Left vs. Right. Awakened vs Awakened. Red State Jesus vs. Blue State Jesus.
There are leaders who view faith and politics strictly as an either-or competition: by supporting your position and crushing the opposition, you win.
but Reverend William J. Barber IIThe man known in contemporary America as “the closest thing we have to MLK” has distilled a third model of activism called “fusion politics.” It creates political alliances that often go beyond conservative versus conservative. Progressive binary.
A coalition of America’s “rejected stones” — the poor, immigrants, working-class whites, religious minorities, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community — can change the country, says MacArthur “genius grant” recipient Barber, because They have a common enemy.
“The same forces that demonize immigrants are attacking low-wage workers,” the North Carolina pastor said in an interview a few years ago. “The same politicians who deny a living wage are suppressing the vote; those who don’t want us to vote are denying the evidence of the climate crisis and refusing to act now; the same people who would destroy the planet are willing to deny tens of millions of Americans access to health care .”
Barber’s politics of integration have helped the 59-year-old pastor become one of the country’s most prominent activists and speakers. As co-chair of the Campaign for the Poor: A National Call for Moral Revival, he helped lead one of the most enduring and high-profile anti-poverty efforts in the United States.
At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, he thrilled the crowd with a speech that one commentator called “drop the mic.” At a time when both political parties have been accused of ignoring the working class, Barber regularly organizes marches with groups like fast-food workers and union members.
“America has a sleeping giant,” Barber told CNN. “The poor and low-income now make up 30 percent of the electorate in every state, and in every state where the presidency wins less than 3 percent, the poor and low-income make up more than 40 percent of the electorate. If you can make With so many poor and low-income people voting, they can fundamentally change every election in this country.”
Starting this month, Barber will take his fusion politics to the Ivy League. Yale Divinity School has announced that he will be the founding director of its new Center for Public Theology and Public Policy. Barber said he wanted to develop a new generation of leaders who would enjoy “creating a just society in academia and on the street”.
Although he will be resigning as pastor of the North Carolina church he has served for 30 years, Barber said he is not retiring from activism. He remains president of Repairers of the Breach, a nonprofit that promotes the politics of ethical inclusion.
Barber recently spoke to CNN about his beliefs and activism, and why he opposes white Christian nationalism, a movement that insists America was founded as a Christian nation and seeks to eliminate the separation of church and state.
Edited Barber’s answer for brevity and clarity.
You have made poverty a moral issue and said America cannot tolerate record levels of inequality. But there has always been some extreme poverty in this country. Why is it so urgent to face these issues now, and why should a person who isn’t pitiful care?
Dr. King once said that America is stressful in belief but anemic in behaviour. In every generation, we must find time to focus on the urgency of the moment. We will never be able to fix our democracy until we fully confront these problems. We will continue to rise and fall from recession because inequality hurts us all.
Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel Laureate in Economics) talks about this in his book The Price of Inequality and says that as a country it is more important for us to have these inequalities than we have to fix them The price paid is greater.
See how much it costs us without a living (minimum) wage. Two years ago, a group of Nobel Peace Prize-winning economists dismissed the idea that paying people a living wage (the U.S. federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour) would hurt business. They say it’s not true.
Well, President Roosevelt said it in the 1930s. “Any company that doesn’t pay people a living wage doesn’t deserve to be an American company,” he said.
I don’t think the American society as a democracy can last long. We are heading towards a point where 50% of Americans are poor and low income. This is unnecessary.
We say in our founding documents that every politician is sworn to promote the general welfare of all. When you get elected and go to Congress and get free health care but then sit in Congress and prevent the people who elected you from having the same thing, you are not promoting general welfare for all.
We say that equal protection of law is fundamental. Well, there is nothing more equal than corporations getting all kinds of tax breaks and all kinds of ways to make more and more money, while the average worker makes 300% less than the CEO.
