The role of the prophet in the ancient Hebrew scriptures was to confront, correct and transform society when it has lost its moral compass.
As ancient empires emerged fortified by the thirst for conquest and dominion the foundation for a class, race and, gender-based caste system was established, and remains with us till this day.
If we are to posit that societies should be judged not based upon conquest, land acquisition, standard of living, or GNP (Gross National Product) but rather upon how the most marginalized within that society are treated then we must also posit that America is a failed Empire. The American Empire suffers from a vigorous and vicious disdain for the poor and a violent state sponsored commitment to racial, gender, and sexual oppression.
The Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign founded by Cheri Honkala is committed to addressing these most urgent concerns with a prophetic voice.
Imagine the underground railroad movement during slavery in America without the active leadership and participation of slaves. Imagine the suffrage movement without women leaders. The uniqueness of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign is that it is a movement for the benefit of poor people that is led by and composed of poor people. In an age of commodification and data mining we reject the temptation of corporate, political, and soft money to fund the movement.
We also resist the lure of the non-profit industrial complex which often serves as a front for major political parties and their agenda to herd the most marginalized like livestock into the polls at election time and not to eradicate the problems stated in their mission statements.
In addition, we reject the charitable/philanthropic model of addressing poverty because it does not promote the end of poverty. The philanthropic model was designed to make society comfortable with poverty and the illusion that things are getting better when in fact poverty is at an all-time high in America.
We have chosen “Lives over Luxury.” Not a popular stance in a society bent on survival of the fittest and winning at all cost. When people forsake all others to achieve the American dream, they wake up to a nightmare for those left in the wake of their pursuits.
The spirit of empire, greed, and nationalism has found its way into every segment of our society. Politicians, educators, business leaders, and members of the faith community must all be called into accountability. The system is not broken; it’s functioning the way it was intended. We must abolish the present system in the same manner that slaves, free Blacks, and white abolitionists abolished slavery.
We accept the mantle handed down by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said:
Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.
Join the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights campaign.
Keith Collins is the Pastor in the Church of the Overcomer in Philadelphia, PA, and a member of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.