🎙 Interview With Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis on We Cry Justice
I trust you are finding ways to remain grounded and faithful in your lives. We are doing our best to do the same through this challenging season.
I have been working on something I am excited to share with you this week, a guest interview with my friend and teacher Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. Many of you know Liz from her work as the co-chair, along with Rev. Dr. William J Barber II, of the Poor People's Campaign. Something long-time readers of this newsletter know that I am both passionate about and involved in.
Liz edited the recently published the book, "We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People's Campaign," and it is absolutely fantastic on many accounts. Not only would make for great personal study and reflection, but would be perfect for 53 weeks of sermons, group discussions, and great for organizations and communities looking to get more serious about addressing poverty where they are.
I cannot recommend the book enough, and it's not just because I also wrote for it, there really are some of the most inspiring leaders, pastors, activists in this book and I really want you to know them all.
Check it out for yourself below and see what you think.
Blessings to each of you,
Haw River Watershed (Greensboro, NC)
We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People's Campaign
Edited by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People's Campaign Fall 2021 by Broadleaf Books
We Cry Justice contains over 53 contributors writing and reflecting on what the Bible really has to say about God's call to bring an end to poverty. I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute two chapters on the book of Revelation (one on Chapter 13 and the Mark of the Beast and one of Chapter 18's Cargo List). I reached out to my friend and teacher in all things anti-poverty, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and asked if she would do an interview for the news letter.
Here is what we talked about.
What was the motivation behind the We Cry Justice?
Since beginning to organize as part of a movement to end poverty, people have said to me that our goals are too ambitious, that demands for human rights and human dignity are both politically inconceivable and impossibly expensive. They quote the Bible, arguing that since Jesus said “the poor will be with you always,” it can’t be God’s will for everyone to share in the abundance of our world.
But when we, the diverse grouping of contributors to this book, read the Bible, from Genesis through the New Testament is a constant revelation of God’s will that no one should be made hungry, sick, homeless, underpaid, indebted, or bereft by the violence of social injustice. We read an ongoing indictment of those who would take and keep the wealth of our world for themselves and cause others to suffer. We hear the biblical command to “fill the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53), not simply as “caring for the poor” as an end result, but by building a movement and advocating for policies and structures that lift the load of poverty - admonishing nations to “do no wrong to the immigrant, the homeless, the children. And do not shed innocent blood” (Jeremiah 22:3).
Indeed, throughout sacred scripture—including the codes, policies, and laws/regulations contained within the Bible as well as in the prophets, gospels, letters—there is a clarion call to end exploitation and to attend to the poor. That ending poverty is possible.
But we live in a nation where there are 140 million people who are poor or who are one fire, health crisis, job loss, storm, away from deep poverty, where 26 million people reported not having enough to eat in a nation where 72 billion pounds of food goes to waste each year. Where police violence, climate chaos, the militarization of the world and our communities is wreaking havoc on the lives and livelihoods of so many people. In truth, these are exactly the times when prophets rise up to remind us of God’s demand for justice—and God’s judgment of those whose power and wealth rests on the dispossession of the rest of society. Jesus’ ministry began in a time like ours, when the Roman Empire was strangling millions of poor people and calling it peace.
What would you say is the most important thing you hope people take away from We Cry Justice?
That a core theme of our sacred texts is about liberation, justice and the political, moral and epistemological agency of poor and low-wealth leaders to lead a revival of our deepest moral values and transform life for the better for everyone.
How did you go about choosing authors and texts to focus on?
The contributors to We Cry Justice as leaders from many different walks of life engaged in the work of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival as well as the Kairos Center's Reading the Bible with the Poor Cohort. The group is diverse religiously, geographically, racially, by age, sexuality and issue area. It includes ordained faith leaders, scholars, activists and many who are directly impacted by systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the false narrative of religious nationalism. Many of the contributors had shared reflections at Freedom Church of the Poor services or had spoken to the themes of the book in other organizing contexts.
How would you like for people to use and approach this book?
The book can be used as a personal daily devotional or as the basis for group study. It's aim is to deepen each person's understanding and commitment of what the Bible really has to say about poverty, racism, injustice. It can be an introduction to the movement for those not yet involved; it can help provide biblical and theological foundations for a movement for those approaching the movement from a faith perspective; it can demonstrate how God is still speaking through the lives and actions of the poor for those engaged in long-term movement building.
