Pete Buttigieg

December 4, 2019

Pete Buttigieg Talks Poverty, Inequality at Rev. William J. Barber’s Church

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, spoke out on matters of poverty and racial inequality at the Rev. Dr. William Barber II’s Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on Sunday in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Greenleaf Christian Church and Poor People’s Campaign: A National Campaign for a Moral Revival co-sponsored the two-hour gathering featuring Mayor Buttigieg and urged action on issues including systemic racism, voter suppression, public education, and access to healthcare, among others.

“We believe something is more at stake than just one election,” Barber said during his introduction. “But who America is electing to be. Will we elect to continue to be a country that ignores the plight of 140 million poor and low wealth people?”

Barber is the architect of the “Moral Monday” movement, which consisted of protests against mainly Republican policies in the North Carolina statehouse. Even so, on Sunday, Barber insisted, “We are not a Left or Right movement, conservative or liberal. We are a movement concerned about moral issues and the moral demand to fully address poverty and low wealth in this nation and to address the interlocking injustices.”

After his introduction, Barber invited Buttigieg to answer questions from himself, Durham minister Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and various audience members.

The first question came from a couple, including a veteran, who asked Buttigieg how he planned to prioritize the alleviation of poverty.

The culprit behind poverty, answered Buttigieg, is primarily due to policy decisions, including the federal minimum wage being allowed to lapse. “People in this country need to get paid more. This is simple, straightforward, and it is not happening,” he answered.

“We need to make sure that everybody has access to the benefits you need to get by,” Buttigieg said. “This administration has cut SNAP food aid for those in poverty. Nobody is better off in a country where some are going hungry.”

After speaking of poverty broadly, Barber then turned the discussion to what he called “interlocking injustices,” including systemic racism and voter suppression. “If a state is a racist voter suppression state and people are using that suppression to acquire power, then those that acquire power also push policies or deny policies that could impact and change poverty, health care, and living wages,” Barber said.

“As president, what would you do to address racist voter suppression and racist gerrymandering that is hurting our democracy?” Barber asked Buttigieg.

In his answer, Buttigieg stressed the importance of automatic voter registration and ensuring the polls are open earlier as practical ways to address voter suppression.”The reality is we’re going to need a twenty-first-century voting rights act that restores and advances what was laid out originally,” he offered. “We have to make sure our democratic defenses are stronger.”

Though Buttigieg outlined gerrymandering’s racial tactics, it’s disappointing that he did not provide any clear solutions.

Public education was also apart of the conversation. A retired pastor, alongside his ten-year-old grandson, spoke against “underfunding and resegregation” in the public school system. He then asked Buttigieg, “If you get to appoint the next Secretary of Education, what will be the education priorities of your administration?”

“Very first consideration for a Secretary of Education is that they believe in public education. Because I don’t think we have that right now,” Buttigieg answered to applause. “Second is that they believe in equity in public education. Third, is that they be willing to commit resources with the backing of the president, of course, who will be willing to go to Congress and go to bat for this to make sure that everybody has access to quality education.”

“Whether you thrive, should not come down to whether you were fortunate enough to win an admissions lottery to one of a handful of schools,” he added.

Access to health care, or health care coverage, was another hot button topic during the discussion. “What is your plan to guarantee access to health care for everyone in this country as quickly as possible?” asked a mother whose son died at age 32.

“For anybody to talk of morality, when we are called to heal the sick and politicians have blocked Medicaid expansion is unconscionable,” Buttigieg declared. “But we’ve got to do more.”

Buttigieg then explained that his health care plan is to make sure all are insured, calling it “Medicare for all who want it.” If anyone did not enroll in a medical insurance plan, then Buttigieg’s proposal would automatically enroll the individual in Medicare.

“It’s not cheap,” he admitted. “It’s 1.5 trillion dollars over ten years. But compared to the cost of business, as usual, I think it’s a bargain.” To pay for his plan, Buttigieg explained that Medicare has to negotiate the price of drugs with pharmaceutical companies and to roll back corporate tax rate cuts.

In closing, “religious nationalism” was addressed by two Raleigh-area clergy. They believe the Christian faith has been distorted by “religious nationalism and extremism” in the public square. This is a narrative, they argue, that ignores systemic racism and demonizes LGBTQ people and women’s rights. They then asked Buttigieg how he would use his position as president to unify the country.

