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
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.