This fall, leaders of the Kairos Center and the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, have demanded that Congress build back better from the bottom up. We have been in the streets of Washington DC and at our state congressional offices to ask our elected officials Which Side Are They On?! And we will continue to fight to save the soul of this nation and our democracy. 

On Oct. 27th, 2021, student leaders from the Kairos Center and Union Theological Seminary stood alongside Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and impacted leaders around the country in Washington D.C. to oppose Congress cutting life-saving, planet-saving, democracy-saving legislation and compromising on the backs of poor people, immigrants, people of color and the environment. These reflections and images come from the Poor People’s Campaign’s Moral Witness Wednesday rally. Following the rally we joined CASA and the Center for Popular Democracy for their March and Rally on Congress. 

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis: 

We’re here this morning to make clear that the people most impacted by compromises made to healthcare and paid sick leave, the child tax credit and earned income tax credit, saving the planet, early childhood education and veterans benefits will not be silent. 

As it says in the Bible: If these people were silent, the stones would cry out. And indeed the people and earth are groaning. And we must be heard. 

We are here demanding investments in programs that lift from the bottom so everyone can rise. And we call out our elected leaders- from both sides of the aisle-from the Senate to the House to the White House-to invest in the people. 

We have heard much talk in recent weeks, months, years that addressing racism and poverty and ecological devastation and the war economy is just too costly. That we can’t fully build back better and then do even more. 

But as a biblical scholar and preacher, 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. 

There is an ongoing indictment of those who would take and keep the wealth of our world for themselves and cause others and the earth to suffer. 

There are biblical commands to “fill the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53), admonishing the nation to “do no wrong to the immigrant, the homeless, the children. And do not shed innocent blood” (Jeremiah 22:3). 

Indeed our sacred and constitutional texts speak to this moment. 

Our US Constitution commits to establishing justice, providing for the common defense, promoting the GENERAL welfare. Our founding documents remind us that when justice is under attack, it our duty, it is our right to make it right. 

Poor and low income people, moral leaders and people of conscience from West Virginia to Arizona, North Carolina to New York are here to make good on these promises and to call for investments in the people not corporations and the greedy. 

We are committed to mobilizing and organizing and registering and engaging, empowering until the poor are lifted up, workers are treated as and not just called essential, until our planet is protected, immigrants win rights not crumbs and until the whole nation lifts from the bottom so that the people and the planet can rise. 

We will move forward together, not one step back!

Somebody’s been hurting our people and it’s gone on far too long and we won’t be silent anymore.

Zachary White, Kairos Center fellow

Photo Credit: Emily Farthing

Rev Barber preached on Ezekiel 22 to our rally in between the Supreme Court and the Capitol. The prophet Ezekiel sees robbery, oppression of the poor, exploitation of the immigrant. “I sought for anyone among them who would repair the wall and stand in the breach before me on behalf of the land.” Barber said a collective prayer on behalf of all of us, like Isaiah: Here I am, send me. We sang, ‘We won’t be silent anymore.’

At one point I was glad I was wearing a mask because I was weeping. When we come together and confront evil, we realize we’re not alone.

Emily Farthing, Kairos Center fellow

Photo Credit: Emily Farthing

When the opportunity to go to D.C. with the Poor People’s Campaign came up, I first had to think about geography. Coming from the West Coast where it takes a whole day to get into another state, the thought of taking a bus from New York to D.C. and back in one day was pretty baffling. But what unfolded was just that, and in between the most incredible experience that fortified my involvement within the Poor Peopler’s campaign and being a part of a national movement to uplift and empower voices on the margins.  There on the pristine white steps of the capitol, we heard the booming voices of mothers who weren’t going to have enough to cover child care with the cuts to monthly child credits, military vets, ingenious sisters, and grandmothers. We heard from those who will be affected most when Joe Manchin cuts parts of the Build Back Better Bill that could help us as a nation really attempt to build back after one of the most spiritually, physically, and economically devastating years in American history. 

I snapped pictures for the Kairos Institute but found myself entranced by the music. Chanting, clapping, and solidarity in singing with our brothers and sister from CASA who were also at the capitol steps advocating for immigration reform. We chanted at them, “We love you”, and their response: “We love you back.” That is what this was about, and what I will take for a long time after. Love, justice, and walking humbly with my brothers and sisters and with God.