Grief at the Heart of a Moral Movement: A Personal Meditation for 2016

RevBarberwithMaryEvelyn
 

In a violent and fragmented society, sometimes the grief is so deep that I cannot help responding as a father as well as a Christian pastor and a political leader. All of the children are our children, whether it is a baby shot amid a senseless crime in Chapel Hill or a child shot in two seconds by a trigger happy cop in Cleveland.

 

There is a time for prophetic grief.  As I heard the news about the Ohio prosecutor’s decision to not bring charges against the police officers who shot 12 year-old Tamir Rice, I got a call from a friend asking for a comment on the death of Maleah Williams, a one-year old killed on Christmas Day by a drive-by shooting in a North Carolina housing project. I told him I could not comment. My rage and lamentation went beyond any words I could offer.

 

Though I had plenty to say, I could hear the Bible’s admonition against speaking out of wrath. I know, too, that grieving precedes but does not preclude moral action.  As I hung up the phone, I let the tears flow and sat still as the reality of black death washed over me.

 

I picked up Dr. Cornel West’s Prophesy Deliverance and read that opening line in the third chapter which seared its truth upon my memory the first time I read it because the reality was already imprinted upon my soul: “The notion that black people are human beings is a relatively new discovery in the modern West.”

 

Black people’s humanity is still at question in the stories so many of us hear and tell in America.  For many with a badge, a gun, and the legal shield of the state, black men and women—even black children—are not humans.  Instead black bodies are threats and targets for rage, fear and racially-justified execution. When an officer of the law exterminates on the spot, we must ask ourselves what he was shooting. In his mind, Tamir could not have been a boy. He could not have been human. What did he see? And who bewitched him (and us) to “see things” when we are entirely sober?

 

One of my friends, a prophetic journalist from Missouri, Rev. Carl Kenny, sent me this after a reader of his column told him the grand jury worked properly:

 

My reader is affirming this opinion in a way that challenges us to move beyond these incidents as individual cases. These deaths are not about the guilt of the victims or the innocence of the police. Tamir’s death may not be about his age or the fact the gun was a toy. These cases may involve the common sentiment among those chosen to rule on these cases.

 

Black people deserve to die.

 

Black people deserve to be punished for being black. The evidence doesn’t matter. The background of the person is insignificant. The experience and training of police officers fails to change the conclusion. What is the conclusion? In the minds of some who are called to serve and protect, it is a crime to be black. In the minds of some who serve on grand juries, when police kill a black person, they are simply doing their job.

 

Those who have not sat in tears might read Rev. Kenny’s words as a cry of despair. I do not. In light of Dr. West’s insight, I read them as damnation towards the injustice of racially-driven death. The preacher is cursing as the preacher should—damning that which is damnable in our sin-sick society.

 

The refusal to indict is itself an indictment. It is a perverse admission that, when it comes to race and racism, far too many in America cannot handle the truth. We would rather look away and let it pass.  Our false prophets cry “peace, peace” where there is no peace, while power brokers continue to be enslaved by false notions of justice and pacified by illusions of fairness so we might exist in a state of denial and the counterfeit worship of American exceptionalism.

 

Prophetic mourning demands that we be neither comfortable nor cynical in the face of violent death.  We must mourn over it and we must stand against it. Pope Francis challenges us in Laudato Si “to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening in the world into our own personal suffering, and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”  And so today we mourn and tomorrow we work to transform crucifixion into resurrection and become what the prophet Isaiah calls “the repairers of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”

 

The first act of a free people must be to lament the painful reality of our world. This is the only path to liberation. We must mourn our collective refusal to even seek the truth before a jury with cross examination as a horrendous hypocrisy that will haunt the American soul until we repent and change our wicked ways.

 

We must grieve the two seconds in which a child was accused, tried, convicted and sentenced to death by a system that, upon appeal, upheld the “lower court’s” decision.

 

We must curse the mockery of equal justice which proclaims that black death does not matter.

 

But we cannot stop there. Because Tamir is not the only child we have lost. Maleah, a precious black baby girl, is also dead. And she was killed by young black men. I must confess, this is the other side of my righteous anger and grief. If state-sanctioned police are killing our babies, why in the hell are some us helping them? (Again, it is the preacher’s responsibility to curse that which is damnable.) What kind of demon causes you to participate in your own genocide?

 

I know some will say that these young men are so consumed by society’s hatred that they even hate themselves. But my grief refuses to hear what society did and how it is to blame. Our people made it through slavery without killing one another. Don’t tell me poverty makes you kill a baby. “Upbringing” doesn’t make you kill a baby. Evil kills babies.

 

A prophetic, moral voice must cry out against this evil, too. The problem is not just “they.” It is us—all of us—and nothing short of a moral revolution of values will save us from the destruction that is to come.

 

More guns will not save us. Neither will Better gun laws and criminal justice reform. What America needs is a revival to heal our soul and bring together a new vision of beloved community. We need spaces where we sit down together in our neighborhoods, young and old, black, white and brown, rich and poor, Republican, Democrat and Independent to talk about who we’ve been and who we want to be. We need transformational coalitions where we listen to other people’s pain and internalize their hopes to the point that their issues become our issues.

 

And after we’ve sat down to mourn and dream together, we need to stand together before school boards and City Councils. We need to assemble on our state house lawns and shout aloud with Langston Hughes, “American never was America to me / and yet I swear this oath, / America will be!” We will become the nation we’ve not yet been only by recovering the Movement mentality that gave rise to America’s First and Second Reconstructions. The hope we can believe in will not be on the ballot in 2016. But that does not mean we can’t work together toward it. If we give ourselves to prophetic lament, it can lead us to the Movement building that will give rise to a Third Reconstruction.

 

This moral revolution of values is what I’m devoting myself to in 2016. But I am a father as well as a pastor and political leader. I have to talk to my five children who keep asking me, “Dad, do they want to kill us all?” These are the precious lives I have to protect from thugs among the police and bangers in the hood, even as I continue to get threats from racists who would rather see me dead than challenge lies and speak the truth in love. Only a new society can make us all safe. Together we have to build that society because all children are our children.