Marjorie Taylor Greene calls herself a “nationalist”.that’s what it means
some people quote jesus verse Say“the poor are always around” argues that poverty is inevitable, and that TonTrying to end it is a hopeless enterprise.
Every time they say that, they are misquoting Jesus. Because that’s not what Jesus meant or said.He said yes the poor will be with you forever because he quoted Deuteronomy [15:11]The rest of that verse says because of your greed the poor will always be with you – I’m paraphrasing it, but that’s what it means. The poor are always with you is a critique of our reluctance to address poverty.
The existence of this level of inequality is a violation of our deepest moral, constitutional, and religious values. It’s morally inconsistent, morally indefensible, and economically insane. If you can lift 550 to 60 million people out of poverty by paying a living wage, why not? Why wouldn’t you want so many resources going to people and back into the economy?
I want to ask you a question about Christian nationalism. What’s wrong with saying that God loves America and that this country should be built on Christian values?
God does not say. That’s the problem with it. The scriptures say that God loves all people, and if a nation is to embrace Christian values, then we must know what those values are. These values are certainly not anti-gay, anti-probable abortion, pro-tax cuts, pro-one party and pro-gun people. Nowhere in the Bible do you see Jesus holding it up.
Jesus said that the Gospel is about the good news for the poor, for healing the brokenhearted, for welcoming all, and for caring for the least of them: the immigrant, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned. Christian nationalism seeks to sanctify oppression, not liberation. It tries to sanctify lies rather than truth. At best, this is an act of theological malfeasance. At worst, it’s heresy.
When you have people who call themselves Christian nationalists, you never hear them say, “That’s what Jesus said.” They say, “I’m a Christian, and I say it.” But that’s not good enough. If it doesn’t align with the founder, it’s flawed.
are you there? Gospel?
I am very evangelical. I tell people I’m a conservative, liberal, evangelical Christian. This means I believe in Jesus and do not exclude other faith traditions because my founder said “I have others who do not belong to this group.” I believe that love, truth, mercy, grace and justice are the foundation of a life of faith. To me, being an evangelical means starting where Jesus started.
The word “gospel” means good news. When Jesus used that word, it was in his first sermon, and it was a public policy sermon. He said it in front of Caesar, where Caesar hurt and exploited the poor. He was speaking from the ghetto of Nazareth, where the people said, “Nothing good comes out of Nazareth.” He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach the Gospel”—the Gospel— “To the poor.” This is what the evangelicals meant to Jesus. That’s the kind of evangelicalism I espouse.
You have been facing health challenges for many years. How do you keep going year after year without burning yourself out?
I read the bible once and specifically wanted to see if I could find anyone in the bible who wasn’t physically challenged by God to use in a major way. I can’t find it. This helps me get over any pity gatherings.
You know, Moses couldn’t talk. Ezekiel has weird PTSD type emotional issues. Jeremiah has been crying as he battles depression. Paul had a thorn in his flesh. Jesus knew sorrow.
Then I looked through history, but couldn’t find anyone. Harriet Tubman had a seizure. Martin Luther King suffered breathing difficulties after being stabbed before the March on Washington.
During covid, I have thought deeply about death and mortality. I have some immune deficiencies and challenges. I have struggled with this form of Ankylosing Spondylitis for over 40 years. At any moment, it can shut down my body.
During covid, when I kept meeting people, one day I sat down and said, Lord, why am I still here? I am no better than these people. I know I’ve been around covid. My doctor told me that if I contracted the new coronavirus, I might not have a good time.
If one day I meditate, I will suddenly realize. This is the wrong question. The question is never, why are you still alive? why are you still breathing The question is what are you going to do with your breath?
Because at any given moment, the scriptures say we are one step away from death. So I decided that whatever breath I had was too precious to be wasted on hate, oppression, and being mean to people. It can only be used for a just cause.
john black is “Beyond my imagination: A black man discovers the white mother he never knew.”