“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.
“There is no such thing as being non-political. Everything we say or do either affirms or critiques the status quo. Even to say nothing is to say something.” – Fr. Richard Rohr
“For all people of faith, the question is not whether to be ‘political’ but how to do so with faithfulness to the vision and love that has claimed and called us.” – Rev. Wesley Granberg Michaelson
50 years ago last December, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., issued a public call for a “Poor People’s Campaign.” King recognized the triple threats to democracy in the United States from racism, militarism, and poverty. He argued that the three overlapped and needed to be addressed together. He argued that they needed to be addressed as moral issues, and the way to do this was with a Poor People’s Campaign. Yes, this moral approach would include political action and solutions; it could not do otherwise. But because these triplets posed a moral threat, then needed to be address morally.
I have argued that the three threats King identified still threaten democracy and morality in the United States, and that they are joined by sexism and environmental degradation. In fact, I have argued that human-caused climate change is the most important moral issue of our day. It is time for a new Poor People’s Campaign. And two prominent faith leaders – the Rev. Liz Theoharis and the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II – have issued such a call. They are calling for a new “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call to Moral Revival.”
The ground work for the campaign has already begun. Training are being held across the country. This spring, thousands of disenfranchised people, members of the clergy, and moral leaders will engage in protests and direct actions at statehouses and the U.S. Capitol. The leaders hope the six weeks of protest will be one of the largest waves of civil disobedience in the U.S. The actions will take place across at least 25 states (including California), as well as the District of Columbia. Its leaders hope that the weeks of action will lead to mass mobilization at the U.S. Capitol on June 21.
This all this makes me think that the time is right for me to update and preach a sermon series I offered several years ago on Sabbath Economics. This series will provide some theological underpinning of the Poor People’s Campaign. So that’s what I’m going to do this Lent (which starts on February 14; see article about Ash Wednesday ).
I will also be joining the Poor People’s Campaign more directly, for I feel I must join in calling our nation to a moral revival. I will attend a training this month at Zaytuna College in Berkeley. And I will be joining rallies and marches in Sacramento this spring. I will probably join in some of the acts of civil disobedience and face arrest.
I hope you will join the Poor People’s Campaign, too. If you are not already convinced that the nation needs a moral revival, I hope my Lenten sermon series will convince you. And then I hope you will find ways to be involved, ways that are faithful to your circumstance and calling.
If you do email, I recommend going to the campaign’s webpage at poorpeoplescampaign.org and signing up for emails. If you do Facebook, I encourage you to “like” the Poor People’s Campaign and California Poor People’s Campaign pages and to check them regularly for inspiration and information.
And I ask that you pray. Pray for me as I prepare my sermons. Pray for our church as we seek to faithfully fulfill our mission. Pray for the leadership of the Poor People’s Campaign and for all those involved in the Campaign. And pray for a moral revival in our nation.