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A Movement of the Rejected

Solidarity

A Movement of the Rejected
Friday, May 29, 2020

A powerful example of these five conversions at work is The Poor People’s Campaign, which was revived in 2018 by the Rev. Dr. William Barber II and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. [1] Their work with and for the poor of the United States through mutual respect, dialogue, and organizing is foundationally based on their Christian faith and study of the Gospels. In these paragraphs, Theoharis offers a scriptural exploration of what the Kingdom of God implies for the poor and marginalized—a movement of solidarity.

The New Testament . . . portrays the survival struggles of the marginalized, the solidarity and mutuality among different communities, and the critique of a social, political, and economic system that oppresses the vast majority of people. . . .  Jesus’s teachings and actions around poverty, wealth, and power create a picture of him as a leader of a social, political, economic, and spiritual movement calling for a world without poverty, want, or oppression . . . what he named the Kingdom or Empire of God. . . .

The Greek word for “Kingdom of God” or “Empire of God,” basilea, has much to do with the economic order that Jesus advocated. Few would disagree that the Kingdom of God is central to the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament. However, many understand this kingdom as otherworldly and immaterial. But if we look at both the prevalence of the concept and the specific references to it in the New Testament, we can see that God’s kingdom is a real, material order, with a moral agenda different from and opposed to the reigning order of the day. The basilea is particularly present in the parables that describe how the reign of God functions differently from the Roman Empire: in God’s kingdom, there is no poverty or fear, and mutuality exists among all.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus’s parables and stories paint a picture of a reign in which the poor and marginalized are lifted up and their needs are met, rather than being despised or ignored by those in control. . . . From these passages and others, we can see that . . . God’s followers are asked to model a community of mutuality and solidarity. . . .

Centuries of [New Testament] interpretation have attempted to spiritualize or minimize this good news for the poor, hiding the reality that the Bible is a book by, about, and for poor and marginalized people. It not only says that God blesses and loves the poor, but also that the poor are God’s agents and leaders in rejecting and dismantling kingdoms built upon oppression and inequality. . . . It is the vision of society the early Christians sought to create on earth, and that we who follow Jesus today are commanded to strive for as well.

References:
[1] The Poor People’s Campaign was first established by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in 1968 to encourage leaders and citizens across the nation to stand in solidarity with the poor. https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/about/

Liz Theoharis, “Blessed Are the Rejected for They Shall Lead the Revival,” Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing, William J. Barber, with Liz Theoharis and Rick Lowery (Beacon: 2018), 11, 12, 16–17.

Image Credit: Paulo Freire (detail), Centro de Formação, Tecnologia e Pesquisa Educacional (CEFORTEPE), SME-Campinas, Campinas, Brazil.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Conversion to [solidarity with] the people requires a profound rebirth. Those who undergo it must take on a new existence; they can no longer remain as they were. —Paulo Freire
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