Late last month, leading Religious Left activist clergyman the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber spoke at Howard University’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel series in Washington D.C, repeatedly stating what seemed like a pro-life statement.
In a speech on injustice Barber exhorted the Howard University students, despite the tumultuous times America finds herself in, not to despair because “God made you and God perfected you.” While Barber correctly identifies God as the giver and taker of life, the larger context of Barber’s statement and subsequent speech ignored that statement as it applies to abortion and incorrectly applied it to the justification of Big Government spending programs.
Themed “keeping your sanity in an unjust world,” Barber’s speech sought to diagnose the injustices in America and made his case for how young and old generations can cooperatively get through times of great strife.
Oddly enough, in a speech that was overtly and mainly political, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor from North Carolina began his speech criticizing traditional religious figures who mix religion and politics and those who Barber believes use faith “cynically” to “serve hate, fear, racism, and greed.”
Barber devoted the rest of his speech to justify big government programs and advance his personal political opinions regarding current legislation through the lens of the social justice Gospel.
The North Carolina clergyman condemned Christian politicians who:
“put their hands on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution and then violate the Constitution and the Bible when they work against the poor…they don’t even realize that the same Bible they put their hands on says ‘woe unto you who legislates evil.’”
Barber diagnosed the injustices of the world as being centered around the fight for the passage of H.R. 1 to expand voting rights through more federal control of elections, eliminating the Senate filibuster, free government-provided healthcare for all, combatting a militaristic federal budget that underspends on domestic poverty programs, a Palestinian state, and increasing the minimum wage to an unspecified amount.
Barber’s scriptural justification for his proposed political advocacy was rooted in broad and vague platitudes about 2 Tim 1:1-9. He interpreted the texts as complementing his liberation theology perspective and as showing a need for younger and older generations to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses in the fight for justice.
With the verse touching on the role of elders mentoring young leaders, Barber excoriated progressives for underrepresenting the historical role of women and minorities’ political advocacy. He applied the interpretation to his call for a united front against what he portrayed as the greed of capitalism and an indifference to the plight of the poor.
To keep one sanity’s in an unjust world, Barber suggested praying for and loving those whom progressives challenge for perpetuating injustice. This was in the context of fighting former Trump Administration injustices against minorities and women.
Again Barber contradicted his own words and joked with the students when he asked: “Any of you – if the FBI or CIA knew the thoughts in your head about the Trump Administration – you would be locked up.” This does not sound like the love and prayer that God, the author of all life, called on Christians to participate in.
In yet another instance of irony or perhaps intentionality Barber called on progressive religious and political leaders to keep sane in this unjust world by “lift[ing] [the banner of justice] up until every child is born into love…” He went on to say that people need to tell each other that they are “gifts…you’re not a mistake, a happenstance…You are here by God’s intent and by design…you are here by the hand of God.”
Ironically, Barber stressed the dignity of every human person but never mentioned abortion or the lives of the unborn. For a speech that started off criticizing traditional Christian clergy and political figures for living out their faith in the public square, Barber did the same thing and twisted the words of the gospel to justify his political positions all while preaching about injustice, saying all people are gifts, but ignoring that unborn children are gifts too.