Prominent Pastor Speaks Out Against Christian Nationalism as 'Heresy'
The Rev. William Barber II speaks during the Democratic Presidential Committee (DNC) summer meeting on August 23, 2019, in San Francisco, California
The traditional approach to politics and faith is often seen as a competition between two sides: left vs. right, woke vs. unwoke, Red State Jesus vs. Blue State Jesus. However, the Rev. William J. Barber II, a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient and contemporary leader who has been compared to Martin Luther King Jr., has developed a different approach: "fusion politics."
This approach brings together coalitions that often transcend the traditional conservative vs. progressive divide. Barber believes that by uniting marginalized groups such as the poor, immigrants, working-class whites, religious minorities, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community, a powerful force for change can be created. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Barber argues that these groups share a common enemy, citing how the same forces that demonize immigrants also attack low-wage workers, the same politicians that deny living wages also suppress the vote, and the same people who deny the climate crisis and refuse to act are also willing to deny access to healthcare to millions of Americans.
By leading one of the nation’s most sustained and visible anti-poverty efforts as co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, Barber has become one of the country's most prominent activists and speakers, known for his fusion politics approach.
Who is Rev. William J Barber II?
Rev. William J. Barber II has made a name for himself as a powerful speaker and organizer, known for his "fusion politics" approach. He delivered an electrifying speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention that was called a "drop the mic" moment by one commentator. Barber also regularly organizes and marches with groups such as fast-food workers and union members, at a time when both political parties have been accused of ignoring the working class.
Barber has also been outspoken about the importance of voter turnout among marginalized communities, saying, "there is a sleeping giant in America." He believes that poor and low-wealth folks now make up 30% of the electorate in every state and over 40% of the electorate in every state where the margin of victory for the presidency was less than 3%. He argues that if these marginalized communities vote, they could fundamentally shift every election in the country.
Starting this month, Barber will take his fusion politics approach to the Ivy League as the founding director of Yale Divinity School's new Center for Public Theology and Public Policy. In this role, he hopes to train a new generation of leaders who will be comfortable "creating a just society both in the academy and in the streets."
Rev. William J. Barber II has announced that he will step down as pastor of the North Carolina church where he has served for 30 years, but he has made it clear that he is not retiring from activism. He remains the president of Repairers of the Breach, a nonprofit organization that promotes moral fusion politics.
Against Christian Nationalism
Barber has recently spoken out against White Christian nationalism, a movement that insists that the US was founded as a Christian nation and seeks to erase the separation of church and state.
When asked why poverty is so urgent to face now, Barber responded: "Doctor King used to say America has a high blood pressure of creeds, but an anemia of deeds. In every generation we’ve had to have a moment to focus on the urgency of the right now. We will never be able to fix our democracy until we fully face these issues. We will constantly ebb and flow out of recessions because inequality hurts us all." Barber also cites Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz's book "The Price of Inequality," which argues that it costs more as a nation for these inequalities to exist than it would for us to fix them. Barber also argues that paying a living wage would not hurt business, but rather it is the lack of it that does.
Rev. William J. Barber II, an advocate of "fusion politics" has spoken out against the concept of White Christian nationalism, arguing that it is flawed because it goes against the core values of Christianity.
He explains that the scriptures say that God loves all people and that if a nation is going to embrace Christian values, then one must know what those values are, and they certainly aren't discriminatory or exclusive. He also explains his view of the word “evangel” which means good news and that when Jesus used that phrase it was in his first sermon, which was a public policy sermon. He said it in the face of Caesar, where Caesar had hurt and exploited the poor. He also explains that he embraces the kind of evangelicalism that Jesus embraces and that is to start where Jesus started, preaching good news to the poor.
He also speaks about his health challenges and how he keeps going year after year and keeps himself from being burned out. He finds inspiration in reading the Bible and seeing that all the people that God used in a major way had some physical challenge, it helped him overcome any pity party and made him see that Moses couldn't talk, Ezekiel had strange post-traumatic syndrome types of emotional issues, Jeremiah was crying all the time from his struggles with depression, Paul had a physical thorn in the flesh, Jesus was acquainted with sorrow.