 

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About the Author

William Barber

William BarberWilliam J. Barber II is author, with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, of The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement.View all posts by William Barber →

  • otrotierra

    Thank you Dr. Barber for yet another Jesus-centered call for revolution. I look forward to more of your commentaries right here at RLC. Your message and ministry are needed here.

    • Vince

      Where in scripture does Jesus call for revolution?

  • WFU86

    Barber’s such a divisive guy, but he is spot on that neither guns nor gun laws are the answer. Only revival…seeking the face of God as a nation…will bring the future we all pray for.

    • Wm Barber

      The scripture is from Isaiah 58 and yes God does call for revolutuon. And as far as the peron who said im divisive thats strange since our moral movement has brought together black white latino republican democrat poor rich gay straight etc. Coukd it be you are misinformed and wrongfully sowing discord yourself by saying things that are your opinion but not rooted in fact. As a christian you should be better than that

      • choctaw_chris

        Jesus said that his followers would be slandered and thrown out of the synagogues. Jesus also said he came with a sword to divide. The synagogues Jesus referred to were where his followers worshipped, so they would be the equivalent of Christian churches. The division Jesus sought was between light and darkness so you can be proud to be criticized and accused of being divisive because you are challenging the darkness and being hated for it.

        • Wm Barber

          Indeed i am thankful and deeply humbled even being counted among those critized for trying to stand with Jesus

          • otrotierra

            Indeed, Isaiah 58. How terribly unpopular!

          • WFU86

            Isaiah 58 is a great chapter, even if it isn’t “red letters.”

        • Vince

          This is the scariest thing about Christianity. If someone disagrees with you then you are working for God. You don’t need to consider their disagreement. They are wrong and not really Christians and you are faithful and being used by God. This is the thinking that leads to division and eventually bombings when gone to the extreme. We should all consider why others are disagreeing with us and not tell them they are not good enough Christians as Barber told WFU.

          • choctaw_chris

            I question why WFU thought it necessary to call Barber divisive unless he considers the truth to be so. If you think there can be any justification for the killer of Tamir Rice to not stand trial then I question your moral compass. You can make a general case for not labelling others but in this case I feel fully justified. Let WFU defend his position and we’ll get closer to the truth. The scariest thing is when even plain truth is challenged by Christians with an agenda. Are we about winning arguments or establishing God’s kingdom?

          • WFU86

            We all have a tendency to use of our faith to justify our own deeply held beliefs, when it should really be the other way around – our faith should shape and challenge our beliefs. We read the Bible, hoping to get validation for what we already believe. I do it. Rev. Barber does it and I’m sure you’ve done it. I’ve apologized to Rev. Barber for my choice of words, but my comment was based on his history of posts here a RLC, which I often see as hyper-political.

          • choctaw_chris

            That’s a good reply. I don’t agree that faith challenging beliefs is a one way street though. I think the challenge should be both ways. Faith is strengthened when proved by experience and critically and honestly assessed. The Bible itself asks us to think on what it says so that we can be assured of its validity.

          • WFU86

            I agree completely. If I didn’t want to challenge my faith, I wouldn’t be here.

          • Frank

            There was nothing criminal involved in the tragic shooting of Tamir Rice.

          • choctaw_chris

            Of course not. He was shot by a policeman so that couldn’t be criminal.

          • Frank

            It wasn’t criminal because no crime was committed.

            It seems many need to reread the story about crying wolf.

          • choctaw_chris

            You need to understand what the issue is. A child was shot dead in 2 seconds with no questions asked. He was not administered first aid and the cop who shot him had already been condemned by his previous force.

            In a decent society he would have faced charges to assess whether he acted lawfully or not. The prosecutor didn’t do his job. He actually assumed that because it was a police shooting that it couldn’t be criminal. That is beyond belief.

            You are acting as judge and jury with no consideration for the grief of the parents of Tamir Rice – shame on you. The question isn’t whether it was criminal or not, the question is: how can a society be tolerated that doesn’t act justly?

          • Frank

            Police were responding to a call about a person with a gun. They see the person in question, a 5’7″ 195lb person who is pulling out a gun when they arrived. They shot this person and he died. Nothing criminal at all.

            Do officers need better training? Yes
            Did relevant info about the possibility of it being a toy gun make it to the officers? No
            Could they have acted differently? Yes
            Do people who do not put their lives on the line daily and who could be killed if they hesitate have a better perspective to criticize these officers? No.

            I don’t think anyone, including the officers involved who are not mourning this tragedy. Does this have anything to do with the criminality of the case? No.

          • choctaw_chris

            You have still made a judgement based on what you know and on your assumptions. The whole thing stinks to high heaven and it clearly looks like the prosecutor (note: ‘prosecutor’) made no effort to go for a trial and every effort to deny one. Let the officer stand trial. If there was no criminal offence proven then justice will at least appear to have been done.

            The family are not asking for a conviction they just want justice and you would deny them that. Why do police officers almost never stand trial? Because the prosecutors have a vested interest in letting them off. Your criminal justice system is broken and your police are above the law. That should be an affront to any Christians who know their Bible.

          • Frank

            What is justice? Accusing someone of a crime they didn’t commit? Wasting time, money and reputations to make people feel better? Nothing will bring Tamir back.

            You can’t try every police shooting in one case. Every case is unique and should be treated as such.

            Yes I made a judgment based on what I know. You’ve have done the same. So has everyone else with an opinion.

          • WFU86

            With all respect, people asking for a trial are doing so because they expect a conviction. A not guilty verdict would be wholly unacceptable and not considered justice.

