taking the words of Jesus seriously


On April 4, 1967, just one year before his assassination, and more than 48 years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King called for a time to break the silence about the injustices in society. At the historic Riverside Church, he preached “we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.” About this revolution of values, he continued:


A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth…and say “This is not just.”


I had the honor of participating in both the launch and the first service of The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values at The Riverside Church in New York on April 3 and at Temple Beth Or in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 4. I recited these words from the litany for The Revival to crowds of hundreds gathered to revive our spirits and commit ourselves to raising the moral issues of our day – poverty, inadequate education, the crisis of health care and the environment, attacks on immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people, the erosion of our democracy and voting rights:


Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal. The truth must be told.” And the truth is that more than 250, 000 people die from poverty and the lack of education each year in the United States, that thousands die each year because of the lack of healthcare, including the lack of Medicaid expansion, that half of the United States is poor or low-income, and that millions of children are homeless, lack adequate food and housing, and do not have quality education. There comes a time when silence is betrayal. The truth must be told.


In The Revival, we heard from people directly impacted by these moral issues. We sang songs of hope and revival. We heard prayers from Muslims, Jews and Christians who follow a God of justice. We took our place in line with the prophets who came before us who cried out for justice, kindness, love and mercy.


The testimonies reminded me of Matthew 23 and Jesus’ critique of the moral leaders of his day. He says that instead of standing for justice and inclusion, the opponents of the poor, the opponents of the Jesus movement, these hypocritical moral leaders are tying up heavy burdens, worshipping gold and power and wealth, and crossing land and sea to convert one person to the faith but excluding many others.


Indeed, in my experience, too often it is our religious leadership who bring a message of inferiority and blame to the poor and oppressed of our society. Poor people are called sinners, lazy, and to blame for their situation. The rich and powerful are considered blessed. Many extremists in our society today claim to be “religious” but get away with denying Medicaid expansion, criminalizing immigrants and the poor, causing low wages and poor living conditions in our communities.


But Jesus calls out the immorality of these religious leaders. He proclaims the need for a radical revolution of values. He reminds us of what God requires of us. Follow the God of the poor and oppressed not elites and authorities who blame the poor for their poverty, homelessness and low wages. Worship God not Mammon nor Caesar. Treat our neighbors with love and humility.


The Revival is a call for us. We need a moral revolution of values. The truth must be told.


Hallelujah, Thine the glory.

Hallelujah, Amen.

Hallelujah, Thine the glory.

Revive us again!


To learn more about The Revival and when it is coming to your state, see www.breachrepairers.org/revival.

Watch a testimony from The Revival service in Raleigh, NC.


About The Author


The Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis is Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival with Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II that organized the largest and most expansive wave of nonviolent civil disobedience in U.S. history. She is the Director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary. She has spent over the past two decades organizing among the poor in the United States, working with and advising grassroots organizations with significant victories including the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Vermont Workers Center, Domestic Workers United, the National Union of the Homeless and the Kensington Welfare Rights Union. Liz received her BA in Urban Studies from the University of Pennsylvania; her M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in 2004 where she was the first William Sloane Coffin Scholar; and her Ph.D. from Union in New Testament and Christian Origins. She has been published in Time Magazine, The Guardian, Sojourners, The Nation, The Christian Century, and others. In 2018, she gave “Building a Moral Movement” TEDtalk at TEDWomen. She was named one of the Politico 50 of “thinkers, doers and visionaries whose ideas are driving politics,” one of 11 Women Shaping the Church by Sojourners, the Women of Spirit recipient from the Presbyterian Church (USA), Selma “Bridge” Award recipient in 2018. Liz is the author of "Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor" (Eerdmans, 2017). She is co-author of "Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing" (Beacon, 2018). Liz is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

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!