A Supplement to We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible With the Poor People’s Campaign

Developed for the Winter Offensive Sunday School of Struggle 2021

During the Holiday Season many in the US, especially Christians, often take more time to think about their faith. Church attendance increases, donations to charity pick up, and our culture and media are full of stories of kindness and the birth of hope. Indeed, the season of Advent is a time for revolutionary hope, a time to reflect on what it means that God has prepared the way to transform the world from the bottom up. In this series we look more closely at some of the dominant themes and stories that shape this season and re-read those stories and themes from the perspective of the poor and dispossessed and out of the active and organized struggle of the poor for a more just world. 

How to use this study?

  • The study is a supplemental study guide for the Advent of a Revolution section of We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible With the Poor People’s Campaign.
  • We approach this study from the perspective of the poor and dispossessed. By engaging from this perspective we understand Advent to be a time for revolutionary hope that God has prepared the way to transform the world from the bottom up. 
  • Begin and end with Song. Sing together or view and listen to a video. 
  • Read and reflect together on the texts and study questions.
  • Integrate art and culture. Listen to the song, view the images and art, and allow these to enrich and inform the discussion and reflection.
  • Take action. In particular, consider how your study can inform and support the mobilization toward the Mass Poor People’s and Low Wage Workers Assembly and Moral March on Washington, June 18th, 2022.

Read: Chapter 39 “What Doth the Lord Require?” by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis (Micah 6:6-8)

Advent theme: The coming of a new and better way during a time of suffering

Amidst suffering, poverty, and domination under Rome there is something and/or someone new coming into the world that promises peace and relief. Micah 6 helps us remember that the expectation of a new relationship with God during Advent is actually the restoration and fulfillment of a right relationship that was revealed long ago.

Textual Study: Micah 6:8

God has told you, Mortal what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but:
to do justice
God wants us to right the wrongs of the world. Following God means being kind and generous, but also actively seeking to end that which produces injustice.  
love kindness”
Resist the system that is based on and produces hate, violence, and conquest. Remember and believe in a way rooted in love and kindness.
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Take action. Actively live out your faith, know that we possess the power to bring about change. Be open to God working through us and between us to create this change, but always remember that none of us, and none of the organizations we create, are in the fullness of God.

The Advent story helps us to see God’s message in Micah anew. It reminds us that we only truly walk with God and honor God in and through the struggle for justice. 

 “The book of Micah instructs that the only way to honor and worship God is to welcome the immigrant neighbor, the homeless, and the bruised and battered. Micah says we must overcome bias and inequality and advocate for all God’s children to have what they need to thrive, not merely and barely survive.”  

-rev. liz, We cry justice

Further Discussion Questions

  1. How does this interpretation challenge our traditional understandings of what/who God is and what God asks of us? Especially those understandings that are commonly reinforced during Advent? 
  2. What are some influences that lead us to think worshipping God means something else? How are they reinforced?
  3. What in our world helps us to see this promise of a restored relationship with God? (Apache Stronghold and the struggle to protect sacred land, the Poor People’s Campaign )

Art and Cultural Resources:

  • Opening song – “What Doth the Lord Require” Yara Allen
  • Closing song – “We Cry Justice” – Listen to Matthew Puckett share the song and then sing together. You can add lyrics to the line: “we the ____” based on reflections shared during the session. (Lyrics below)
  • Image – “Do Justice” by Anni Brink
Video: “What Doth the Lord Require” Yara Allen

Read: Chapter 40 “If Not Us, Who?” by Aaron Scott (Job 24)

Advent theme: Care for the poor

During the Advent/holiday season our society is more aware of the poor and more actively deploying resources to care for people and address poverty. This passage from Job helps us pose two fundamental questions about the poor and poverty. Why are people poor? And why does God allow it?

Textual Study: Job 24

Poverty is Systemic/Structural

“The poor go about their labor foraging for food; the wasteland provides food for their children.” (Job 24:5)
Where do we see people “foraging” for food and doing whatever they can to feed their children today?
-Do they do this in a world of scarcity or abundance?
 
“They gather fodder in the fields and glean vineyards.” (Job 24:6)
Why do we accept that for most of us “gleaning” the crumbs is what we deserve?
“The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; the infant of the poor is seized for a debt.” (Job 24:9)
-Do our laws and systems of justice benefit everyone? Who do they protect? Who do they hurt?

God and Poverty

  • What does this say about who/what God is? What does it say about our  relationship with God? The relationship of the poor to God?
  • How are those who experience injustice and fight against it in a special position to know God?

“Why do you, as my children, allow this to happen? Who among you will be willing to stand up for justice anew in each generation, before all the injustice gets so bad it takes everyone down? If not you, who?”

Aaron Scott, We Cry Justice

Further Discussion Questions

  1. How does the response of society during Christmas/holidays hide and distort the causes of poverty?
  2. Job 24 helps us see that God acts through us, not above us, beyond us, or separate from us. Where do you see this relationship embodied in the struggle for justice today?  