“While I would impose my religious faith on nobody else,” Buttigieg answered, “I will be transparent about the fact that I follow a God who came into this world, not in riches but in poverty, not as a citizen but as a refugee, not as a political authority but as a political dissident who died for it.” That view of Christ, he said, instructs how he works to ensure liberty for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the poor.

5 Responses to Pete Buttigieg Talks Poverty, Inequality at Rev. William J. Barber’s Church

  1. David says:

    While I doubt Buttigieg is electable, he always seems to impress me with his common sense.

  2. Jim says:

    The mayor from Indiana is in over his head. He is no more qualified to be president than most of the radicals the democrats trot out to each debate. Further, a homosexual who claims to be a model Christian is unelectable in this country, at least for now. Perhaps if God chooses to further unleash his judgment on our country, a prideful homosexual sinner could be elected.

  3. Mike says:

    On another website, Buttigieg is in trouble with the LBTQ crowd because two years ago he rang a bell at Christmastime for the Salvation Army ( Apparently he can’t win on any front.

    • Jim says:

      Hah! The homosexual activists want zero compromise. As I have said before, the Holy grail is to silence the truth. They are conquering education all levels, corporate America, government and military. Only remaining front is Christ’s Church.

  4. “While I would impose my religious faith on nobody else…”
    In other words, “Let me tell you why I think MY Jesus is better than YOUR Jesus.”
    “I will be transparent about the fact that I follow a God who came into this world, not in riches but in poverty…”
    Although it is true that the Lord Jesus was born of impoverished parents partly as an example for us to emulate His humility (one I do not see Buttigieg exhibiting), this is not the ultimate reason, nor is it the only lesson, or even the most important lesson, that we should learn from it.
    “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4.15-16)  In being born of low estate in this world, He is likewise able to sympathize with those of this world born into low estate, so that they, too, can have the confidence that he understands their struggles and is in a position to shoulder their burdens and alleviate their suffering.  However, neither is this the ultimate reason for His being born of impoverished parents.
    “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2.5-11)  The Incarnation was the beginning of what theologians call the Humiliation of Christ.  Prior to this, the eternal Son of God was already highly exalted “with the glory that (He) had with (the Father) before the world existed.” (Jn. 17.5)  “But (He) emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2.7 NASB)  The glory He shared with His Father in Heaven He still possessed, but He set it aside when He was born of materially poor parents among men.  This is analogous to what would happen if Jeff Bezos were to sell all his fixed assets, store every last penny of his fortune in Fort Knox, and go live in the slums of Kolkata, to minister to the Untouchable caste, preaching to them the Word of God.
    But the Lord Jesus went beyond this, to the Cross.  “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2.8)  This was the lowest point in Christ’s humiliation, drinking the cup of His Father’s wrath (Mt. 20.22, 26.39,42, Jn. 18.11; compare Ps. 75.8, Is. 51.17, Jer. 25.15-17,27-38), being forsaken by His Father (Ps. 22.1, Mt. 27.46, Mk. 15.34), and yielding up His very life (Jn. 10.17-18, 19.10-11,30), all on behalf of undeserving sinners like you and me.  “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53.4-6)  “Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Tit. 2.14)
    “I follow a God who came into this world, … not as a citizen but as a refugee…”
    That the Lord Jesus “came into this world…as a refugee” is flatly not true.  Although it is true that He lived for two or three years as a small child in Egypt, at a time when Herod the Great sought His life (Mt. 2.14-15), He did not come into this world as a refugee, as if He were fleeing His Father’s wrath, and living as a refugee most certainly did not characterize His life and ministry in Galilee, Samaria, and Judea.  Quite the opposite: He came into this world as a conqueror, and He conquered sin and death in His own death on the Cross.  “In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16.33)  “‘O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15.55-57)  “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Rev. 3.21)  And when He returns, it will become even more explicit that He comes, not as a refugee, but as a powerful conqueror (Rev. 19.11-16).
    “I follow a God who came into this world, … not as a political authority but as a political dissident who died for it.”