          • choctaw_chris

            Respectfully that’s really not the point. The whole thing looks totally wrong, from the shooting in 2 seconds to the prosecutor throwing the grand jury which is virtually unheard of when its not a cop in the dock. There are plenty of other factors that make this stink. So there are very good reasons why the family want justice. And that is the point. Families of black victims of cop shootings assume that they are not going to get justice and cops assume they will not be brought to justice. That is completely unacceptable and a stain on America – the land of the free if you are white or wealthy.

          • WFU86

            Sounds like you’re already convinced of the officer’s guilt and see the prosecutor as an accomplice. Could you find any justice in a not guilty verdict? And be honest with yourself before answering.

          • choctaw_chris

            My impression is that the officer is guilty but what is he guilty of? If he has not broken the law then he cannot be prosecuted so the focus is then on the law and we have a debate. But the prosecutor’s complicity has denied justice on all fronts. He is an enemy of justice. So, honestly, maybe I won’t find justice in a not guilty verdict but at least the families have something to work with. The complete denial of justice turns them into zombies, with no closure, no hope, no faith. That’s a death sentence on society.

          • WFU86

            Good points, I agree. It feels like there should be a neutral arbiter in cases where the police themselves are involved. The prosecutor’s day to day life depends on cooperation with the police, so he/she will always be biased in their favor, one would guess.

          • choctaw_chris

            Well we agree on something. I wonder what the reaction would be from the police union if a law was proposed that police always face an unconnected prosecutor.

          • WFU86

            Glad we agree on something. I have a feeling we might agree on the Union’s response as well.

          • JC is a lefty

            This post is spot on

          • Wm Barber

            Ok i wont respond anymore because ridiculous statementa in the face of such a tragic death borders on …..i want fill in the blank. In jesus name

          • WFU86

            Ridiculous? Come on, man. People that object to the Grand Jury’s decision aren’t doing so because they want more court proceedings. They’re doing it because they think the Grand Jury got it wrong. They believe the officers are guilty and want them convicted. Period.

          • choctaw_chris

            No! People are mad as hell because the prosecutors are not doing their job. The grand jury is a joke when it comes to trying cops and any honest observer can see that. Your cops are out of control, your politicians are bought, your justice system is utterly corrupt and an unspeakable evil is overtaking America. And you are not challenging it. God help America.

          • JC is a lefty

            Amen excellent post ashame some ignore justice

          • Vince

            I am challenging it by preaching the real gospel. Not by acts of social justice. Freeing the American slaves was great and a good work but without people being eternally saved, someone will be enslaved again in America. Just think if all of the 80% of Americans that call themselves Christians were actually Christians what this country would be like. It is how it is because the American church refuses to stand up for the gospel, we allow prosperity preaching, works salvation, seeker sensitive churches, mega churches that preach materialism, social justice gospel, Unitarianism etc. and we say nothing because we are afraid of being called divisive. We are to be peace makers not peace keepers.

          • JC is a lefty

            Peace keeping huh by attacking other churches… Ok

          • Vince

            We are called to be peacemakers not peacekeepers. If Jesus was a peacekeeper he would have gone along to get along with the Pharisees. But widge, you have a long history here of seeing disagreement as attacks.

          • choctaw_chris

            I agree that prosperity preaching and mega churches are a stain on the church. But Jesus talked of social justice. He said that many will say “Lord, Lord” and prophesy in his name but he does not know them. He says that when we visit the sick and those in prison, when we clothe the naked and feed the starving we are doing God’s work. As James says, faith without works is dead. Its not a case of earning your salvation through good deeds but producing the fruits of the Spirit if, indeed, you have the spirit of God.

            Where is the good news when prisons are run for profit, when people die or are made bankrupt for lack of health insurance, when police are trained to shoot first and ask questions later, when Wall Street, Billionaires and gun manufacturers run Washington? When Christians lose their saltiness they are good for nothing. The Bible says to love your neighbour, care for the alien, the widows and orphans. If being a Christian just means praying the ABC prayer then its worthless.

            Where is the John the Baptist of our day, challenging those in authority to act decently?

          • Vince

            You link good works to salvation. You say good works are not needed but then you say if you don’t do good works as you define them then you aren’t really a Christian. Same as Barber does. The scripture you quoted is about false converts, another big theme in the New Testament, not people not doing good works. Your interpretation of that scripture exposes your works based theology in my opinion.

            Good works and social justice are not synonymous. Good works as defined in the bible are taking care of your family, being a good worker, caring for your neighbor etc. you define good works as these grand social justice issues which they can be, but people do not have to do them to be doing good works. Where does Jesus organize huge protests to force Rome to be just? You do see him fighting for the correct faith in God.

            My social justice good works are taking care of the unborn. Trying to stop the slaughter of thousands per day. Something that barber, Shane and maybe yourself really don’t think is a good work. I certainly think what you see as good works are good works and I am glad different parts of the body are doing different things. We all don’t have to do the same good works.

          • choctaw_chris

            I’ll take this point by point:
            1. The Bible makes repeated references to the righteous and the unrighteous, sheep and goats, the saints and unbelievers. Jesus clearly says that those who do good will enter the kingdom of heaven and those who do evil will be thrown out. I think we agree that anyone who says they are born again and show no sign of conversion are false. Therefore an indication of genuine conversion is the fruits of the Spirit and good works. Good works don’t earn your salvation but they are the fruits of such. James says that your faith counts for nothing if there is no evidence of good works. Its a chicken and egg scenario. You either discount James as a letter of straw or you accept that good works goes hand in hand with your faith.

            2. Jesus didn’t petition Rome but he held governments to account. We cannot insist on governments being Christian (they belong to the world system) but we can, as citizens, demand they act justly and in the interest of their citizens. The US constitution strictly forbids any test of faith so cannot be asked to pass laws based on religious principles but we live in democracies and as citizens it is our duty to call our governments to account. Otherwise we commit a sin of omission. When we watch our neighbour being subject to injustice and look the other way we bear responsibility.