Art and Culture Material

  • Opening song – “We Cry Justice” by Matthew Puckett share the song and then sing together. (Lyrics below)
“We Cry Justice” song by Matt Puckett
  • Closing song – Rich Man’s House – as you sing this song, name the places in our society that perpetuate injustice for the poor and dispossessed – places that we must “go down” and take back our dignity and our humanity. 
Video: “Rich Man’s House” Performed by Jamel Coy Hudson

Read: Chapter 41 “Woe To You Who Pass Unjust Laws” by Charon Hribar (Isaiah 10)

Advent theme: Good will to our neighbor

The good will of people during Winter and Christmas is channeled into a handful of acceptable institutions and forms of charity: donations on the streets and in stores, food and clothing drives, serving in a soup kitchen, buying toys for children in need, etc.. That same will of people to help during this time of year is also bound by certain laws that direct us into seeing poverty and the solutions to poverty in limited ways and prevents us from seeing its root causes and taking real action to address those causes. 

Textual Study:

“Doom to you who legislate evil,
who make laws that make victims—
Laws that make misery for the poor,
that rob my destitute people of dignity,
Exploiting defenseless widows,
taking advantage of homeless children.”
(Isaiah 10: 1-2)

What are some other examples of unjust laws in our world?

  • Laws against sleeping in parks and in the streets.
  • Laws that tell us where we can feed people, what they can eat, how much they deserve.
  • Laws that protect empty housing from being used to house the homeless. 

“Remember, we are dying in the streets. If we gotta die this time… I’m gonna die ripping the boards down from these buildings… I’m gonna die because I want to live… We gotta forget about (taking over abandoned houses) being against the law… I’m dying in the streets. I think that should be against the law.” 

-Ron Cassanova

Further Discussion Questions

  1. How do the fight and plight of the poor give us insight into the true purpose and justice of our laws? How do they point us toward God’s law?
  2. Do we keep track of how many empty houses there are in our cities and towns? Why not? What would knowing this help expose? Who would feel threatened by this? 
  3. What laws did Jesus oppose in his life and ministry? 

Art and Culture Materials

“Neighbor Neighbor” lyrics:

Neighbor neighbor can’t you see
Why housing rights are what we need (2x)
Oh oh oh oh oh, Slumlords you got to go (2x)
Neighbor neighbor can’t you see
Housing for all is what we need (2x)
Oh oh oh oh oh, Private profits got to go (2x)
Neighbor neighbor can’t you see
Why rent control is what we need (2x)
(Affordable housing / Low income coops/
community housing – is what we need) 
Oh oh oh oh oh, Rent hikes have got to go (2x)
Housing is a human right
That’s why today we stand and fight (2x)
Oh oh oh oh oh, Corporate greed has got to go (2x) 
Ain’t no way we’re backing down
We’re rising up the time is now (2x)


Read: Chapter 42 “Is That What You Call A Fast?” by Nic Laccetti (Isaiah 58)

Advent theme: Celebrating the arrival of Christ.

In what ways do we as a society celebrate during Advent and the Holidays? For many the Holiday season has become associated with parties, travel, feasting, and lavish spending. For many Christians it is also a time where the faithful feel compelled to donate or give back. Isaiah 58 challenges us to consider what actions and rituals truly honor God.

Textual Study:

“Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God.”
(Isaiah 58:2)

“Crises of poverty, racism, war, and environmental devastation might force us to make individual sacrifices – to bow our heads like reeds, in Isaiah’s words, and to pray and fast. But those sacrifices are not what God is asking for unless they also join us together in a powerful collective movement to enact justice in our world.”

-Nic Laccetti, We Cry Justice

Further Discussion Questions

Isaiah suggests we draw near God by following God’s “ordinance,” God’s law. Isaiah is clear that it is not just about individual behavior, but calling the entire nation to account.  

  • While many seek to draw near God at the holidays by giving to charity and practicing individual acts of kindness, is this the fullness of how God asks to be honored according to Isaiah? 
  • How can we connect these individual acts to the deeper and broader struggle for Justice?

In the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic corporations were quick to thank workers for their sacrifice while they continued to profit from the crisis. This too is the false form of worship and fasting that God speaks against in Isaiah. It doesn’t bring justice into the world.

  • Are there any forms of worship or celebration common to Advent and the Holiday season that can be carried out differently so that they join us together to “enact justice in the world”?
  • How do forms of worship and celebration lose their power? Who/what can help us restore them?

Art and Culture Resources


Read: Chapter 43 “Las Posadas” by Kenia Alcocer (Matthew 2)

Advent theme: The Birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi

In this well known story, three wisemen (Magi) follow a star that signals the birth of Jesus. Let us read it from the perspective of the poor and dispossessed. What stands out? What does this expose about our traditional notions of this story? How does the perspective of the poor in struggle today bring this story new power and life?

Textual Study: 

“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.”
(Matthew 2: 1-4)

The Roman Empire sought peace through conquest and domination of all people in an ever-expanding realm. In this story, the Magi come from far away in the East, indicating that the new messiah they seek has come to bring peace to all people. 

