Christian Campaign Declares Gospel is Good News for the Poor
WASHINGTON - Surrounded by stained glass windows, dark wooden pews filled with people, and the soaring voices of a black Gospel choir, Christians from across the country gathered inside a Baptist church Sunday night to proclaim that the "Gospel is good news for the poor.”
As a pastor spoke about the "spirit of justice,” a crowd of some 1,000 people sitting in Shiloh Baptist Church eagerly responded with "amen's." Thus began the first day of Mobilization to End Poverty, a large-scale anti-poverty event drawing Christians and politicians alike.
"I wish all the wonderful people of God who have come here in this holy place, during the next few days, to speak up and speak out to members of the Congress, the administration, to do everything we can to relegate and put the issue of poverty ahead,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who delivered the message, on Sunday.
Lewis, a prominent civil rights leader who was educated at the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, said that although Christians pray, read the Bible, deliver sermons, and enjoy beautiful worship music, "there comes a time that we have to move our feet.”
"It is time again for people of faith to get into trouble, to get in the way,” Lewis said, after recalling that earlier in life he got into trouble for protesting racial segregation in America.
He also dismissed the popular view that poverty only affects the uneducated, unskilled, and those unwilling to work hard. Now the economic crisis shows that the poor can be computer scientists, financial advisers, and other highly skilled workers.
"We need in America, more than anything I think, a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas,” Lewis contended.
"I do not understand. It is strange to me if we can bail out Wall Street, why can't we bail out the children of God dying here,” the long-time congressman said as the room erupted into applause.
During the four-day event on April 26-29, Mobilization to End Poverty participants will engage in activities, including visits to members of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, with the hope of getting people out of poverty in the United States and beyond.
Event leaders point to the Bible as the source of inspiration, saying that a person reading the Scripture can't help but get the sense that God is on the side of the oppressed.
Topics of discussion include how to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, mobilizing the church to fight against poverty, immigration and poverty, HIV/AIDS and the MDGs, and humans and the environments, among others.
Featured speakers include Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners; Richard Stearns, president of World Vision; Martin Smith, lead singer of the award-winning English Christian rock band Delirious?; the Rev. Brian McLaren, leader of the emergent church movement; the Rev. Joel Edwards, head of the Evangelical Alliance; evangelical leader Rich Cizik; and Joshua Dubois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships.
"People of faith,” Lewis concluded, "you are called to be prophetic. You are called to make some noise. You've been quiet for too long.”