taking the words of Jesus seriously

On Thursday, July 13th, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled the latest version of his last ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, whatever the cost. In obedience to Jeremiah 22, which says that God’s messengers must go to the seat of power and challenge the abuse of power, I led a delegation of clergy to make a prophetic and pastoral visit to McConnell’s office on Thursday morning. We brought copies of the Bible and pointed to those verses which make clear our obligation to both care for the sick and establish justice for the poor.

We went to do what every preacher makes a vows to do: we proclaimed the Word of the Lord.

People for them are only things—ways of making money. They’d sell a poor man for a pair of shoes…. They grind the penniless into the dirt, shove the luckless into a ditch.

That’s Amos, the prophet from Tekoa.

Woe unto you who legislate evil, who rob the poor of their right and make widows and orphans your prey.

That’s the prophet Isaiah, who saw the Lord in the year that King Uzziah died.

Your politicians are like wolves prowling and killing and rapaciously taking what they want. Extortion is rife, robbery is epidemic, the poor and needy are abused, outsiders are kicked around at will, with no access to justice.

That’s Ezekiel, who preached life to a valley of dry bones.

Rev. Barber makes the prophetic call to bear witness on Capitol Hill on MSNBC.

The extremists who have taken over the Republican Party and are wielding power in Washington, D.C. are determined to take healthcare away from millions of Americans and transfer wealth to the greedy. This is not conservative public policy. It is what the Bible calls “sin,” and the fact that McConnell, Pence, and Ryan claim to be doing it in the name of their Christian values is the height of hypocrisy.

The language of left versus right is far too puny to describe the moral stakes of this death bill. The proposed deconstruction of Medicaid may be the largest transfer of wealth away from the poor since the labor of enslaved Africans was stolen with federal protection. Claiming to be “pro-life” while actively working to take health care from 22 million working poor people is hypocrisy and sin.

To do this knowing that people will die is a form of political violence and political murder. It is hypocrisy, and it is sin.

To claim to honor the Constitution, which commits to promote the general welfare, while working to deconstruct imperfect legislation that has nevertheless given millions of people access to healthcare is hypocrisy and sin.

To claim “family values” while cutting Medicaid that helps poor and working families, children, the disabled, the blind, and those with mental illness is hypocrisy and sin.

For Republicans who sabotaged the Affordable Care Act to refuse to expand Medicaid in states with highest need is hypocrisy and sin.

To use “Obamacare” as a racial code when, in fact, the majority of the people that have and will benefit from the Affordable Care Act are poor working whites is hypocrisy and sin.

To take away the guarantee of access to quality coverage for people with preexisting conditions is hypocrisy and sin.

To talk to other countries about their moral failing while failing to address our own is hypocrisy, and it is sin.

Rather than hear the biblical truth about what he is doing, McConnell had us arrested and removed from his office on Thursday. He has the power to do that, just as Republicans have the power to force this bill through Congress.

But they do not have the power to override God. They do not have the power to silence our moral dissent.

Now is the time to raise a moral dissent against those who choose to legislate evil and rob the poor of their right. This is why we are going back to Mitch McConnell’s office on Tuesday, July 18th, at 11am. I’m calling people of faith and conscience to join us. You can sign up here to receive more info from RLC staff about this prophetic action.

It’s time for those of us who are called to proclaim and embody God’s Word to put on our clerical robes, take up our holy books, and speak truth in the public square.

Last week was the 200th birthday of Henry David Thoreau, the author of Civil Disobedience. When asked whether he would repent of violating the human law to uphold a Higher Law, Thoreau said, “The only thing I will repent of is not asking sooner what demon posed me to be so quiet for so long.”

In this moment of moral crisis, may we all repent of not acting sooner and commit to put our bodies on the line in nonviolent resistance to hypocrisy and sin.

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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