Progressive Christian Social Action
Poverty Amid Pandemic: The Moral Response to Covid 19
The Rev. Dr. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign
This post is the transcript of The Moral Response to Covid 19, an address given by The Rev. Dr. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign on April 9, 2020. His address begins about 8 minute into this video, but the whole video is well worth watching.
“We’re in a moment where hope for our many holy traditions will return to where they began in the first place. I know of Christianity and Islam and Judaism, that these holy traditions began in the midst of oppression. They began in the midst of times when there were bad, narcissistic leaders sitting on the throne who were implementing all kinds of unholy acts against humanity/ These holy traditions were called into being, I believe, by God, to give us moments to remind us of who we are and whose we are and what responsibility we have because of that.
“This is not just about personal sanctification–that’s why we do these things in community—every one of the traditions, whether it’s the season of Ramadan or Christianity or Judaism–we do these things in community, and they help save us from idolatry, save us from participating in humankind’s inhumanity towards one another, they call us to another place.
“In these White House briefings, we are seeing not just misinformation but public idolatry and political self-worship in the midst of holy seasons. But perhaps these holy seasons prevent us from being bewitched, if you will, and remind us that there is a power greater than the powers that we see on TV, and that power calls us to be about love and justice rather than truth, lies, and injustice.
“[This is true of all of these traditions]: whether it’s Passover, which remind us of those poor Hebrew people who were under oppression and slavery, or whether it’s Ramadan, when through fasting we put ourselves in the position of those who don’t have and don’t eat, or whether it’s the holy season of Easter that reminds us that Jesus during Holy Week was very clear, that when he went into the Temple, he overturned the politics of greed. He healed everybody, gave them universal health care. He was challenging the hypocracy of claiming to be religious on the one hand but engaged in policy injustice on the other. And in his almost last sermon he talked about how every nation, not just every individual but every nation, is going to be judged and it’s going to be by how you treat the least of these.
“And even in the crucifixion, he wasn’t just crucified for personal salvation, but he was crucified as a revolutionary. He was crucified for loving, crucified for telling the truth, crucified for caring for the prisoner, crucified for not bowing down to narcissism, But that crucifixion also brought other people alive and pointed to a resurrection, which promises us that even if we have to suffer for right, ultimately that suffering is worth it, so that even in the midst of it, we may be sanctified by the call to revolution.
“War and economic turndown, we still chose not to see, and we chose not to hear the cries of the poor. But maybe in this moment, when all our lives are at stake to some degree, when one touch can infect a president or a prince or a pauper, a sanitation worker or a secretary of state–it really doesn’t matter. Maybe in this moment we can hear, maybe in this moment we can see.
“And if everybody can’t see and hear. maybe those of us who have sometimes committed the sin of taking our faith inside our temples or inside our mosques or inside our congregations alone will be in halls of Congress again.
“And we will decide because we are people sanctified by the holy traditions and the Holy God, we will raise holy ruckus until the poor and the least of these are cared for. Maybe this season we will see it is time to repent of any apathy we’ve had. Maybe it’s time to realize that there are things we must fight for–we can never settle for less.”
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