Liz Theoharis is a theologian, ordained minister, and anti-poverty activist. Co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, she is the author of Always With Us? What Jesus Really Said About the Poor and We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People's Campaign. Follow her on Twitter at @liztheo.

Posts By This Author

Woe to Those Who Enrich Themselves at the Expense of the Poor

by Liz Theoharis 12-20-2021
Sen. Joe Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) speaks with an aide during a break in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in Washington,  Jan. 24, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

After months of negotiations, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) decided to kill the Build Back Better agenda. He made the announcement on Fox News Sunday, just days before an already-fraught holiday as we’re seeing COVID surges, essential workers still being paid wages of those considered expendable, and storms and extreme weather wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods. When voicing his dissent for the Build Back Better agenda, despite making promises that he was negotiating in good faith since the summer, Manchin had the nerve to say: “I tried everything humanly possible.”

Food Lines in The ‘Land of Plenty’

by Liz Theoharis 01-26-2021
A biblical look at the crisis of poverty today.
Aerial view of cars waiting in a food line in a parking lot in Texas.

Vehicles lined up in a stadium parking lot for a San Antonio Food Bank mega-distribution. Photograph by Tamir Kalif / The New York Times / Redux Pictures

SINCE I BEGAN to help organize a movement to end poverty, people have said to me that our goals are too ambitious—that demands for human rights and human dignity are both politically inconceivable and impossibly expensive. They quote the Bible, arguing that since Jesus said, “the poor will be with you always,” it can’t be God’s will for everyone to share in the abundance of our world.
 
But when I read the Bible, including and especially Jesus’ statement above, what I see from Genesis on through the New Testament is a constant revelation of God’s will that no one should be made hungry, sick, homeless, underpaid, indebted, or bereft by the violence of social injustice. I read an ongoing indictment of those who would take and keep the wealth of our world for themselves and cause others to suffer. I hear the biblical command to “fill the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53), not simply as “caring for the poor” as an end result but by advocating for policies and structures that lift the load of poverty—admonishing nations to “do no wrong to the immigrant, the homeless, the children. And do not shed innocent blood” (Jeremiah 22:3).
 

Biblical roots of justice

The founding story in the Bible tells of a diverse group of freedom fighters who have been on the march since the burdens of Egyptian slavery and scarcity got to be too much, since leaders like Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and many others—named and unnamed—came forward to say, “It doesn’t have to be this way.” And God sent plagues and pandemics that only hardened the heart of the ruling authorities, who doubled down on misery, dispossession, and militarization.

America's Wannabe Caesar

Trump’s daily press briefings resemble the kind of public idolatry that ancient Caesars engaged in.

In this Kairos Time, Will We Embody Church?

The church is called to meet Jesus in the streets with the homeless — for in a time when people are called to shelter in place they have no place to go. The church must also meet Jesus in places like Flint, Mich. where poor people who are already suffering from respiratory conditions related to contaminated water are amongst those at highest risk.

Plagues Expose the Foundations of Injustice

by Liz Theoharis 03-18-2020

Ditlev Blunck. "The Vision of the Prophet Ezekiel." Via Wikimedia Commons

Before a plague, God always sends prophets, often sick and impoverished themselves, to tell the powerful to reject wickedness. 

Fifty Years After the Poor People’s Campaign, Another Call for Moral Revival

by Liz Theoharis 07-31-2017

Image via Jana Shea/Shutterstock.com

Just like poverty stunted the lives of the people of Jesus’ day, poverty hampers, circumscribes the lives of millions of God’s children in our day. 1 in 2 people living in the United States are poor or low-income; 43 percent of US children live in families that struggle to feed, clothe, and house them. There are 28 million people without health care, 65 million workers who get paid too little to sustain themselves and their families, and a record 14 million (1 in 9) U.S. homes are vacant. 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year and 39 percent of them are children.