taking the words of Jesus seriously

Dear Colleagues in the Cause,

Your voice is needed at this most morally perilous time in our nation’s history.

Our nation is battling not one, but three pandemics: the COVID-19 virus, poverty, and systemic racism, including brutalization and trauma by police and policy.  Such a time as this calls for religious leaders with the moral clarity to cry out prophecy from the pain, and to insist that America face the fullness of our truth.

168 years ago, on the 5th of July Frederick Douglass issued such a word.

 “At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream …For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.”

We are calling on you to join in a clap of thunder, a prophetic word, on July 5th.  We are calling forth our power to speak with one voice from the same texts.

Say it plain and in your tradition: America is not yet what she was proclaimed to be.  Say it plain that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” have become hypocrisy while black Americans are continuously brutalized.  While senators sleep soundly, refusing to uphold the Voting Rights Act and working to suppress the vote for seven years in ways we haven’t seen since Jim Crow.  Read the Poor People’s Moral Justice Jubilee Policy Platform.

America is not yet who she promised to be while the money runs out and the rent is due for 140 million poor and low-income folks.  Not yet, while the COVID-19 cases rise and essential workers are sacrificed to this system.

There must be a rising of prophets!

168 years later, we are calling on 168 faith leaders to speak out against these three pandemics on the weekend of July 3-5. Speak from your tradition.  Speak in your way.  Speak at a time in the day you appoint.  But add your name to those who will not be silent anymore.  Will you join us?

Sign the pledge to preach the truth on this July 4th weekend of the America yet to be, and that must be.

Below you will find the four sacred texts as options to preach from this weekend. On Sunday, we will also host a special livestream service as a late afternoon intergenerational service, embracing the voices of our retired elders.  We will share the details of that service with you to share with your faith communities.  If you are a community faith leader not preaching for a specific congregation this weekend, consider a livestream from your personal social media account.

The nation needs a prophetic voice that would dare tell the truth as tyrants reign and apathy infects our elected officials. We won’t be silent anymore.  Join us. 

In the abiding Spirit of Love and Justice,

Rev. Dr. William Barber, II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis (Co-Chairs, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival)

Dr. Iva Carruthers, PhD (General Secretary Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference)

Rev. Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson (National Executive Director Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March)

Rev. Dr. Robin Tanner & Dr. Adam Barnes (Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival Faith Partners Team)


Readings for Sunday July 5th:

Jeremiah 22:1-5 The Message

22 1-3 God’s orders: “Go to the royal palace and deliver this Message. Say, ‘Listen to what God says, O King of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you and your officials and all the people who go in and out of these palace gates. This is God’s Message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering! 4-5 “‘If you obey these commands, then kings who follow in the line of David will continue to go in and out of these palace gates mounted on horses and riding in chariots—they and their officials and the citizens of Judah. But if you don’t obey these commands, then I swear—God’s Decree!—this palace will end up a heap of rubble.’”

Jeremiah 22: 1-5 NIV

22 This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: 2 ‘Hear the word of the Lord to you, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. 3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor, the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people.5 But if you do not obey these commands, declares the Lord, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.

Matthew 23:23-24 The Message (MSG)

23-24 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

Matthew 23:23 New International Version (NIV)

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Frederick Douglass, July 5th 1852 addressing the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York

“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”

The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

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.

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