Kairos Center Publications and Research

Kairos Center publications, articles, and research at the intersection of religion and human rights, including work from the Poverty Initiative and Poverty Scholars’ Network on the defining issue of our day, the abolition of poverty.

Books and Book Chapters

Theoharis Bible book

Always with Us? What Jesus Really Said about the Poor
By Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis

Jesus’s words “the poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11) are regularly used to suggest that ending poverty is impossible, that poverty is a result of moral failures, and that the poor themselves have no role in changing their situation. In this book Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis examines both the biblical text and the lived reality of the poor to show how that passage is taken out of context, distorted, and politicized to justify theories about the inevitability of inequality.

Theoharis reinterprets “the poor you will always have with you” to show that it is actually one of the strongest biblical mandates to end poverty. She documents stories of poor people themselves organizing to improve their lot and illuminates the implications for the church. Poverty is not inevitable, Theoharis argues. It is a systemic sin, and all Christians have a responsibility to partner with the poor to end poverty once and for all.

Available now from Eerdmans! Read more about the book, and find reviews, book tour information, and other features here.


The Spirit of Struggle: Writings on Religions and Human Rights
By the Kairos Center
2015, Free download

In preparation for our October 2015 “Spirit of Struggle” gathering, we put together a book of writings on the past, present, and possible relationship between human rights and religions. These are essays drawing on the knowledge and experiences of Kairos Center leaders and others who have taken on this question as part of their research and the movements they’re committed to. Below you’ll find the table of contents, and you can download the whole book as a free PDF by clicking here.

Religion and Human Rights Need Each Other | Larry Cox
Shakti: The Power of the Poor | Shailly Gupta Barnes
Reading the Bible with the Poor: A Biblical Hermeneutic for Social Transformation | Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
Islam and Poverty in the Sahel: An Interview with Sheikh Maman Kiota | Adam Barnes
A Moral Movement for the Nation | The Rev. Dr. William Barber II
Abahlali base-Mjondolo and Building the Struggle From Below | An Interview with Mzwakhe Mdlalose and Dr. Richard Pithouse
Women, Islam, and the Secular-Religious Divide | An Interview with Dr. Sheherazade Jafari


Pedagogy of the Poor: Building the Movement to End Poverty
By Willie Baptist and Jan Rehmann
2012, Teachers College Press, $30

In this book the authors present a new kind of interdisciplinary pedagogy that brings together antipoverty grassroots activism and relevant social theories about poverty, combining the oral history of renowned antipoverty organizer Willie Baptist with accessible introductions to relevant social theories, case studies, in class student debates, and pedagogical reflections. This multilayered approach makes the book useful to both social activists committed to eradicating poverty and educators looking for ways to teach about the struggles for economic and social justice. This book is an essential tool of self-education and leadership development for a broad social movement led by the poor to end poverty. Available at Teachers College Press or Amazon.com.
Download sample chapter. Download table of contents.


A New and Unsettling Force: Reigniting Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign
2009, $10

Featuring chapters on the history of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968, the role of religion and the Bible, and the importance of art and culture in the struggle to end poverty, along with an interview of Bertha Burris (Queen of the Mule Train) and sixteen essays submitted by leaders fighting today for what the Poor People’s Campaign was fighting for in 1968. To order a copy (PDF download or hard copy) of A New and Unsettling Force, visit our online store.


Appalachia: Listening with Our Hearts
2007, $20

Written by the participants in the Appalachia Immersion in January 2007, these fifty-five essays and over one hundred photographs reflect on issues of race, gender, and poverty in Appalachia and beyond. To order Appalachia: Listening with Our Hearts download our order form, which can be mailed or returned electronically to info@kairoscenter.org.


Katrina: Listening with Our Hearts
2006, $20

The first Poverty Initiative publication contains over ninety photos and forty essays by students, faculty, and community leaders who traveled for eight days in the Gulf Coast just five months after Hurricane Katrina brought to the world’s attention the deep and pervasive poverty in the United States. To order Katrina: Listening with Our Hearts, download our order form, which can be mailed or returned electronically to info@kairoscenter.org.


