A Look at the Poor People’s Campaign: Theology and Ideology

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

NC has focused a lot on the Democrat Party as an institution, to a lesser extent on the Democratic Socialists of America, and also at times on the various NGOs that form the matrix in which Democrats are embedded. But I have never looked at the Poor People’s Campaign (“A National Call for Moral Revival“), or at its charismatic co-leader, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. (The co-other leader is Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis). That’s because, having grown up vaguely Methodist, and having abandoned Episcolianism, and then agnosticism, I became an athiest, after professed Christians went to war in Iraq, gutted the Fourth Amendment, and then institutionalized torture, for which God — were there a God — should have punished them, in this life, in near-real time. (Ex 20:7: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Another way of saying this is that I’m not satisfied with Christian theodicy.) And of course, as the Bearded One famously wrote:

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

However, after reading Chris Arnade’s Dignity, in which opium (“deaths of despair“) has become the opium of the people, it became clear to me that, at least in the lives of the working class, opium and religion are opposed, and that religion has a salutary effect; it’s not a coincidence, I think, that the final photograph of the book is of doves, descending (Mark 1:10). From the chapter “God Filled My Emptiness,” pages 103–104, where Arnade attends a church service in Bakersfield, CA:

After an hour I leave, done in by the heat and the noise. I also leave because I’m uncomfortable. Although I respect Jeanette and her congregation’s beliefs, I don’t share them. Like many other members of the front row, I don’t think it reflects reality. I escape back to McDonald’s, which even then, on a Sunday morning, was busy with desperate people looking for an escape from the heat, danger, and boredom of the streets.

An hour later I got a text from Jeanette, who had found me and my work on addition on the internet. “Jennifer who you took a picture of me hugging during our service was a meth addict for two years. She also lived on the streets over there near the McDonald’s. She has been clean for five years since joining our church.”

So. Pragmatically, seeking “big structural change” while looking at issues of scale, it seems to me that institutions like DSA (or Our Revolution, or even the Sanders campaign, if it should actually transform itself on the ground into a real movement) must, with some humility, give an account of themselves to the religious, and not the other way around. Hence this post on the Poor People’s campaign, which would seem to combine religion with some sort of structural analysis of American society: “Blessed be ye poor” (Luke 6:20). With all that said, let’s look at the Poor People’s campaign. Naturally, I went to their website, and among the “endorsing partners” I see DSA and Our Revolution, a number of unions, and none of the usual suspects from the world of high-dollar donors or liberal Democrat NGOs; Neera Tanden’s not giving them a dime, which is good, actually.

The original “Poor People’s Campaign” was a 1968 effort organized by “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and carried out under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy in the wake of King’s assassination”. (The history is complicated; RFK encouraged the organizers (before he was assassinated). Still from Wikipedia:

King wanted to bring poor people to Washington, D.C., forcing politicians to see them and think about their needs: “We ought to come in mule carts, in old trucks, any kind of transportation people can get their hands on. People ought to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say, ‘We are here; we are poor; we don’t have any money; you have made us this way … and we’ve come to stay until you do something about it.'”

What I remember was “Resurrection City,” which, in a way, prefigured Occupy:

On Tuesday, May 21, 1968, thousands of poor people set up a shantytown [on the National Mall] known as “Resurrection City,” which existed for six weeks. The city had its own zip code, 20013….. Thousands of people lived in Resurrection City and in some ways it resembled other cities. Gordon Mantler writes

Resurrection City also became a community with all of the tensions that any society contains: hard work and idleness, order and turmoil, punishment and redemption. Businesses flourished inside the tent city’s walls, as did street crime. Older men informally talked politics while playing checkers or having their hair cut; others argued in more formal courses and workshops.

There were unusual problems but there was also unusual dignity. Residents called it “the city where you don’t pay taxes, where there’s no police….

Unfortunately the makeshift community suffered from multiple violent incidents, including seventeen in one night including assault and robbery. In addition strong arm tactics were used by leaders of the movement to cheat local business out of money [hmm]. The group suffered from political demoralization, conflicts over leadership, racial tension, and, always, difficult living conditions.

