Why do we care so little for the poor? Part of the answer is surely the misguided idea of meritocracy—if you merit good you will be successful. This kind of thinking emerges from the wrong end of a bull. There may be poor people who are lazy but the vast majority of the poor are those for whom our systems make it impossible to thrive. It’s very easy to put them out of mind as long as we can keep them out of sight and just let our prejudices do the thinking for us. The poor are the victims of capitalism. Loud voices proclaim them to be a drain on the system, despite the fact that many of them work—some multiple jobs—and remain unable to keep up. Capitalism is kind only to the wealthy.
The Rev. Dr. William Barber is one of the organizers of the Poor People’s Campaign. The full name is the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. The initial part is taken from an initiative that Martin Luther King, Jr. started before his assassination. He was shifting towards a movement meant to address the entrenched unfairness deep in American society. These nearly six decades on, we are just as deeply entrenched. Barber is doing amazing work, organizing, speaking, and advocating. He’s trying to give a voice to the people. I do wonder, however, if using the word “Revival” doesn’t work against the goals of the movement.
Certain words have been poisoned by their abuse among various religious groups. Especially among the young. The word “revival” may fall into that category, calling to mind, as it may, repressed people working up to an emotional fever under the banner of Hellfire and brimstone. Believing a bit too literally a message that was contained in a book viewed magically. Names can be important. Many of the younger generation are put off even by the word “church” since so much hypocrisy (something the Republican party has openly embraced) has come to light over recent decades. I fully agree that we need a moral revival, we need people to wake up and demand that our government promote the justice it claims to seek. I do wonder if religion, as previously packaged, has the credibility to do it. No matter how we take on the task, it’s clear that the poor have been abandoned by the system, through no fault of their own. And some in the church have begun to find their voice in the Poor People’s Campaign.