The following sermon was given by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Director of the Kairos Center and Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, during the Mass Poor People’s Assembly & Moral March on Washington on June 20, 2020. Join the movement here.
For far too long, the poor and immigrants and victims of racist police violence have been blamed for all of society’s problems.
For too long, we have been divided by race and immigration status, religion, issue area, sexuality, and gender.
For too long we have been fed the lie of scarcity when we live in a world of abundance — where the only scarcity we have is the political will to establish justice, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for absolutely all.
For far too long, the false narrative of religious nationalism has blessed what is wrong and condemned what is right in the eyes of God.
It is wrong for Black people to be murdered by the police. For people to be ripped from their families and deported. It is wrong for people to work for starvation wages. It is wrong to go to war. It is wrong to poison children with lead. It is wrong for the powerful to deny responsibility for these injustices.
What’s right is to feed people and give them health care, to secure the right to vote, to respect the dignity of all work, to forgive debts, to offer a home to everyone.
We, as a nation, as a movement, must break through the lie that only small changes, on one issue at a time, are possible.
We must break through the lie that poverty and death are the will of God.
We must break through the lie that some lives are more precious than others, that it’s impossible to unite and organize for change, or that the rich and powerful are coming to save us.
When we cry out, when we organize from grassroots, when we take bold action together, it can be done.
We join prophets throughout the ages who have declared to society that ignoring the poor and protecting the rich is evil, that the people demand justice.
Indeed, the prophet Micah asks “What does the Lord demand of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?”
Leviticus demands that we welcome the immigrant stranger.
Deuteronomy that nations forgive debts, outlaw slavery, pay the people what they deserve.
Isaiah demands that we stop passing laws that deprive the poor of their rights.
Jeremiah that the wealthy stop evicting people, profiting from pandemic, making misery for the poor.
John the Baptist demands that the military and ruling authorities and police stop killing the people, exhorting money, and spreading lies about others.
Matthew demands that religious leaders stop covering for those who divide and lie and instead take the side of the poor, bruised and battered.
Jesus turns over tables, engages in holy disruption, commits himself, even unto death, to demand justice for the poor.
These freedom fighters remind us that movements don’t just curse the darkness. We don’t just awake the nation with what is wrong. But we come together, in power, with demands. We rise together and demand justice, until we claim our rights.
We hold up a moral agenda — a Moral Justice Jubilee Policy Platform — that demands health care, and jobs that pay a living wage, and a guaranteed adequate income, immigrant rights, women’s rights, and an end to police and policy violence.
Join the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival! A nonviolent, intergenerational, multi-racial army of the poor and all those who care for justice is challenging this false moral narrative and building power among the 140 million poor and low-income people to rise up for justice, truth and love.