Each One Teach One
By Ron Casanova with Steven Blackburn
1996, Northwestern University Press, $30

Ron Casanova (d. 2012) was a Poverty Scholar, artist, and leader in the National Union of the Homeless. In his autobiography he shares the ways in which he defied overwhelming odds and brings inspiration to the movement to end poverty. Through the narration of his own experiences the book includes the police riot at Tompkins Square, the Housing Now march of the homeless on Washington, and community takeovers of housing in Kansas City, New York, and Philadelphia. Available at Amazon.com.


Sacred Seed
2014, Global Peace Initiative of Women, $20

This collection of reflections and meditations is written by religious leaders inspired by the work of Dr. Vandana Shiva and focuses on the material and symbolic divinity of seeds in their faith traditions and about the on-going attack on seeds in the form of big agribusiness and Genetically Modified Organisms. It includes “And the Last Shall Be First” by the Poverty Initiative’s Adam Barnes, Shailly Barnes, Rev. Kathy Maskell, and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. Available from Global Peace Initiative of Women.

Hope for Children in Poverty: Profiles and Possibilities
2007, Judson Press, $16
Edited by Ronald J. Sider and Heidi Unruh, with a foreword by Marian Wright Edelman

This reader explores real solutions through public policy and faith-based organizations. Two chapters were contributed by members of the Poverty Initiative: “Children of Working Parents Growing Up in Poverty” by Charon Hribar and Paul Chapman and “Children Are Not in the Way, They Are the Way” by Blair Hyatt, Kristin Nicely Colangelo, and Willie Baptist.

Common Goods: Economy, Ecology, and Political Theology
2015, Fordham University Press, $35
Edited by Catherine Keller, Elias Ortega-Aponte, and Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre

In the face of globalized ecological and economic crises, how do religion, the postsecular, and political theology reconfigure political theory and practice? Features “The Myth of the Middle: Common Sense, Good Sense, and Rethinking the “Common Good” in Contemporary U.S. Society” by Charon Hribar.

Reading the Bible in an Age of Crisis: Political Exegesis for a New Day
2015, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, $49.

Biblical scholars and activists describe and exemplify the shape of a biblical interpretation that takes contemporary crisis seriously. Succinct opening essays summarize the salient aspects of our critical situation; in later parts, contributions address themes of economic, political, and environmental crisis in dialogue with biblical texts. Features “Reading the Bible with the Poor” (Ch. 1) by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and Willie Baptist.

Articles, Reports, and Reviews

The Power of Religion and Human Rights: Keynote Speech at the 2017 Bernstein Symposium at Yale University by Larry Cox

Human Rights Must Get Religion by Larry Cox in Open Democracy

Finishing the Unfinished Business of Martin Luther King by Willie Baptist and Charlene Sinclair in Justice Unbound

Social Movements and Theological Education by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis

The Indian Trail of the Poor People’s Campaign by Aaron Scott

Truth Commission Findings from the Church of Scotland’s Priority Areas Project 

Banking on Vacancy: Homelessness and Real Estate Speculation, a report by Picture the Homeless

New Testament as Counter-Imperial: A Review of Horsley, Crossan and Fiorenza by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis

The Full, Fierce Legacy of Dr. King by Karenna Gore, Charlene Sinclar and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis in The New York Daily News

It’s Not Enough to Be Angry by Willie Baptist in Organizing Upgrade

Groundswell: The Veterans’ and Survivors’ March from Mobile to New Orleans by Jose Vasquez

Why Real Political Power Will Not Come from a Revived Religious Left by Nicholas Laccetti in Religion Dispatches

Ferguson and the Watts Uprising by Willie Baptist and Foster Pinkney

The Right to Not Be Poor by Willie Baptist, Shailly Barnes, and Chris Caruso