            3. I’ve deliberately tried to keep to the issue of justice. The pro-life debate is very flammable and off topic so I won’t debate this with you except to say that the Bible says very little about the unborn. However it is very explicit when it comes to children and reserves the harshest of punishments for those who would harm or pervert them. So when someone claims to be pro-life and is not torn up by the issue of child poverty, infant mortalities and gun deaths in the home is a hypocrite. America has the highest child poverty rate in the developed world and the highest gun deaths per capita. The likelihood of a black child ending up in prison at some point is absolutely scandalous.

            When America starts to tackle these issues with any credibility then talk to me about abortion. Stop feeding me camels before you ask me to strain gnats.

          • redletterchristians

            This comment was edited for length.

          • WFU86

            Can you repost a shorter version? I agree that works are the fruit of our faith…and I think Vince does too. I would love to see where else you were headed.

          • choctaw_chris

            I’ve replied to Vince on the 3rd point. I don’t think we are going to agree on the first. My 2nd point was that as citizens in a democracy we have a duty to see that justice is done and when we look the other way we are as guilty as anyone else. There can be no such thing as a Christian government because all governments are part of the world system but we can be salt and light and by our words and deeds (and petitions to governments as well as God) we can make a difference. As Christians we stand for universal values such as respect, peace, justice and compassion. No government can disagree with this.

          • WFU86

            Thanks. I agree in principle, but I’m leery of politically inclined minds on both the left and right that have very specific agendas for what justice, compassion, etc. look like. These tend to look very different on the political spectrum and yet both sides claim to have God firmly behind them. Sometimes I wonder who their true God is. Politics seems to be an idol in both extremes.

          • choctaw_chris

            Then we should seek common ground. We find our ‘way’ through ‘truth’ as our political instincts are tested by God’s light.

          • Vince

            “Jesus clearly says that those who do good will enter the kingdom of heaven and those who do evil will be thrown out”

            Uh oh, we are all hosed but grace is scandalous huh. “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

            “James says that your faith counts for nothing if there is no evidence of good works”

            Then you believe works are required for salvation. If you can’t have saving faith without works then you have to work for our salvation, period. You can’t have it both ways.

            I did see your point 3 earlier. You want to be the one who decides what a good work is. You say don’t talk to you about abortion if you are not against child poverty. Well, I don’t know who is not against child poverty. But you don’t get to decide what is a good work is and what isn’t, you also want to be the one to decide who is and who is not a Christian by judging their works.

          • choctaw_chris

            I’ll just say I’m not pro abortion as such but I hate the pro-life movement because its full of hypocrites who are ideology focused rather then people focused. On balance they do more harm than good and exemplify the double standards that Christians are often seen to embody. That’s why I want to hear Christians champion anti-war, anti gun violence, pro-justice and Islamaphobia. When the Evangelicals condemn Israeli settlements and shout down the lies of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump I will listen to the pro life argument – when society can give a decent standard of living to the mother and child they seem so concerned about until the child is born.

          • Vince

            You do know that Democrats lie too right? I believe all Christians should get out of the political arena and not vote but that is a different subject.

            We were talking about the necessity of works. My point was you judge other Christians by their works as you define them and not how the bible defines them. Do you think individual Christians have the time and resources to champion all these issues you want them to? The body of Christ is diverse and each having a different purpose at times. I fight for the unborn (you never asked how just lumped me in with a stereotype) and give free engineering services for hospitals, churches, orphanages, water systems etc, in poor countries as well as take care of my family, try to be a good husband, bring my children up in the faith and work with integrity at work, love my neighbor, pray for my enemies etc. If these are not good enough for you then so be it, but that is all I can muster.

          • WFU86

            I’m with you on prosperity teaching, but mega churches are not inherently good or bad. In Acts, the early church clearly met in small groups, but they must have also had large corporate gatherings, since there are many stories of thousands hearing the Gospel in a day. Mega churches often have tremendous resources and if they don’t use them to do good, it’s more a function of their people than their size.

          • Wm Barber

            Did you just say freeing slaves was good but has nothing to do with eternal salvation
            So if the slaves has remained slaves but got saved as you describe ot that have been the best thing?

          • Vince

            Not the best thing. Would you agree that a saved slave is better than a non-saved slave? No matter how we help people, we should always make sure they understand the saving grace of our God.

          • JC is a lefty

            You are correct

          • Bonnie Blue Crouse

            In an Open Carry state. A person with a gun is not breaking the law. Why did they shoot without assessing the situation? Why did they pull up directly even with the person carrying the gun and not give themselves even a moment to make sure that there weren’t other people with guns or for that matter, make sure if there were any unarmed people who might be in the line of fire if the police opened fire? This was a person with a gun in public in an Open Carry state. Why didn’t the NRA defend Tamir’s right to carry?

          • Frank

            He pulled the gun out when they arrived as they were responding to a report of a man with a gun threatening people. They acted reasonably under the circumstances.

          • JC is a lefty

            Amen police state here we come

          • Vince

            I make no judgement claims in that case. Question my morality if you like based on nothing. That is what politicians do to discredit the opposing view without having to discuss it.

          • choctaw_chris

            No, I am pressing you to justify your position. The article makes no case for the cop to be prosecuted but it calls into question policing policy that can justify the shooting of a 12 year old in 2 seconds by a cop who has a history of instability. This is not in a vacuum, it follows a string of killings by cops on blacks where accountability is absent.

            Questions are being asked that must be answered. Communities have a very real fear of being killed by cops for no other reason than being black. They see the justice system as betraying them and ask society at large to not look the other way or defend the indefensible.

            God is biased towards the poor and powerless and it is the lot of a true Christian to defend the oppressed and challenge the powerful. When such an incident is brought to trial and justice is seen to be done then we can have a discussion. Its time to confront the establishment and challenge the legal system which is most certainly corrupt.

          • Vince

            I have made no judgement on the case, I have not looked at the facts. I never said my opinion either way. I think you are confusing me with someone else.