My recollection is that the press coverage of “Resurrection City” was snarky and negative; that King (and his much inferior substitute, Abernethy) has taken a wrong turning; the press, at least, has not changed! I include this ancient history because King’s statement: “You have made us this way.” This seems very different from “For ye have the poor always with you” (Matt 26:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8). Dr. William Barber shares the same modern view with King:

Barber launched the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) following the Moral Mondays protests in North Carolina. From Facing South:

In 2017, as head of the North Carolina NAACP, Rev. Dr. William Barber led a protest at the state legislature calling on lawmakers to provide health care to the poor by expanding Medicaid. When legislators refused to speak to him and other protesters, Barber led the group in reciting Bible verses, the N.C. Constitution, and statistics on health care.

After he was banned from the North Carolina legislature, Barber launched the Poor People’s Campaign, a nationwide “moral revival” challenging systemic racism, poverty, militarism, and ecological devastation.

Barber said at the time that “the rules that need to be changed are not the ones that allow for peaceful, nonviolent protest, but the ones that rob the poor of the right to health care and allow billion-dollar companies to pollute our water and environment.”

At the protest, Barber was arrested for trespassing (and sentenced to a day in jail, suspended, plus 24 hours of community service. The judge commented: “Isn’t his life an example of service, community service?” Braxton D. Shelley, of the University of Chicago (!) School of Theology, comments on the prosecution strategy:

I was most arrested by the prosecutor’s preoccupation with the sound of Rev. Barber’s voice. Earlier on the day of his conviction, when Barber took to the stand in his own defense, he found himself embroiled in a debate about the black prophetic preaching tradition that he so powerfully embodies. During the cross-examination, the prosecutor used videos of the event to characterize the activist’s voice as “quite loud,” as “yelling”…. Barber responded that the register of speech to which the prosecutor referred was his “preaching voice,” an instrument which, like the clerical vestments in which he was arrested, symbolizes submission to a higher authority.

To put it bluntly, it was Barber’s voice that was on trial—what he said and how he said it. It was loud, but so is injustice. It was insistent, but so is oppression. In Barber’s tradition, there is meaning in what sounds unruly: an abundant zeal whose source is divine…. This was Barber’s preaching voice, but it was not his alone. Is effective preaching ever a solitary act? No, this disruptive-yet-righteous sound emerged from a collective, from the crowd’s antiphonal juxtaposition of phrases from the state constitution and Christian scripture against statistics which quantified the dastardly impact of the legislature’s refusal to expand health care for the poor. To portray this scene of call-and-response as one man’s yelling requires both an indiscriminate reduction of a thick sonic event and a discounting of the elevated patterns of speech that are a multi-religious commonplace.

(I seem to recall “crowd’s antiphonal juxtaposition of phrases” at Sanders rallies, too.[1])

Unlike Occupy, then, Barber has demands, both policy and geographical. Barber and Theoharis, having convened the “the first-ever Poor People’s Moral Action Congress,” write in The Hill, on policy:

We will present a national moral budget, outlining a plan to pay for real, systemic change as well a challenge to the lie of scarcity. And poor people who haven’t seen a place for them in American public life will testify before the House Budget Committee, in a hearing to share their stories and address what the federal government can and must do now to address the real issues affecting everyday Americans.

And on geography:

We are building coalitions among poor people who are too often pitted against one another by the divide-and-conquer tactics of the Southern Strategy. In the so-called “red-states” of the South and Midwest, we are organizing people into a movement who will vote, take action and challenge the assumptions of candidates from both parties. We are organizing across race and other lines that too often divide us and lifting up and deepening the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation.

(Note that this strategy is very, very different from the strategy of liberal Democrats, who tend to regard citizens outside their coastal enclaves as “deplorables,” or as “bitter” people who “cling to guns and religion,” and leave it at that.) Here is an extract from the PPC’s “Moral Budget,” created together with the Institute of Policy Studies (PDF):

The United States has abundant resources for an economic revival that will move towards establishing a moral economy. This report identifies:

  • $350 billion in annual military spending cuts that would make the nation and the world more secure;
  • $886 billion in estimated annual revenue from fair taxes on the wealthy, corporations, and Wall Street; and
  • Billions more in savings from ending mass incarceration, addressing climate change, and meeting other key campaign demands.

