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November/December, 2005

Spirit of the Revolution:
Performing the Gospel Life in Response to the Cry of the Poor

Open Door Community--Atlanta, Georgia

There we were standing, singing, shouting in the middle of downtown Atlanta in Woodruff Park. The Mayor had sent word that she did not allow people to feed the hungry in Atlanta parks. A new law? No, an executive order. So here we were in a basic conflict in the heartlessness of so many American cities. The powers that be say “No” to the presence of the poor and the hungry in the tourist and business districts. The power and love of God in Jesus Christ says feed the hungry wherever you hear the cry of hunger, whenever you see the human anguish created by a system that oppresses, that refuses to pay a minimum wage that is a living wage.

So, obedient to the God of liberation we continued to unfold our tables and set up our outdoor dining room in the midst and flurry of noontime Atlanta. The police came, then two representatives from Mayor Shirley Franklin’s office arrived, ties too tight, wing tips tipping. “Do you have a permit?”, one asked. “Yes”, I replied, opening my Bible to Isaiah 58: “The kind of fasting I want is this: remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives.” (Good News Bible, 1992)

We are working to overturn the system that creates hunger and grows obese on the poverty of the poor while waging war in Iraq. God shouts for justice and calls her Radical Remnant to the fore for a revolution of values and a new society in the shell of the old.

Christianity, for the most part has gone sour, like milk trapped in a refrigerator in New Orleans. Christianity as we know it in the mainline churches is bull pedookey. The Church of the American Way of Life became the church of the well to do and now with the rise of the Bush Dynasty the church has become the Homeland Church. The fire of the Black Liberation Movement in Christianity from Nat Turner (1831) to Jesse Jackson has been banked by the likes of Bishop Eddie Long whose Republican congregation of 94.2% African Americans follow his heretical Gospel of Prosperity while he drives through the gentrifying Black ghettoes of Atlanta in his $350,000 Bentley automobile. The Homeland Church of the whites has been despoiled from the start. The right to kill and take the land of the Native Americans was based upon a murderous ethic of white European superiority and the only true Biblical people. Their warrior God said loud and clear: Kill the natives; take the land for my glory which is your glory. Then the Prince of Peace, Jesus, The Human One, was turned into a pro-slavery God more like Mars than any Hebrew character. The Christian justification of slavery continues to mar the Homeland Church as it dehumanizes Lesbians and Gays, fights to keep the minimum wage below a living wage, and stands for war against the so-called enemies of the American Empire. A clear way to identify a Homeland Church is that most of them display an American Flag in the sanctuary and a Coke or Pepsi machine in the fellowship hall.

But there has always been, and is increasingly today, a Radical Remnant within the Body of Jesus Christ. We are Radical Remnants, wild and fiery, committed and politically engaged against the domination systems of war, capitalism, prison industries, oppression of women and the belittling of homosexuals. We live on the margins, like Jesus Christ, like Peter Waldo (d. 1209).

We live with the homeless and the prisoner. We choose life abundant and the Works of Mercy, and the long haul life demanding justice which is rooted in equality, freedom, enough for all and the Democratic process of government and decision making. Actually, most of us are socialists, children of Jesus the Jew and Karl Marx with hearts and eyes formed by singer-song writers, poets, arts, and lovers whose passion is for the common good and the body politic.

At the center of our performance of the Gospel Life stands the Cross. The cross was the Roman instrument of torture and execution: a political expression of terror against dominated people. When Jesus says “pick up your cross” he means that we are to live a life so full of love and resistance that the Empire will scorn, persecute, jail, and even kill us for our abundant life for others. We must be in the streets, city hall, state legislatures, wherever power is exercised in an unjust way. The means to peace is the struggle for justice.

The nonviolent God and the barn-born donkey-riding Prince of Peace is on the side of the poor. Demonstrating, worshipping, fasting and feasting, raising hell in order to get to heaven, one finds this God and this Gospel in the lives of the poor in and out of prison. We hear this God in the cry of the poor. We touch this God when we touch the oppressed and marginalized. Jesus calls us to a new way of life inside the American Empire. Won’t you pick up your cross today and come along with us?