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BY BILL MEFFORD

December 1, 2019


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Rev. William Barber II and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg
This morning Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg visited Rev. William Barber’s church in Goldsboro where they talked about poverty and the intersection of faith and politics - via the Raleigh News Observer. Buttigieg’s visit comes after several articles, including one by Michael Harriot, criticizing Buttigieg for his white privilege and his lack of acknowledgement of that privilege.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, "Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you" - when you already have it with you. - Proverbs 3:27-28
In political terms, Buttigieg’s visit to Rev. Barber’s church was a timely and necessary one, though Mayor Pete still has much work to do. Buttigieg continues to rise in the polls and in New Hampshire, but he is still hardly even registering in the polls in places like South Carolina where African Americans make up 40% of Democratic primary voters. 

More than that, as recent elections have shown, when African American voter turnout is high, a Democratic victory is much more likely. In fact, there are many progressives who believe that trying to win over disenchanted Trump voters is little more than a fool’s errand. They believe that the path to victory in 2020 is to generate greater passion among base voters – to give them something and someone to believe in. And it is clear that Pete Buttigieg believes many of those Democratic base voters are waiting for that something to believe in from him. 

Time will tell, but in a good sign, it was reported today that Mayor Pete listened intently to Rev. Barber and Rev. Renita Weems, who called on congregants to remember their charge from God to care for and to advocate for justice alongside the poor. It has become a campaign for Barber and his team; they are building momentum through a 22-city tour towards the culmination of that campaign next June, when people from across the United States will come together in Washington D.C. and demand that Congress do more for poor people. 

But today, perhaps the most important member of their audience was Pete Buttigieg, and it seems their words and witness were not wasted. Mayor Pete responded by pledging to support a living wage, expanding access to welfare, and expanding the number of workers joining unions. (Attacking union membership has been one of the primary ways conservatives have held power for corporate oligarchs.) Mayor Pete also pledged to support a forum on poverty for Democratic candidates.

And this is the power of people of faith. While so-called “faith leaders” like Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress claim that people of faith should remain loyal servants to their king, Donald Trump, Barber and other faith leaders are increasingly calling for a more Biblical form of public engagement, and that begins with remembering the poor in our midst.
Consider coming to Washington D.C. on June 20, 2020 to remember the poor with people of faith from across the country. Check out the website for a list of campaign dates now throughout the winter and spring, leading up to June 20.
Holy One, as we remember the poor, we remember you. As we celebrate Advent, anticipating your coming, we anticipate the day when those who have been oppressed will be freed, when those who have been marginalized will be brought in, and when those have been neglected will be remembered. Amen.
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