            God is not biased toward the poor, liberals are. God wants all to come to saving faith.

            Where did Jesus or the first Christians challenge Rome? They challenged the religious leaders but not the governing authorities. I am not saying we should not do it, but we need to have compassion for the rich and powerful as well. What better way to change things than to convert the rich and powerful! Your and I are no better than the richest ceo’s or powerful corrupt politicians.

          • choctaw_chris

            That’s a very naive outlook. I saw Chuck Colson once and he described how the prison fellowship started. He approached all his powerful friends and asked for help but none came. It was a prisoner in the chapel praying for the governor that proved to be the catalyst. The rich and powerful have a proven record of maintaining the status quo, which is why Jesus challenged the young ruler and said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Jesus said it was the poor and meek who were blessed, not the rich and powerful. James takes a similar approach in his letter.

            The rich and powerful are no worse than me but riches and power corrupt. Don’t you also recall Jesus saying that the first will be last and the last first? And what was his mission? To release the captives, comfort the grieving and break the yoke of oppression. Yours is a rich man’s gospel which I don’t see any of the New Testament writers preaching. Call it liberal if you want but this theme runs through both testaments.

          • Frank

            When Jesus spoke of the poor and meek he was speaking about the spiritually poor, who can have a lot of money or no money at all.

          • choctaw_chris

            Nice try Frank. Contrast that with James 2:5-7 and James 5:1-6. Who are the poor in spirit, Frank?

          • Frank

            No need to try. Almost every instance of Jesus speaking about the poor he is speaking about poor in spirit.

            That’s not to say that we are not to care for the physically poor. There are plenty other biblical instances about caring for the physically poor including In James.

          • choctaw_chris

            You’ve still not explained what it means to be poor in spirit. I’d say it means those who are truly poor. Jesus had no money yet he was supported by his followers. The poor in spirit are destitute both financially and practically (like refugees or children in a shanty town. They are the disenfranchised and powerless; the desperate and the homeless.

          • Frank

            Poor in spirit is those who are spiritually poor which means those who have not given their lives to Jesus.

          • choctaw_chris

            That doesn’t make sense. How are those who are ‘dead in their sin’ blessed? What does that make of those who have given their lives to Jesus and are regenerated? Since Jesus preached this before his resurrection it would refer to everyone unless you follow Calvinist doctrine which might then refer to the chosen. If that’s the case why didn’t Jesus make that distinction? If taken with Jesus’ declaration that the last shall be first it logically means that the poor are blessed because they are rich in the kingdom of heaven. Conversely, those who are rich are admonished to relinquish their wealth in order to be rich in his kingdom too.

          • Frank

            Because it is only those who need God and recognize their need for him that are blessed.

            Accept it or not it’s reality.

          • choctaw_chris

            “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” covers your base. A natural reading of “Blessed are the poor” doesn’t fit what you are saying. The gospel is an affront to the comfortable but a refuge for the destitute, despised and disenfranchised. For white privileged Christians its a hard pill to swallow and its no wonder that the average American is being turned off religion.

          • Frank

            You are welcome to fallaciously insert race into this discussion about blessed are the poor in spirit for they need God. The main propose Jesus came to earth.

          • choctaw_chris

            I am watching a video of a black father from Chicago whose son was shot by police. The police took the father away and left the son to bleed to death. Please get back in your rat hole. I’m done with you and your putrid arguments.

          • Frank

            I am happy to discuss an entirely different case with you but I thought we were talking about the Tamir Rice case.

            I assume the moderators will flag your post. Right? Or maybe you should just edit it?

            And yes you were done awhile back.

          • redletterchristians

            This comment has been flagged for breach of comment policy

          • choctaw_chris

            I respect your decision whatever you decide.

          • JC is a lefty

            Yes true it is all kinds of poverty

          • Wm Barber

            Actually thats not accurate but a misinterpretation that was used by preachers who supoorted slavery

            But lets remember this thread began about a responce to the death of a 12 year old at the hands of a triggerr happy cop

            Atrempting to find ways to say jesus would not be concerned about justice but just soul salvation. Exposes why our country’s moral compass is so out of line

            I will sign off now

          • otrotierra

            Thank you Dr. Barber. Your Jesus-centered call for change is so desperately needed here.

          • Frank

            It’s what the text says. It’s what it is. It doesn’t require your agreement.

            Yes this is about a tragic death by tragic circumstances where no crime was committed.

            Justice ultimately is spiritual. Which is the main propose of Christ.

          • JC is a lefty

            Incorrect as proven below

          • Frank

            It’s a fact widge. Accept it or not. It doesn’t matter what you think.

          • JC is a lefty

            What are you talking about?

          • Vince

            The rich young ruler though he was perfect and sinless. Jesus exposed his self righteousness by asking him to sell everything. Jesus showed him that he was not sinless as he thought. Jesus was not making a statement about righting off the rich to salvation, he was trying to get him to saving faith.

            My gospel is an all inclusive gospel. Mine does not write off the rich and powerful as your does. If the gospel is not for everyone, then it isn’t the gospel. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

          • choctaw_chris

            Mine is inclusive because it treats all equally, regardless of wealth. But Jesus warns that where your treasure is, so is your heart. You cannot serve God and Mammon. Jesus loved the young man but told him he had one problem and it was his wealth. In itself it didn’t disqualify him but his heart was attached to it – hence the parable of the camel because that’s what wealth does.

            Jesus exposed self-righteousness in another parable, that of the sinner and the Pharisee who thanked God for how righteous he was. You see, Jesus says that if you are attached to your virtue or your wealth you are not fit for heaven. He also told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus and the land owner who built ever bigger barns. He condemned the Pharisees and teachers of the law because they enjoyed privilege and honour but didn’t lift a finger for the ‘sinners’, robbing widows and treating God’s house with contempt.

            Jesus didn’t shun the rich and powerful but he hardly had a good word for them. The gospel doesn’t disqualify the rich but it challenges their attachment to it and warns of its corrupting influence which should not be underestimated.