The below comparisons demonstrate that policymakers have always found resources for their true priorities. It is critical that policymakers redirect these resources to establish justice and to prioritize the general welfare instead. The abundant wealth of this nation is produced by millions of people, workers, and families in this country and around the world. The fruits of their labor should be devoted to securing their basic needs and creating the conditions for them to thrive. At the same time, policymakers should not tie their hands with “pay-as-you-go” restrictions that require every dime of new spending to be offset with expenditure cuts or new revenue, especially given the enormous long-term benefits of most of our proposals. The cost of inaction is simply too great.

I think the left could get behind all of this (though sadly, MMT is not explicitly included, though it’s certainly righteous to cripple PayGo).

So why can’t we have nice things? The budget concludes on page 115:

For too long, we have turned to those with wealth and power to solve our most pressing social problems. We have been led to believe that those in positions of influence and authority will use the resources at hand in the best possible way for the betterment of our society. This orientation has justified tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations and work requirements for the poor; it has secured environmental shortcuts for industry and military expansion around the world; and it has yielded very little for the 140 million people in this country who are still poor and struggling to meet their needs.

This is not an argument for charity or goodwill to the poor. It is, rather, a simple recognition that the poor are not only victims of injustice, but agents of profound social change. Rather than following the direction and leadership of the wealthy and powerful, it is time to follow the direction and leadership of the poor. Indeed, if we organize our resources around the needs of the 140 million, this Budget shows that we will strengthen our society as a whole.

This is why the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival continues to organize and build power among the poor today. It understands that those who have been cast out of the economy and who are living on the few remaining crumbs of its meager offerings are also articulating a way out of this wretched existence – not just for themselves, but for us all.

That’s the stuff to give the troops! If I have a criticism of PPC (and the budget) it’s that who “those with wealth and power” might be is not crisply articulated (unlike, for example, “the billionaire class“). At this point, I realize I’ve shifted from saying the left should give an account to the PPC to saying that the PPC should give an account to the left. Be that as it may, Barber tweets:

Well, those Democrats who talk about “working people” use that phrase — “working families” seems to have, mirabile dictu, vanished from the discourse — probably started doing so only recently, having been pressured from their left, and as a replacement for “working class”; they don’t take their bourbon neat, that is, but watered down. And yes, they may be scared of the “free stuff” argument that liberal Democrats deploy against the left. However, I think the left (very much as opposed to liberals) would view “the poor” as a subset of the working class, those who are coerced sell or give their labor to survive (forgive the crudity of this ahistorical analysis). If indeed the PPC/DSA/left are to move beyond a relationship of “endorsing partners” to something akin to co-operation, both tactical and strategic, then distinctions like this are going to have to be hashed out. For example, Barber tweets:

“Policy murder” is brilliant framing (and would provide one account of elite behavior on climate change). However, who is the murderer? Barber says “a legislator.” But if you believe — as most of the left does, and (I would say) most liberals do not, especially donor-dependent NGOs — that we live in an oligarchy, then the murderer is not the legislator, but the person who hired or owns the legislator: Much more often than not, when all the threads are traced down, a billionaire. The billionaire class is surely composed of great sinners. And every billionaire is a policy failure, just as surely as every slaveowner was. Should this be hard to say? Should we not seek to remove the systemic occasion of sin?

NOTES

[1] I think there is a class dimension here, too. Elites, especially when doing elite business together, tend to speak quietly. Loudness is taken as a sign of inability to control one’s self; hardly professional.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

47 comments

  1. jsn

    “The original “Poor People’s Campaign” was a 1986 effort organized by “Martin Luther King, Jr.”
    1966 maybe?