In the Roman Empire Caesar Augustus was described as the “anointed one.” Here a baby born poor in a far corner of the Empire is declared the new anointed.  

  • How do these elements of the story challenge the order of the day? 
  • How does it read differently from the perspective of the poor and dispossessed? From the perspective of the powerful? 

“Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.”
(Matthew 2: 13-15)

  • Joseph and Mary are refugees, fleeing the oppression of Herod and the Empire. What does this tell us about who carries, protects, and brings to life God’s promise of peace and justice?

“Like María and José, we have all migrated to give our children a better life… Las Posadas for Union de Vecinos has become a time for reflection and celebration. As immigrants, tenants, and as the poor and dispossessed, we are not just looking for empty Christmas celebrations. We are seeking our God: the God of the poor. We are finding Jesus in ourselves and those who are with us in the struggle for a more just society.”

-Kenia Alcocer, We Cry Justice

Further Discussion Questions

  1. Are there other parts of how we hear and celebrate the Christmas story celebration that feel “empty”? How? Why?
  2. How does the struggle of the poor help us see this and find something meaningful?

Art and Culture Resources

Songs: 

“We Cry Justice” by Matthew Puckett share the song and then sing together. (Lyrics below)

“Abrir Vuestras” song by Grupo Caleb Venezuela – November 2021 Lyrics

“Os Pido Posada” by Grupo Caleb Venezuela – November 2021 Lyrics


Read: Chapter 44 “The Magnificat (Song of Revolutionary Mothers)” by Min. Dr. Savina Martin (Luke 1:46-56)

Advent theme: Mary and how God brings hope and salvation into this world.

Mary is commonly portrayed as a poor, humble, innocent, and obedient vessel of God. This portrayal models how we should understand God (all-powerful, transcendent, male), and how we relate to God (obedience)

The Magnificat, Mary’s song (which mirrors Hannah’s song from 1 Samuel), describes God and our relationship to God much differently. 

Textual Study:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
(Luke 1:46-49)

Mary proclaims that God is magnified through her. Mary was open to God, but it was through her body and her life that God not only acted, but was magnified – made bigger and clearer for all to see.

Is this how we traditionally understand Mary? How does it change our perception of Mary and our own relationship to God?

“Through Mary God is seen to be the power to radically change our broken world…
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.”
(Luke 1:52-53)

Mary brought new life into being, and that new life will boldly confront the forces that degrade life.  

Discussion Questions

  1. Is this the message we traditionally receive about Mary and the birth of Christ? How does it differ? Why?
  2. Who helps us see this Mary in our world? 

“The magnificat is a song of salvation, with political, economic, and social dimensions that cannot be blunted. Dottie was an abuse survivor, a teenage wife, freedom fighter for justice and mercy for the poor. Through her work on welfare rights, Dottie fought for mothers to be able to put food on the table and have heat and hot water during the winter. In her song, Mary speaks to the poor, the hungry, the homeless. People in every society hear the blessing in this canticle.”

-Savina Martin, We Cry Justice
“Magnificat” by Ben Wildflower

Further Discussion Questions

  1. Where else do we see models of “revolutionary mothering” in our world?
  2. How does Mary help us understand God and our relationship to God? 

Art and Culture Resources

  • Opening song – “We Cry Justice” by Matthew Puckett share the song and then sing together. (Lyrics below)
  • Closing song – Rich Man’s House – as you sing this song, name the places in our society that perpetuate injustice for the poor and dispossessed – places that we must “go down” and take back our dignity and our humanity. 

Lyrics for “We Cry Justice” song by Matt Puckett
A reflection on Chapter 8: “The Power to Cry Justice” by Idalin Luz Montes Bobé

We the many, hear our cry
We cry justice day and night
‘Cause it’s holy, ‘cause it’s right
Join the many, join the cry


We the hopeful, hear our cry
We cry justice day and night
‘Cause it’s holy, ‘cause it’s right
Join the hopeful, join the cry


We the homeless, hear our cry
We cry justice day and night
‘Cause it’s holy, ‘cause it’s right
Join the homeless, join the cry

We the hungry, hear our cry
We cry justice day and night
‘Cause it’s holy, ‘cause it’s right
Join the hungry, join the cry


Undivided, hear us sing
Cries for justice, let them ring!
Holy Spirit, in all things
Join us, bless us in the crying

***

Additional lyrics follow the following pattern:
We the ____, hear our cry
We cry justice day and night
‘Cause it’s holy, ‘cause it’s right
Join the ____, join the cry

Options include, but are not limited to:
People
Workers
Rising
Movement
Marching

…or anything else that inspires!

(Cover image: “Lifting Up Welfare Rights” by Anni Brink, Reflection on Chapter 44, We Cry Justice)
See more of Anni Brink’s work on Instagram here.
Download Anni Brink’s artwork created for We Cry Justice here.


Join the Freedom Church of the Poor this Sunday at 6pmET/5pmCT/3pmPT and La Iglesia del Pueblo at 7:30pmET/6:30pmCT/4:30pmPT on the Kairos Center Facebook page.