          • JC is a lefty

            Amen

          • Vince

            I agree with most of what you said. Wealth can corrupt but it does not have to. Poor people have idols as well. The great commission does not say where and where not to make disciples and teach Jesus commands. We need to go to the rich as well as the poor and not show favoritism. God gives all things to people, God makes them rich (1 sam 2:7, Job 1:21) so I would not condemn the rich, let God do that.

            The beatitudes are talking about salvation. Matthew says poor in spirit are blessed, Luke just says poor are blessed. This is not talking about material poor. There are other verses for that.

          • choctaw_chris

            We are close and I don’t want to create divisions where they are not necessary but let me comment to illustrate our differences (Paul says there should be differences so we can judge between them – iron sharpens iron).

            There is a difference in emphasis between the Old and New Testaments. The glory of the temple gives way to Christ’s glory, the extensive use of gold gives way to Jesus’ sanctification. Where proof of God’s blessing was in possession of land, livestock and children, Jesus promised us persecution and character assassination. There is no promise of prosperity or even personal safety in this age. We are sojourners, longing for future security and reward.

            Jesus even considers the splendour of the flowers to be greater than that of Solomon who would put the Walton family in the shade. In Jesus’ economy wealth counts for nothing so any claim that wealth is a blessing from God is spurious at best. And I believe the beatitudes are the kingdom manifesto. What John the Baptist had initiated Jesus was completing. It was more than a call to follow him, it was a call to change their priorities and question everything they accepted as given.

          • Vince

            I agree with most of this. I would not deny that wealth is given and taken away by God, it can be used to bless or it can be used to do evil. Many good works requires money to accomplish. Wealth can be a blessing to others.

            “And I believe the beatitudes are the kingdom manifesto”

            I believe they are the state of the believer before real conversion can happen. I see where you think god shows favoritism toward the poor. God sees peoples hearts not their money.

          • JC is a lefty

            Poor he is every type of poverty. Spiritual, financial etc which salvation saves us from all poverty both in reality in our heads and the age to come

          • Vince

            So real Christians shouldn’t be poor right? That is blasphemous. No where does God promise to give you money if you follow him.

          • Frank

            Some of his apostles were quite wealthy.

          • JC is a lefty

            Jesus also said it is harder for the poor to be saved it is Gid vs money. No one is writing off the rich from what I read on here

          • JC is a lefty

            Yes god vs money

          • JC is a lefty

            All through the Bible God talks about blessing the poor…

          • choctaw_chris

            You read about Abraham and Job being blessed materially. Solomon had riches beyond comprehension but he wasn’t a man after God’s heart. The Israelites had been told that a king would oppress them. Solomon had many horses and cities to stable them (a contravention of God’s law), he had foreign wives who poisoned his heart. His son split the kingdom. Wealth didn’t serve the Israelites well. Even under Nehemiah the nobles treated the common people with contempt. Over and over again God warned the Jews that if they oppressed the poor and the alien that his favour would be removed.

            Even now we have the 1% stealing from the poor in order to make themselves even richer and giving nothing back. Its been the way through the centuries and it is evident in the history of Israel. The rich have always oppressed the poor and the gospel stands with the poor against the world order which seeks to enslave the rich in their greed and the poor in their poverty.

          • JC is a lefty

            Yes indeed

      • Vince

        Is. 58 is for Israel. In verse 13 they are commanded to keep the sabbath. We Christians today are not required to keep the sabbath.

        • choctaw_chris

          Most of the Old Testament was written for Israel. “The Lord is my shepherd”? No, that’s for Israel. You’ve failed to mention that we are not required to keep the Sabbath because Jesus has kept it for us, permanently. And the principle of Isa 58 still holds. John says you can’t hate your brother and claim to love God. What’s the difference between that and saying you can’t honour God by fasting when you are fighting with each other. Its not law, its prophesy.

        • Wm Barber

          Not exactly biblical exegesis notes that Jesuss first sermon in luke 4 pulled from the prophetic themes of isiah 58 59 60 61
          You also here the same themes in jesuss final sermom Matthew 25 in his stern admonition to nations

        • JC is a lefty

          So we can ignore some of the 10 commandments. That is new to me

          • Vince

            They have been fulfilled Widge in Jesus. Jesus never commanded us to keep the Sabbath:

            “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Col 2:16-17 ESV

            “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” Romans 14:5-9 ESV

      • WFU86

        Thank you for taking the time to reply. The only things I know about you I know from your prior posts here on RLC. No point in rehashing those now, so I’ll apologize for the use of that word if you think it is unjustified.

        In this piece, you suggest that killing is state sanctioned and you quote Rev. Kenny’s opinion that the culture thinks black prople deserve to die, but you also add that “some of us are helping them.” As you know, the “some of us” are responsible for many more deaths than the state sanctioned killers. I’m not black, so I’ll never completely understand your struggle and I’m not a cop, so I’ll never understand theirs. I do wonder, though, if it’s possible that the endless, senseless killing…the “thug life” that our culture seems to celebrate…has led the police enter these situations with an unreasonably high level of angst (ie if I believe he doesn’t value his own life, why should he value mine?). I’m not suggesting that they always handle it well, only that it’s oversimplifying to conclude that they see people as less than human.

        If your movement is indeed bringing together people of different views (and you value what they bring to the table), I applaud you. I love your plan for 2016 and wish you well.

        • Wm Barber

          One other problem reapecrfully with you comment yes black people kill black people white people kill white people and thats wrong America is a violent land we have had over 1000 mass murdwrs in a thousand days so are we to say just ignore cop killings because we have a violence problem in this country. The opposite iis true and why we should be especially outraged with certain police executeing mostly among one race of people unarmed people /children on the spot and the systtem refusies to indict. In order to find out the truth

          Additionally you may not know about the history of terroristic racially motivated violence noted throughout history perpetrated against people of color that was sanctiomes and protected by the state

          • Frank

            There are no executions by police officers. Stop with the false rhetoric. It’s sows discord.