    Reply
  2. Amfortas the hippie

    thanks for this, Lambert.
    Rev. Barber is one of my favorite people…and very effective…which is why he’s (AFAIK) rarely allowed on MSM.
    as far as religion and Team Blue….it’s been a while since i ventured into teamblue land online, but when i was a regular, they hated it…and mention of using such language(a la MLK) to reach people in “red states” quickly ended up with the thread rushing down the drain of “but religion is stupid!!!”…which often ended up with a wholesale Eliminationist Moment…on Liberal/Progressive fora!
    “just kill them all…”(republicans, white folks, men, etc)
    in my “fieldwork”…in the feedstore, etc…I use Social Gospel Language all the time. It’s very effective…even when my interlocutors know me, and know that I’m not a christian( mystic agnostic/Thaumazeinist(!!)).
    Just about everyone I encounter in the world thinks of themselves as a christian of some kind(and i should note that there’s a Jewish and an Islamic version of Social Gospel)…and the language of the beatitudes, etc is the kind of christian they all think they are, or wish they were(aspirations are essential in politics).
    I’m not always able to switch to Bearded Prophet Mode when i go among the people, but when i am able, those end up being the most successful ad hoc symposia.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I am not aware of a study that relates income (as a proxy for class) to forms of religious belief or unbelief, and I would think geography would be a factor. That would be a very good study to have.

      That Red State/Blue State dichotomy is so destructive, not least because it adopts the world view of the political class, and their massive stacked up category errors (intrinsic perhaps to the maintainers of representative democracy) of confusing a state’s dominant faction of the political class with its voters, and its voters with its population.

      Reply
  3. Jeff N

    I’ve been suspicious of Rev Barber ever since he spoke at the Democrat Convention back in 2016.
    Everything I’ve heard from him lately sounds good, though….

    Reply
  4. Henry Moon Pie

    This kind of discussion is something that is badly needed on the Left. Rev. Barber is doing an excellent job of making a class-based argument for reform based on Protestant theology. It’s a matter of shame for American Protestantism that more pastors in affluent suburban congregations and mega-churches are not doing the same.

    That said, the persuasiveness of Christian theology is shrinking, not growing. Other voices from other spiritual traditions are needed who can articulate the connections between their non-Abrahamic frames of reference and the suffering of the poor and the sacredness of the Earth and its creatures. This is especially true for making the case to the young who are constantly bombarded with materialism and individualism on the one side and find patriarchal religion on the other side too much to swallow, especially given the historical realities of how those patriarchal religions have conducted themselves in the past. That’s one reason why I find Marianne Williamson’s presence in the debates to be refreshing. At least she’s bringing spirituality to the conversation where it’s usually absent except for cliches.

    I also think that James Fowler’s stages of faith analysis is useful for understanding the impact of one’s “faith” and political views. His argument is that everyone lives by “faith,” which he defines as a worldview through which we encounter and interpret life and its experiences. The critical difference is not the content of the “faith” but the maturity level of the individual’s faith development. My recent explorations of the thought of Gary Snyder, a counterculture, Peyote using Buddhist/animist, and Wendell Berry, a Kentucky born-and-raised Protestant, reveals that the contents of “faith” of each is very different–they argue about it frequently–but their way of interacting with the world and their fellow human beings is essentially the same because they both have a high level of spiritual maturity. In Fowler’s system, both are at top of the pyramid.

    The divisive encounters we have with others about spiritual matters are often more a result of differing levels of spiritual maturity than the content of the faith. The close-minded Fundamentalist reflexively citing Bible verses rather than truly engaging in dialog is someone who has not moved beyond the level of faith maturity achieved upon junior high confirmation training in a tradition. The sort of person who runs through an Eschaton thread repeating “THERE IS NO GOD!!!!!” over and over again has moved beyond the indoctrinated stage but has not attained the ability to re-integrate any spiritual aspects into what amounts to a barren, incomplete “faith” typical of the college freshman who throws aside his religious training because he’s seen through the difficulties in the simplistic religion he was taught in Sunday School or confirmation class.

    Reply
    1. Oregoncharles

      Thank you for bringing up Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry; both have been major intellectual and literary influences in my life; Snyder really the more of the two. I’ve met him repeatedly, starting when I was in college in the 60’s; it was his alma mater, too, a few years before. And his son lived in my town for a while.

