my love to anyone, fight for the truth, or help the weaker ones, because I love my Babylon. I am a slave, I was never free. I betrayed you for blood money. Oh I bought the world, all its vanity. Oh my Lord I’m your enemy.—Josh Garrels, Zion & Babylon
Josh Garrels has spent more than a decade crafting music that cuts clean through. Resting in the space between accessibility and honesty, Garrels’ songs wrestle with and celebrate the mystery of faith with authenticity and heart. Cultivating a genre-blending mix of folk and hip hop, Garrels’ music explores themes of compassion, hope, longing, and liberation.0
Personal responsibility and hard work are not bad values. However, these values tend to move charity to a subtle form of social control where the poor are offered assistance based on merit or adherence to conservative standards, rather than on the basis of generosity and a commitment to a more equitable society. Pulling oneself up by the bootstraps has become American gospel. Jesus implores people not to simply be more generous, but to overturn oppressive systems that create inequality in the first place. True community justice requires that all American Christians ― conservatives and liberals alike ― set aside political agendas and values and seek equity.
A Syrian immigrant in New Brunswick is giving back to the community he now calls home by helping those who need it most. Elias was brought from Syria to Moncton by his brother-in-law eight years ago. Since arriving in the Maritimes, he has opened three businesses including a restaurant in the city’s downtown. For two hours every day, Elias offers hot food to the homeless at zero cost. He says helping the homeless is his way of saying thank you to the community that welcomed him with open arms.
There are those who celebrate a false Dr. King, a straw man, their own representation of the so-called “peaceful protest.” They may recall the words, but neither the meaning nor the context. They remember the dream, but not the fight to make that dream a reality. Not the fact that those dreams were often born inside a jail cell. Dr. King was a righteous agitator, a revolutionary. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the leaders of the Resistance.
“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
We hear it said that Sunday is the most divided day in America. For the past century Christians have filled mission stations with missionaries in faraway lands. We send checks and crates of supplies to the mission field and the missionaries, all the while living and worshipping in segregation. What we struggle with is sharing a pew, sharing a meal, sharing a living room on a Sunday afternoon. The inauthenticity is glaring. — Palmer Chinchen, Justice Calling: Live Love, Show Compassion, Be Changed
Palmer Chinchen is an author, speaker, pastor and an expatriate who speaks widely on issues of justice, spiritual transformation, and the need for a Christian response to affliction and poverty. Justice is a significant passion for Palmer, who regularly travels to places like Haiti, Cuba and Africa to help bring healing to a broken world.
The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene. — Isaiah 59:15-16
“There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will. The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’” — The Essential Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I Have a Dream” and Other Great Writings
“Gospel escapism fails to see in any deep way how Jesus speaks to the troubled life of the sinner in any way other than deliverance into another world. It’s the pill we take in order to remain hooked up to the matrix of an Evangelical dream state. Our blessed hope becomes our escapist dream when we make what Jesus will perfect an enemy to what we can improve.” — Thabiti Anyabwile
“Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. You can be filled with bitterness, hatred, and a desire for revenge. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand with compassion and love. What we need in the United States is not division, hatred, violence or lawlessness; but love, wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.” — Robert F. Kennedy (April 4, 1968)
The formal launch of the contemporary Poor People’s Campaign was held exactly 50 years after King announced the campaign in 1967 and is gearing up to be the largest nonviolent mobilization in the United States this year. One of the major strengths is its potential to appeal to Americans across party lines. It aims to unite the grievances of the marginalized white working class with marginalized communities of immigrants and people of color throughout the country.
Instead of realizing its founders’ admirable commitments, today’s United States has proved itself to be exceptional in far more problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights. Contrasts between private wealth and public squalor abound. In a rich country like the U.S.A., the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power. With political will, it could readily be eliminated. — Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
If we work together we can create better forms of justice than killing those who kill to show that it is wrong to kill. When it comes to the death penalty – we Christians have been the champions of death. 85% of executions happen in the Bible belt. For those of you who are not Christians, we need your voice and your courageous witness too. We Christians don’t own exclusive rights to grace and mercy. We need your voice.
Shane Claiborne is a Christian activist and author who is a leading figure in the New Monasticism movement and one of the founding members of the intentional community, the Simple Way, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Claiborne is also a social activist, advocating for nonviolence and service to the poor. He is the author of the books, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical and Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us.
Every year, groups working for the abolition of the death penalty gather at the steps of the Supreme Court to call for an end to capital punishment in the United States. Register for the Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty.0
“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian, spy, and anti-Nazi dissident. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential. He was known for his staunch resistance to Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned for one and a half years. Later he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being accused of being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried and then executed by hanging.0
Ben Sollee is not only an unconventional cellist, but also an unconventional human being. In 2012, he took his cello, walked up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and began to perform. It’s not legal to do that, but, Ben Sollee — the guy who bikes his cello across the country — is not a follower.
From Ben Sollee:
“There are so many people dealing with fundamental challenges in their lives at this moment: food, shelter, clean water, etc. These are things that are not debatable or points of policy; they are human needs. I’m hoping we can keep the human-to-human conversation going. That’s what we truly need to sort through natural disasters, healthcare policy, education, or anything as a country. We are too often willing to sacrifice honest, sincere discussion for winning and losing teams.”
The following video captures the moments in the shadow of Lincoln amid a throng of tourists.
“If you’re going to lead my country. If you’re gonna say it’s free. I’m gonna need a little honesty. Just a few honest words. It shouldn’t be that hard. Just a few honest words is all I need.” — Ben Sollee, A Few Honest Words, Learning To Bend (2008)
2018 will be a year where interfaith work will be about recalibrating our nation’s moral and ethical social agenda. 2018 will be the year that churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, Gurdwaras and sacred spaces will work together to protect the most vulnerable. I see more people of faith coming together motivated to heal the divides and ugliness not just in their societies, but in their neighborhoods.
The Gubbio Project at St Boniface church in San Francisco opens its doors every weekday at 6am to allow homeless people to rest until 3pm.
Apart from St Boniface and its sister church, no other place of worship in San Francisco welcomes homeless people. In fact, many have begun, even at this season of goodwill, to lock their doors to all comers simply so as to exclude homeless people.
America has kicked God out of the country and now it is time for Christians to do their part to invite Him back in, according to contemporary Christian singer and songwriter Michael W. Smith. Even if this were true, (Ed Stetzer believes “The Church is not dying. It is just being more clearly defined. So for those who really don’t have any skin in the game, shedding the label makes sense.”) how do we invite Him back in? Luxury cruises or more care for the poor and needy out on the streets?
Tickets for his upcoming Unforgettable Christian Cruise to Alaska (and similar) are up to $10,000. “There’s just something about a gathering of the family of God in a gorgeous setting, on a luxurious ship, that leads to memories you never forget.” he says.
America’s homeless population has risen this year for the first time since the Great Recession, propelled by the housing crisis afflicting the west coast, according to a new federal study. The study has found that 553,742 people were homeless on a single night this year, a 0.7% increase over last year.
One ticket to Michael W. Smith’s Alaskan cruise (or something similar by a variety of singers and speakers in the Christian circuit) could buy 10,000 pairs of socks for the homeless. Has the church become more of a luxury cruise ship to keep people comfortable within the Christian bubble than a rescue boat? In times like these, perhaps we spend less on lavish cruises and tours and start handing out socks to the homeless. It could lead to memories they never forget.