Anything stand out to you as new or different about We Cry Justice that you feel particularly excited about?
Each of the 53 chapters shares insights and inspiration on biblical texts and the texts of our lives. I'm so excited to have such an amazing group of leaders published in this book all together. As we often say in the work, "Movements begin with the telling of untold stories". Many of the biblical stories and stories of poor and low-income people organizing today have not been told in these ways until now. I hope they help develop each reader's consciousness, capacity, commitment and connection as we move "Forward together, not one step back!"
If folks reading this newsletter would like to get more plugged into the work you and others are doing what is a good next step for them to take?
Please go to www.poorpeoplescampaign.org and www.kairoscenter.org to get involved in the work and sign up for our enewsletters. And please join us for Wednesday evening Bible study (6pm ET) and Sunday evening Freedom Church of the Poor (6pm ET) services.
The Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis is Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival with the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. She is the Director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary. She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Rev. Dr. Theoharis is the editor of We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign (Broadleaf Press, 2021). She is the author of Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor (Eerdmans, 2017) and co-author of Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing (Beacon, 2018). She has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Guardian, The Nation, The Hill, Boston Review, CNN, Religion News Service, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, the Grio, La Jornada, Salon, Slate, and elsewhere.
🔗 Dress Down Friday Links
Links fun, casual, and sometimes eye-opening and serious for you to check out.
Wess Daniels speaks on Renewing Quaker Education for Friend's Council On Education Post Detail - Friend's Council On Education
8 Theses on The Cottage Door - by Diana Butler Bass - The Cottage — dianabutlerbass.substack.com Re-formation for a loving, humble, and hopeful faith
Your White Neighbor’s “Black Lives Matter” Yard Sign Is Not Enough — inthesetimes.com While I was living in Portland, Oregon, I was asked to teach To Kill a Mockingbird to a group of middle schoolers during a Black History Month freelance gig. The students were bright and eager.
Octavia Estelle Butler: Notetaking as Science Fiction — fortelabs.co Octavia Estelle Butler was born in 1947 in Pasadena, CA. Known in her early years as “Estelle,” she was raised by a single, widowed mother who worked domestic jobs to make ends meet.
The premise of this book is simple: the best way to become better at drawing is to draw, a lot. Through tracing, guides, repetition and incrementally increasing the difficulty, you will begin to learn and remember the basics. Begin by tracing the drawings and then using the guidelines to harness your own creations.
Starflyer 59's plainspoken words are the window into Jason Martin's old soul — www.npr.org The artist revisits five songs across his extensive discography of heavy shoegaze and dreamy rock and roll, processing life, faith and purpose.
🧠 One Final Thought from Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
"The title itself, We Cry Justice, grows out of a phrase often placed on the lips of the ancient prophets. The prophets were often described as crying: crying out, crying loud, crying on behalf of God. This cry had at least two dimensions. One is the cry of weeping and hurt because of the conditions of injustice, poverty, and pain perpetrated by forces of empire and deception. Sometimes the prophets like Jeremiah would say, "Oh that my
head were a fountain of tears that I might cry on behalf of Israel." Jesus, in the Gospels, is described as crying over the city of Jerusalem because it has left undone the weightier matters of justice and faith, choosing to kill prophets rather than hear them. This sounds strangely similar to America today.
The other type of crying has the characteristic of a shout--a piercing yell that cuts through all of the noise of injustice and indifference. It is a blast like a trumpet, sounding an alarm. God tells the prophet Isaiah to cry loud and spare not and to tell the nation of her sins. This is the way Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, and many others then and now cry for justice. We have so many criers like this in the Poor People's Campaign.
For those of us in the faith, the Bible is not just a book. It is, as one hymn writer said, the "mighty word of God." As you read this book and reflect on its contents, we invite you to join us in the Poor People's Campaign as we cry for justice.
Bishop William J. Barber II, DMin, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and cochair of the Poor People's Campaign (from the forward of We Cry Justice)
☕️ Thank you for Supporting This Newsletter
Please support and donate to the Poor People's Campaign – A National Call for Moral Revival — www.poorpeoplescampaign.org A National Call for Moral Revival