      Permit me to wax nostalgic: Snyder gave a reading in my town a few years ago. The large hall was packed to the rafters; appropriately, he read in front of a bare brick wall that recalled 50s Beatnik coffee shops. Afterwards, people lined up with books for him to sign. I dug up some chapbooks he published back in the 60s; I thought he’d enjoy seeing them. The people near me in line were certainly taken with them. I think he was pleased; he commented, thoughtfully, that “we didn’t print very many of these;” and when I regretted that my small son had “decorated” one, he thought that very appropriate. I hope he’s still well; must be well into his 80s.

      I think it’s worth mentioning that he was very much a “deplorable;” grew up in little NW logging towns.

      Reply
      1. Henry Moon Pie

        As a young man, he seems to have lived the life of a Wob organizer, or, if he had written songs instead of poetry and carried a guitar, Woody.

        It is striking to read what Snyder was saying as far back as the 60s (at the Houseboat Summit, for example) about what we were doing to the Earth.

        Reply
      2. KLG

        I also study both, but life history and temperament lead me somewhat closer to Wendell Berry than Gary Snyder. I was fortunate to see and hear Wendell Berry many times during a long sojourn in Kentucky. “Spiritual maturity” indeed describes each of these men and one can go wrong with neither, but Wendell Berry seems much more concerned with directly addressing how our way of material life has driven us into this deep ditch, which becomes more like a crevasse with each passing day…The “laws” of political economy are not. They are choices we make, almost entirely bad, with predictable and lethal consequences for the people and the earth.

        Reply
      3. Charlotte

        I was lucky enough to study with Gary at UC Davis back in the 90s. He’s apparently in good health, just came down for the ASLE conference in Davis last week. He gave me the best advice anyone has — to find a place where I could buy and pay off a house, because cheap housing attracts artists, and if you own your place, you don’t have to go teach in places you don’t want to live.
        He’s really been the guiding light for my little town-homesteading project, and I’ll always be grateful for how kind to me he was when I was a panicky young writer.

        Reply
    2. Norb

      Thanks for that characterization of spiritual maturity. Its such an important point and you expressed it beautifully.

      Reply
    3. Abi

      Very interesting

      I’m currently watching a sermon on stages of faith on YouTube, your description is very illuminating.

      Stages of faith = levels of maturity, I really like that

      Reply
    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > His argument is that everyone lives by “faith,” which he defines as a worldview through which we encounter and interpret life and its experiences.

      To me, that seems a little watered-down. One doesn’t die in a crusade for a worldview (though clearly, as with neoliberalism, one can cause others to die). And the major faiths seem to require embodiment in a charismatic personality, whether Christ, Mohammed, or the Buddha. (Or the Virgin Mary, etc.) So I’m not sure that worldview alone gives an account of the force, including the political force, of faith.

      (One reason I like animism is that if it ever kills anybody, it does it in onesies and twosies, locally.)

      Reply
  5. Michael Hudson

    At that Democratic convention, Liz Th. told me that Rev. Barber was told he had to praise Hillary, and he refused to give in, insisting that he say what he wanted to say.
    I’ve appeared with Liz’s group a number of times, and NC has posted my discussion about biblical debt cancellations that she organized a few months go in NYC at their meeting place, which I found quite impressive.
    The religious mainstream organizations and seminaries seem worried that they might turn religion into a moral resource hitherto untapped.

    Reply
    1. flora

      The religious mainstream organizations and seminaries seem worried that they might turn religion into a moral resource hitherto untapped.

      The irony.

      Reply
      1. WheresOurTeddy

        If you read the red type, you realize it’s in red because Christ was a socialist. The angriest he ever got was at rich people.

        I never tire of pointing those two things out to Christians. It makes them so mad when you know their book better than they do and you don’t even believe it.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > If you read the red type, you realize it’s in red because Christ was a socialist.

          I like the concept, which is brilliant, but I could use some examples. At least in the “Old Testament,” I have never understood why some type is red; it seems quite random.

          Reply
    2. WheresOurTeddy

      Mr. Hudson, thank you for your writings which have affected me significantly as well as many people I have sent them to over the years. We’ll get this Overton Window yanked left one way or another.

      Solidarity from California.

      Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The religious mainstream organizations and seminaries seem worried that they might turn religion into a moral resource hitherto untapped.

      Film at 11! I’m sure it’s been said, no doubt in work I’ve missed, but Matt 6:12: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (“debts,” and not the glozing “trespasses”) probably says a lot about the political economy of Israel in Jesus’s time, and “debts” was probably meant quite literally.

      UPDATE Also the Convention anecdote: Clinton is playing the role of Pharisee as if she were born to do it.

      Reply
  6. Susan Mulloy

    Thank you for this info and analysis, Lambert. Rev. Barber is the real thing IMO. And he is not organizing the PPC to prop up his personal power. The PPC brings a valuable partner to our efforts to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly. Even though you may be angry at organized religion, do accept these true Christians as valuable companions in our life’s journey.

    Reply
    1. Henry Moon Pie

      “to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly”

      Mishpat is a wonderful word.

      I love that verse from Micah.

      Reply
      1. Susan Mulloy

        Hi Henry, what does Mishpat mean? I also love this verse from Micah (6:8). It applies to all of us regardless of our theological stance.

        Reply
  7. Stanley Dundee

    This seems like a good prompt to revisit the the Pelagians, from around 400 AD, one of whom wrote in the marvellous essay On Riches:

    Get rid of the rich man, and you will not be able to find a poor one. Let no man have more than he really needs, and everyone will have as much as they need, since the few who are rich are the reason for the many who are poor. (p. 194)

    Reply
  8. RBHoughton

    Michael Hudson has advice for you old chap, if you have time to read his ” ….. and forgive them their debts.” It turns out that the Catholics and Protestants of all flavors overlook an important part of the Christian message about debt jubilees. Overturning the money tables of the Rabbi-approved bankers in the temple was in pursuit of a fairer economic system such as had been common in the Bronze Age.

    Hudson reveals the precedent cause of the collapse of first Athens, then Rome, then Constantinople and now us is the oligarchy of each civilisation favoring creditors and writing laws that advantage them and punish / enslave debtors. The result is the accumulation of global wealth on a small class of people with the rest of the population in poverty and careless of the country in which they live.

    Its a great pleasure to see Mr Hudson is reading this NC article. Good luck to him. Any errors in this note are mine.

    Reply
    1. Clive

      And, so we can hope, strangling at birth the emerging neoliberalism/authoritarianism mash-up the keeps threatening to replace it.

      Reply
    2. Norb

      That billionaire collapse can only happen if people start joining more social organizations geared toward building the common good, and refrain from celebrity worship. Humble people stand out in such situations and put billionaire “leaders” to shame.

      Without that experience of building something of worth that wasn’t centered on personal greed, the evil pattern of exploitation just repeats itself, or is hijacked by the unscrupulous.

      Reply
  9. notabanktoadie

    This seems very different from “For ye have the poor always with you” (Matt 26:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8). lambert

    This is not to excuse poverty but as an indictment of that generation since:

    However, there will be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today. Deuteronomy 15:4-5 [New American Standard Bible (NASB) [bold added]

    However obedience included the following:

    “You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess. Deuteronomy 23:19-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB) [bold added]

    Draw your own conclusion then as to whether government privileges for a usury cartel are Biblical.

    Reply
  10. Wombat

    James could have been the first century PPC leader. Oddly missing from most sermons is this passage (instead we worship the rich for their “ingenuity” and “work ethic”):

    James 5:1-5 (NIV)

    Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.

    Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.

    Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.

    Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.

    You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.

    Reply
  11. Hayek's Heelbiter

    NC crowd source question:

    I’ve tried to find a statistical analysis of Jesus’s sayings by key word / topic but have been coming up empty. Somehow I suspect he mentioned compassion a lot more than homosexuality but I would love to have some hard numbers to back it up.

    Anybody have any ideas?

    But should any one have any doubt that America is not a Christian nation and Neo-liberalism has been endorsed by the divine, they need only to read Matthew 13:12 and Mark 4:25.

    “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

    Reply
    1. notabanktoadie

      And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” Matthew 13:10-12 NASB

      The context here is not wealth but knowledge of Scripture.

