Category: Articles

America once fought a war against poverty – now it wages a war on the poor

The Guardian
By Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
April 15, 2018

In 2013, Callie Greer’s daughter Venus died in her arms after a battle with breast cancer. If caught early, the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is close to 100%. But Venus’s cancer went undiagnosed for months because she couldn’t afford health insurance. She lived in Alabama, a state that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Venus’s death is not an isolated incident – more than 250,000 people like her die in the United States from poverty and related issues every year.

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Why we’re fighting for MLK’s final cause

By William Barber and Liz Theoharis
February 12, 2018

(CNN) Fifty years ago today, hundreds of black sanitation workers in Memphis walked off their jobs after two of their brothers were crushed to death by their truck’s faulty compactor. For more than 60 days, the striking workers made daily marches from the local church to city hall, wearing signs that declared, “I AM A MAN.”

Their demands were simple. They wanted a wage they could live on, the recognition of their union and the basic dignity and respect all of us should be afforded as children of God. And their struggle became an anchor of the original Poor People’s Campaign, a cross-racial fusion movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others aimed at ending the the triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism.

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A different kind of MLK Day

The Hill & Newsweek
By Rev Dr. William J. Barber, II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
January 15, 2018

On the night before Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, he invoked a lesson from biblical Egypt in a speech that is often called “Promised Land.” Pharaoh’s favorite formula for perpetuating slavery, he reminded us, was to keep the slaves fighting among themselves, for joined together they were too strong to subdue.

On that fateful eve in 1968, King used some of his final words to call for people of all colors to unite in a human rights revolution that would end destructive, entrenched poverty and prompt a radical redistribution of political and economic power. This outline for a path toward a modern day promised land was more than rhetoric. In fact, he and other leaders had already launched the Poor People’s Campaign, a movement that would bring together 50,000 of the nation’s poor for a march on Washington the next week, and that was supposed to kick off an extended fight against dehumanization, discrimination and poverty wages in the richest country in the world.

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Poverty in America is a moral outrage. The soul of our nation is at stake

The Guardian
By Rev Dr. William J. Barber, II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
December 16 2017

In March of 1968, as part of a tour of US cities to shine a light on poverty and drum up support for the recently-launched Poor People’s Campaign, the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr visited the northwest Mississippi town of Marks. He saw a teacher feeding schoolchildren a meager lunch of a slice of apple and crackers, and started crying.

Earlier this month, officials from the United Nations embarked on a similar trip across the US, and what they observed was a crisis of systemic poverty that Dr King would have recognized 50 years ago: diseases like hookworm, caused by open sewage, in Butler County, Alabama, and breathtaking levels of homelessness in Los Angeles’ Skid Row, home to 55,000 people.

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It’s Time to Fight for America’s Soul

Time Magazine
By Rev Dr William J. Barber, II and Rev Dr Liz Theoharis
December 5, 2017

In 1864, the abolitionist Henry David Thoreau was jailed for refusing to pay a poll tax. According to some accounts, Ralph Waldo Emerson visited him and asked, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?”

With each day, as forces of white supremacy and corporate greed attack our nation’s soul, Thoreau’s is a question we all need to start asking ourselves.

And increasingly, the nation’s poor and disenfranchised and it’s moral leaders are doing just that. In the past four months, the two of us – both Christian ministers, trained biblical scholars, and long time human rights activists, one from Goldsboro, N.C., and another from New York City – have traveled across 15 states holding trainings and mass meetings drawing thousands of people to lay the groundwork for the launch of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

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The Republican tax bill is not just immoral. It is an act of violence

The Guardian
By Rev. Dr William J. Barber, II and Rev. Dr Liz Theoharis
December 1, 2017

Donald Trump and leaders in Congress are on the verge of enacting one of the most immoral pieces of legislation in our nation’s history. The Republican party has billed its plan as a tax cut for America’s middle class, but it is in fact an act of gross violence against America’s poor to serve the country’s richest and most powerful.

The claim of the cuts is scarcity. But we do not have scarcity of money; we have a scarcity of moral will. We have an abundance of resources that could end poverty for everyone.

Extremist leaders are proposing to give billions in tax breaks to the wealthy, and to pay for it by raising taxes and cutting life-saving services for poor people, working poor people and the most vulnerable among us.

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Trumpvangelicals are using faith to bring us to the brink of nuclear war

Think Progress
By Rev Dr. William J. Barber, II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
August 11, 2017

When the Rev. Robert Jeffress declared this week that “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un,” many who grew up in Sunday School struggled to square the teaching of the president’s favorite pastor with the words of Jesus. How could the One who taught “love your enemies” be understood to endorse nuclear holocaust? Jeffress thinks his declaration is self-evident, which only highlights the fact that religious extremism could destroy the world as we know it. Long accused of extremism themselves, our Muslim neighbors are right to ask, who radicalized Rev. Jeffress and his fellow Trumpvangelicals?

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Jesus and The Poor People’s Campaign

ON Scripture
By Liz Theoharis
August 6, 2017

Just like poverty stunted the lives of the people of Jesus’ day, poverty destroys, hampers, circumscribes the lives of millions of God’s children in our day. 1 in 2 people living in the United States are poor or low-income; 43% of US children live in families that struggle to feed, clothe and house them. There are 28 million people without health care, 65 million workers who get paid too little to sustain themselves and their families, and record 14 million (1 in 9) US homes are vacant, yet 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year and 39% of them are children.

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A Response to the Evangelicals Who Support Trump: Have You Read the Bible Lately?

The Nation
By Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
July 26, 2017

As President Donald Trump attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, proposes a budget that is the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich since the end of the Civil War, and denies the rights of immigrants and religious minorities, a group of evangelical leaders was photographed laying hands on him. When the Rev. Barber wrote an open letter to the clergy involved, his critique of “praying” for someone who is “preying” on the poor struck a nerve.

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You Who Have Neglected: Reading Matthew 23 for #MORALRESISTANCE an an age of Poverty and Inequality

Practical Matters
By Liz Theoharis
May 10, 2017

Although a plethora of biblical texts preach good news to the poor, other texts are used to justify inequality and to blame the poor, or different religious groups, for the misery and oppression of the people. This article focuses on Matthew 23 – one of the strongest biblical critiques of religious and moral (mis)leadership. It asserts the warnings from Matthew 23 are for those in religious leadership and emphasizes their misplaced priorities, exclusion, and hypocrisy. These warnings are a critique of how the religious leadership of Jesus’ day was complicit in the further impoverishment and oppression of the people, but they apply to our day as well. Indeed, throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus provides a large-scale economic and social analysis. Consistent with the main themes of the Hebrew Prophets, this includes: a critique of wealth and poverty; a critique of the status quo and especially the complicity of leaders in the poverty and oppression of the Empire; and the necessity for all, but especially moral and religious leaders, to mix and meld their words and their actions. The article explores the strong moral critique that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes with the Poor People’s Campaign, connects this critique to Matthew 23, and insists that a moral movement and new Poor People’s Campaign is needed to address growing poverty and inequality today. Written in sermon form, it functions as a model for how one might preach about poverty in the contemporary U.S.

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