The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. died trying to beat the trick. The trick is when white politicians persuade poor white working class people that the source of their pain is people of color, immigrants and other scapegoats. King recruited impoverished white residents of Appalachia, Latino farm workers from California and impoverished blacks from Mississippi. It was a Rainbow Coalition before the term was even coined. Organizers for a “new Poor People’s Campaign” and the Fight for $15 movement will launch rallies across the mid-South to raise awareness of the plight of the nation’s poor. The campaign is calling for thousands of cooks and cashiers to walk off their jobs Monday and join protests in two dozen cities.
Poor people, clergy and activists in the Poor People’s Campaign plan to deliver letters to politicians in state Capitol buildings demanding that leaders confront what they call systemic racism evidenced in voter suppression laws and poverty rates. “Our faith traditions and state and federal constitutions all testify to the immorality of an economy that leaves out the poor, yet our political discourse consistently ignores the 140 million poor and low-income people in America,” the letter states.
The growing gap between rich and poor in this country is consigning people to a fate that is largely inescapable. If you are born poor in America today you are likely to die poor. If you are born rich, the same. Poverty is not really an economic question. It’s a question of power: Who gets their needs met, which communities get their needs met and which communities don’t.
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.
“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
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.
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
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.
“If the poor are to become a “new and unsettling force” with real political might, we must first achieve the unity of the poor.”
“I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.” — Peter Rollins
Peter Rollins is a Northern Irish writer, public speaker, philosopher and theologian who is a prominent figure in Radical Theology. Follow him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/PeterRollins0
“The Lord’s Prayer is radical and revolutionary. When we pray that God’s kingdom will be made real here on earth, we’re praying for a kingdom where the poor, the refugee, the sick, and the broken have the best seat at the banquet. Building that kingdom requires prayer, activism, solidarity, and moral resistance that are politically engaged but which ultimately transcend the politics of the day.” — John Gehring
John Gehring is the Catholic Program Director of Faith in Public Life, author or The Francis Effect and contributing editor of Commonweal Magazine, an independent journal of religion, politics and culture edited by lay Catholics. Follow him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/gehringdc0
“The unholy alliance of the Political Right and the Religious Right threatens to destroy the America we love. It also threatens to generate a revulsion against God and religion by identifying them with militarism, ecological irresponsibility, fundamentalist antagonism to science and rational thought, and insensitivity to the needs of the poor and the powerless.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner
The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right is a 2006 book by Rabbi Michael Lerner. Rabbi Michael Lerner is an American political activist and the editor of Tikkun, a progressive Jewish interfaith magazine.
Follow him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/rabbilerner0
Esteemed Old Testament scholar, Dr. Walter Brueggemann gives insight into the nature of justice and offers you an invitation to participate.
One of the misfortunes in the long history of the church is that we have mistakenly separated love of God from love of neighbor, and always they are held together in prophetic poetry. Covenant members who practice justice and righteousness are to be active advocates for the vulnerable and the marginal and the people without resources, and that then becomes the way to act out and exhibit one’s love of God. So, love of God gets translated into love of vulnerable neighbor. The doing of justice is the prophetic invitation to do what needs to be done to enable the poor and the disadvantaged and the neglected to participate in the wealth and resources of the community. Injustice is the outcome of having skewed neighborly processes so that some are put at an unbearable disadvantage. And the Gospel invitation is that people intervene in that to correct those mistaken arrangements. — Walter Brueggemann