      And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” Mark 4:24-25

      Likewise.

      Reply
    2. Arizona Slim

      Back in the late 1980s, a gay friend proudly showed me one of his books. The title: What Jesus Said About Homosexuality.

      It was a blank book.

      Reply
  12. rob

    I wish the PPC and rev Barber all the luck in the world….. they are going to need it.
    It always seemed to me that when MLK was killed, he was doing the work of his PPC. The leadership of everything seems to be against the actual implementation of “rights” to the people. After all, wasn’t our american revolution supposedly like a “poor people’s campaign”…. as opposed to the rich landed aristocracy and kingly nobility?
    But our founding father’s instead created a republic that was led by “other rich white men”…. over everyone else….
    When barber first showed up being a beacon at the NC state legislature, he was protesting the republican take-over of this state(north carolina),and the abomination that that means in every practical way…. After a decade of republican corruption and devolution of a once better state…..we still have a large percentage of voters who approve… and are supporters of everything barber is protesting.
    We also have a recent supreme court decision which says that the gerrymandering which has allowed the take over of the state ,at the local level….. is fine. The supreme kangaroo court in the land, doesn’t see fit to be involved in elections or allowing people to be fairly represented. But at least they decided to keep time to decide who can buy/sell alcohol in a state known for its distilleries.or something…

    The poor peoples campaign is the same as everyone who is not in the top 10%-15% of the economy. All the over paid upper managers who oversee the population for their slave masters.
    and considering rev barber supposedly suffers from some debilitating pain issues , hopefully this movement will get stronger whoever is at the charge.
    And this is also from an avowed non believer- who really thinks religion has to be “taught” out at the public education level as to the fraud it has been for millennia.

    But we are getting nowhere, with these issues for the public good. SOME People may be aware of the issues…. but most are fed the daily propaganda… and their opinions fall right in line with the media disseminated talking points.

    Reply
  13. kareninca

    I thought Liberal Quakerism was the natural refuge for obsessive over thinkers who are desperate for political and social justice. That’s where I ended up. The local meeting is I would guess about 30 percent Christian, ten percent Jewish, some Buddhist, some pagan, heavily agnostic. But not atheist, since we sit waiting for the Inner Light. But no consumerism, and an extremely large amount of time devoted to political lobbying, especially anti war. It’s not for everyone of course since there is no minister and there are no rituals and no dogma. And it is not a sect that proselytizes.

    (this is not proselytizing; just mentioning a never mentioned religion that tries to effect political change)

    Reply
    1. Susan Mulloy

      Hi Karen: Let a hundred flowers bloom (or is it thousands?). We have so much to gain from learning and respecting all the ways humans have tried to understand the mystery of life. Thank you for mentioning the Quakers. Such a fine tradition.

      Reply
  14. rob

    one natural ally of the poor people’s campaign is the monetary reform movement.
    the poor and someday to be poor; middle class,both are in the loser’s position of our current monetary system.
    All the good causes, are financially starved…. so as to be impotent. This is not a bug, but a feature(as they say around here)… of our current monetary system and structure of who gets to create money and choose what it is used for…. and has the first chance to get that money for whatever they want, for almost nothing..the lowest interest rate…

    https://www.monetaryalliance.org

    Reply
  15. Durak Kniseley

    I co-organized Philly DSA’s participation as a sponsor of the PPC’s 40 days of action in PA last June. We brought 25 ppl from Philly to Harrisburg on a Monday for the rally and actions. I did the civil disobedience and it was a great experience, very powerful. More powerful was watching the 5-6 year organizing project to actually have poor people—across red/blue county lines, and across every identity category— being leaders at the center of the movement work. Seeing this organizing, done through Put People First, was amazing. I thought it was important to put us DSAers in touch with religious tendencies on the progressive/left side of things, and also see that type of organizing, which is so foreign to Philly DSA (but not necessarily all of DSA). I got all kinds of critiques from other DSAers, including how PPC is “funded by Bank of America” vis the Kairos Center, which takes Ford Foundation money, etc. I thought these were of concern but the benefit outweighed cost in organizing and education terms.

    Reply

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