          • Wm Barber

            Bro frank killing unarmed people shooting them in the back
            Killing a child in 2 seconds
            Shooting and unarmed college student 10 times no matter what colir creed or nationality my brother is execution thats not rhectoric its reality.

          • Frank

            No it’s rhetoric and until you learn to accept this, you only add to and exacerbate any problem. You also isolate the very people who might need to hear what you say.

            I don’t doubt your heart just your method. There is righteous anger inside of you but there is also just plain anger, bitterness, bias and hate as well.

          • JC is a lefty

            How do you know? You Jesus Christ? No Barber is spot on in this maybe if people you knew were killed in this way you would see from others points of view

          • JC is a lefty

            Yes there are look up history with unbiased eyes

          • WFU86

            No one has unbiased eyes.

          • JC is a lefty

            Speak for yourself

          • WFU86

            We all bring bias to the table…it’s called the sum total of our life experiences.

          • JC is a lefty

            That is not bias but experience

          • Frank

            We are talking about the present.

          • JC is a lefty

            So? We cannot learn from history?

          • Frank

            We have.

          • choctaw_chris

            There is video evidence of cops executing people because they feel disrespected. There is no question about that but you still argue black is white. Live with it because I’m done pointing at the blind and shouting at the deaf.

          • Frank

            Well unless you are pointing at yourself….

            No one is executed by police. With rhetoric like that nothing will change and will on,y entrench both sides. Don’t be foolish.

          • choctaw_chris

            Yes they are. Face the facts man. You are already entrenched – I’m not trying to convince you of anything.

          • Frank

            Please grow up if you hope to see change. Your choice.

          • redletterchristians

            This comment has been flagged for breach of comment policy

          • Frank

            Ok. Though telling someone they need to mature is a valid criticism.

          • JC is a lefty

            Yes some are too biased

          • WFU86

            I honestly I think this is where our cultural and racial differences divide us. My bias is toward giving the system the benefit of the doubt. I believe that the Grand Jury that chose not to indict did so because they were privy to evidence that we do do not have access to, not because they are racist and/or don’t value people of color. Your experiences have led you to a more cynical view of the system. I respect your passion and continue to be optimistic that we can all learn from each other.

            Peace, my Brother.

          • choctaw_chris

            The truth is that they were privy to evidence the prosecutor had no right exposing them to and ignorant of facts that he kept from them. The system is totally bent and it will remain that way while money runs your country. They say “Peace when there is no peace”. Don’t kid yourself, its going to get pretty ugly if America continues to deny justice to the powerless and comfort to the rich and powerful. That’s not political, its biblical.

          • Frank

            Ugly is biblical?

          • choctaw_chris

            Yes. Read your Old Testament especially around the fall of Jerusalem. And read Revelation if you want nightmares.

          • Frank

            I have read it. Justice can be terrifying but it isn’t ugly.

          • choctaw_chris

            Justice is beautiful. Denial of justice is ugly and the deniers of justice get a pretty rough ride in the Bible.

          • Frank

            That’s what justice is. It can be a rough ride for those deserving it. But it’s not ugly, it beautiful.

          • JC is a lefty

            Yep s is what Gods justice is for

      • Frank

        I do find it ironic you accuse others of sowing discord when every other post I have seen from you, except this one, does exactly that.

      • redletterchristians

        Dr. Barber, please verify this is your Disqus account by emailing the Content Coordinator of RLC. Without verification, these comments will be deleted.

        • Frank

          So I assume this is the real Barber?

          • redletterchristians

            Yes, he was verified.

          • Frank

            That’s awesome! I am glad he is interacting here.

      • JC is a lefty

        Yes he should no better true.

      • SamHamilton

        I don’t think being divisive is inherently a bad thing.

    • choctaw_chris

      America needs a spiritual revival like a hole in the head. Which revival ended slavery or lamented the ethnic cleansing of native Americans? Which revival pulled American troops out of Vietnam? Which revival took hard working Americans out of the poverty trap and gave voters rights to women and blacks?

      1 Peter 4:17, “For it is time for judgement to begin with the family of God…” When God breaks the heart of the American church and it repents of its apathy, bigotry and oppression it can be a major force for good and not a part of the problem like it is today.

      • Wm Barber

        It was prohetic social moral revivals that led to the abolition movement the framing of the first reconstruction in the 1800s and the second reconstruction in 1960s. Revial of our propgetic justice moral imagination is critical to building a movement of transformation.

  • Frank

    I have to say this is the most balanced and thought out (but not perfect) statement on race relations, police action and black responsibility that I have seen here. Let’s hope this is the direction the rhetoric here is moving towards. I often take issue with the bias of Dr. Barber but if he keeps speaking like this I just might become a fan. A shame others aren’t following his footsteps.

    • Wm Barber

      Dont become my fan smile be a fan off jesus and what he said in luke 4 and matthew 25 truth sets free

      You say you often disagree but u agree. Now what is said here is the same genre of whats been said before
      Hmm
      Heres the moral monday agenda

      What do you disagree with

      Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability by fighting for employment, living wages, the alleviation of disparate unemployment, a green economy, labor rights, affordable housing, targeted empowerment zones, strong safety net services for the poor, fair policies for immigrants, critiquing war policies that further disable our ability to have a real war on poverty, infrastructure development and fair tax reform.

      2) Educational equality by ensuring every child receives a high quality, well-funded, constitutional, diverse public education as well as access to community colleges and universities and by securing equitable funding for minority colleges and universities.

      3) Healthcare for all by ensuring access to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security and by providing environmental protection.

      womens health4) Fairness in the criminal justice system by addressing the continuing inequalities in the system for black, brown and poor white people. Fight proliferation of guns

      5) Protect and expand voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, labor rights relugious freedom rights immigrant rights and the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law.

