taking the words of Jesus seriously

For the past six weeks, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has organized nonviolent moral fusion direct actions in 39 states and the District of Columbia, sparking the largest U.S. civil disobedience campaign in the 21st century. But these 40 days of coordinated action are only a beginning. As we gather moral witnesses from across America for a mass rally on the National Mall today, we are also issuing a call for mass noncooperation with the racist and extreme policies of President Trump’s “America First” agenda.

While the President, Attorney General Sessions, DHS Sec Nielsen and their supporters in this administration and Congress tried to justify the separation of migrant children from their families, America heard the cries of these children and refused to accept the spin. Still, the President’s executive order ending his policy of family separation does nothing to change the “America First” agenda of white nationalism that implemented “zero tolerance” and aims to continue it via the establishment of family camps.

The internment of children in cages and camps is only the latest escalation of the Trump administration’s “America First” agenda. A campaign slogan that Republicans did not resist, it has been the driving force behind attacks on Muslims, immigrants, voting rights, health care, NFL players, the LGBTQ community, Native people and their lands, and poor people from day one of this administration. This administration is not pursuing a conservative agenda, but rather a radical politics of division and violence.

The Poor People’s Campaign has been at our state capitols and the U.S. Congress for six weeks to bring attention to the connections between the policy violence of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and our nation’s distorted moral narrative. But nothing highlights our deep need for moral revival in America more than Attorney General Sessions citing the Bible to defend the abuse of minors.

Many of our fellow clergy decried Sessions’ attempt to defend family separation by citing Romans 13, and they were right. It is an abuse of our sacred text. But it is not new. Frederick Douglass taught us to distinguish between the slaveholder’s religion and the Christianity of Christ. We must always speak out when the most sacred texts of our faith and moral traditions are used to whitewash injustice.

But Douglass also taught us that power concedes nothing without a fight. Outrage and indignation, we know, are not enough to stop policy violence. We must demonstrate our capacity to stand together and say, “No more.” We must learn from the poor and dispossessed people of the world who have frustrated corporate fascism around the globe in recent decades through mass nonviolent direct action. We call on all people of goodwill who know this administration’s “zero tolerance” policy is evil to follow the poor people of this nation who have led us in civil disobedience over the past six weeks. Now is the time for mass noncooperation with this administration’s “America First” agenda.

To launch this season of direct action, we invite all people of goodwill to join the Poor People’s Campaign on the north side of the White House on Tuesday, June 26th, at 11am. Register here. We will lift up the voices of families that are still separated by deportations, detention, mass incarceration, and systemic poverty, and we will take nonviolent direct action to shut down the business of executing the anti-family policies of “America First.”

About The Author


The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church and President of Repairers of the Breach. He has served as president of the North Carolina NAACP, the largest state conference in the South, since 2006 and sits on the National NAACP Board of Directors. A former Mel King Fellow at MIT, he is currently Visiting Professor of Public Theology and Activism at Union Theological Seminary and is a Senior Fellow at Auburn Seminary. Rev. Barber is author of the best-selling The Third Reconstruction: How A Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear.

Related Posts

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
    Check which Newsletter(s) you'd like to receive:    

You have Successfully Subscribed!