    This statement is wrong on so many levels.  First, Webster defines a dissident as one who “disagrees especially with an established religious or political system, organization, or belief.”  Under this common definition, the Lord Jesus was (humanly speaking) a religious dissident, in that He ran afoul of the religious authority in Judea: namely, the Sanhedrin.  He was not a “political dissident”, inasmuch as He did not oppose the political authority: namely, Rome.  When asked whether it was “lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not”, He answered, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mt. 22.21)  And when Pilate asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”, as the Sanhedrin accused him of claiming (Lk. 23.2-3), He answered, “‘My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.  But my kingdom is not from the world.’  Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’  Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king.  For this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’  Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’  After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, ‘I find no guilt in him.’” (Jn. 18.36-38)  And twice more he said, “I find no guilt in him.” (Jn. 19.4,6)
    But deeper than this, does not God have authority over the religious and political authorities of this world?  Does not God “remove kings and set up kings” (Dan. 2.21)?  Is not “the king’s heart…a stream of water in the hand of the LORD, (which) he turns…wherever he will” (Prov. 21.1)?  And if the Lord Jesus came not to do His own will but the will of His Father in Heaven, as He claimed (Mt. 26.39,42, Jn. 5.30, 6.38), who, then, is the dissident?  Is it not the religious and political authorities of this world, especially when they “neglect the weightier matters of (His) law” (Mt. 23.23)?
    Finally, the Lord Jesus most certainly did NOT die for being a political dissident.  No one on earth can take His life from Him; He gave it up on His own accord (Jn. 10.17-18, 19.10-11,30), in order to pay the penalty for the sins of the world (Is. 53, Rom. 5.8-9), which is death (Rom. 6.23).  As John the Baptist said of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1.29)  Preaching on this passage, B.B. Warfield said, “Christ is our teacher, and our example, and our king.  But there is something more fundamental than any of these things; something which underlies them all and from which they acquire their value.  And it is this that the Baptist saw in Christ and sends us to Christ to find.  ‘Behold,’ says he, ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’  That image could mean but one thing to an humble, sin-conscious Old Testament saint.  He would think first of the righteous sufferer of the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah.” (The Saviour of the World, p. 84)  And further, “Jesus is not merely compared with a lamb in (John the Baptist’s declaration); He is identified with a specific and particular lamb—the well-known ‘Lamb of God.’  And whether this be taken as Isaiah’s lamb of the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, or the Passover lamb, or the lamb of the common sacrifices, it is in each and every case a sacrificial lamb which is indicated.  Nor is Jesus said here in some broad and general way to take away sin.  He is said to be the sin-bearer as the Lamb of God: and there is but one way in which from the beginning of the world, or in any nation, a lamb has ever been known to bear sin, and that is, as a piacular sacrifice, expiating guilt in the sight of a propitiated God.  The Lamb of God which takes away sin, is and can be nothing other than the lamb of God’s providing upon whose head sin is laid, and by whose blood expiation is wrought.” (Ibid., pp. 86-87)
    “That view of Christ, he said, instructs how he works to ensure liberty for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the poor.”
    If the Church of Jesus Christ “works to ensure liberty for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the poor” only in the manner which Buttigieg prescribes, the oppressed, the marginalized, and the poor will not be liberated from the tyrant from which they—and we—most desperately need to be delivered: namely, sin and death.  What does it matter in the long run, if we endeavor to make the lives of the oppressed, the marginalized, and the poor a little more comfortable in this world but do nothing to prepare them for life in the next?  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Rom. 3.23-25)  “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)  Absolutely, the Church needs to be working to improve the lot of the poor in this world, for our Lord calls us to have compassion on them (Mt. 25.31-46).  But this does not mean that the Church must be obligated to spend her time and resources to lobby the state to relieve her of this burden, for we do not see the Lord Jesus or His Apostles in the Scriptures doing work of this sort.  After all, when the Lord Jesus said, “You give them something to eat” (Mt. 14.16), He did not mean, “You go lobby the state to give them something to eat.”  Far less does this mean that the Church is not obligated to go beyond addressing the political and material causes of oppression, marginalization, and poverty, as if instructing the poor—and the rest of us—that we must repent of our sins and turn in faith to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and reconciliation with God, were not the greatest responsibility of the Church in this and every age.

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