      • craig

        So all the planks of the democrat platform.

        • Wm Barber

          No this is a moral agenda rooted in our deepest constitutional and religious values.
          Im and independent. By the way and a evangelical conservative because didnt jesus say the weighter matters if the law are love juctice and mercy

          A republucan proposed health care for all labor rights minimum livimg wages franklin roosevelt

          Esienhouser said public ed was a matter of national security

          Gov ohio said anyon3 against medicaid expansion was engaged in war on the poor

          In nc denying medicaid exp hhrts 346000 white people 30000 vetrans
          And 97 percent are working poor

          And the VRA for voting rights was passed by democrats and Republicans
          Read the agenda withoit a predisposed bias peace

          • Frank

            Take your own advice.

          • Vince

            How does your agenda help people eternally? Do you ever teach repentance and grace for their salvation?

          • Wm Barber

            The first answer is yes but any gospel that preaches a salvation of the soul that does not transform our relationship to our neighbor and how we challenge systems of injustice is heretical. You do knoow that the preachers who supported slavery told the slaves to be baptized so that theor soul would be saved but to also make a promise that there knew soul salvation would in know way move them to challenge the system of slavery

            To claim to be born again which in know produces a quarrel with the realuty of injustice renders rhe claim to be saved and born again terribly suspect
            .

          • Vince

            I disagree. Where in the bible does it say we must challenge systems of injustice to be saved? It says repent and believe through faith. Good works comes from salvation it is not a part of it. Jesus did not come so we could have a political agenda cloaked in Christianity. Adding works to salvation is heretical. I fight for the injustice of the unborn, but it is not the basis of my salvation. Everything you do to fight injustice can be done without Christianity, there are plenty of atheists doing the same thing you are except your salvation, you need Christ for that.

          • craig

            The social justice gospel. You know. The one that shames everyone else

          • Wm Barber

            This issue is not can it be done without but what we should do with.
            We should challenge because we are saved
            Read jeremiah 23
            Isiah 58
            And the more than 2000 scriptures in the bible that deal with justice and the xall to challenge oppression

            Jesus s entire life and ministry was a challenge to the systems of oppressuon
            Read the abolitiinist who took on slavery because of their relationship with christ
            Study the faith of the devotees of the civil rights movement
            Soul only society ducking injustic ignoring
            Wait on heaven only is not the faith that lives up to the incarnnate reality of jesus

          • JC is a lefty

            Spot on good argument which cannot be argued against. The Gospel IS social

          • Vince

            “Jesus s entire life and ministry was a challenge to the systems of oppression”

            His life was a challenge to the oppression of sin. He commanded us to love our neighbor and take care of others and free them from oppression, but why did Jesus not free captives in his day? Why did he never challenge the injustice of Rome?

          • JC is a lefty

            Amen

      • Frank

        I am a fan of Jesus which is why I take issue with those who use Jesus for political gain.

        I don’t disagree with the causes just the the rhetoric and bias in speaking about them and the solutions proposed for them.

        Preaching to the choir does nothing to further the cause. You must reach those that disagree with you to enact real change. Like Paul, you should learn to speak well to different groups of people. Otherwise you will just be dismissed and accomplish little.

      • redletterchristians

        This comment has been edited for length.

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  • JC is a lefty

    Great post why some justify murdering 12 year olds is beyond me. Excellent unbiased and truthful post. Amen and thank you keep posting William you are great

    • Frank

      There was no murder.

      • JC is a lefty

        I disagree there

        • Frank

          Well people who know the law agree there was no murder. I’ll take their word for it.

          • JC is a lefty

            Great so as it is deemed legal then things like abortion are definitely not murder as it is legal. Thanks for clearing that up.

          • Frank

            Abortion is legal sadly. Why you would support the killing of our most innocent and vulnerable is beyond me.

          • JC is a lefty

            I do not support men telling women what to do with their bodies. It seems from your posts you are pro birth as they say but not pro life interesting,,,,

          • Frank

            The reality is that women’s bodies were created in a way that children are formed and develop within. That was Gods plan and design. We cannot divorce the life of the unborn child from the woman’s body. If they don’t want to accept the responsibility of pregnancy they shouldn’t get pregnant.

            That being said people continue to speak out and work to protect our most vulnerable and the “least of these”, the unborn children.

          • Vince

            That argument has been refuted many times. We need to decide as a decent society what a woman and man can and cannot do with another persons body. The fetus has different DNA and support systems that are clearly not part of the woman’s body. We have many laws that tell people how they can and cannot treat others.

    • Vince

      I don’t think we need any more lies from you widge widge. Every time you post you lie as to your own identity. You are also a hypocrite because you call out Frank for multiple user names. You should repent of your deception widge widge.

      • JC is a lefty

        I have flagged your post as a personal attack. I have no idea what you are talking about

        • Vince

          Well God told me to tell you that so you can’t disagree with me, right widge?

          • JC is a lefty

            Whatever Jesus said his people will be persecured

          • Vince

            Is that why you are persecuting me? It works both ways.

          • JC is a lefty

            What on Gods green earth are you talking about. What persecution? You are persecuting me! Unless asking you a question about the 10 commandments counts as persecution I have no idea what you are talking about

          • Vince

            You seem to think persecution is when someone disagrees with you or exposes your lies. Not so.

          • JC is a lefty

            So you have lied above ok

          • Vince

            Flag my posts, we will see if this site has any integrity. You are only getting yourself in deeper brother.

          • JC is a lefty

            Why are you persecuting me? How am I persecuting you?

          • craig

            At least we are division champs

          • Vince

            Yeah! Scary game to watch though, they just don’t like winning easily.

          • Frank

            I honestly don’t know why you bother. Ignore and move on. That’s what everyone else does.

      • redletterchristians

        This comment has been flagged for breach of comment policy.

  • choctaw_chris

    You think that’s hyperbole? Its an understatement.

    • JC is a lefty

      Amen

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