Minister’s Blog

Dear Ones,

I heard a story once about a group of evangelical Christian seminarians who cut up a Bible, just cut holes all through it. This group of students was full of all the heady energy and righteousness that can accompany any young idealist’s first year in academia. In their Bible classes they got fired up about all the verses about the poor. Like when Jesus told his disciples, “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Or like the descriptions of the Jubilee found in the Hebrew Bible, when all debts are forgiven, land is reallocated, and slaves are set free. This theme emerged across book after book of their sacred text – the Word of God clearly calling them to care for the poor and to redistribute the resources of the rich. 

These seminarians looked at these verses, and looked at each other, and said, what Bible have we been using before now? None of the churches of their upbringing ever talked about poverty, or God’s call to fight economic injustice. It was as if their churches had been using a Bible with all such references removed. 

So they got the idea to create the version of the Bible it seemed their church had been following. Jim Wallis, who has gone on to become a prominent Christian theologian, founder of Sojourners magazine, and anti-poverty activist, tells the story: “One member of our group took an old Bible and a new pair of scissors and began the long process of literally cutting out every single biblical text about the poor. It took him a very long time.” Jim Wallis writes that he still takes this “hole-y” bible around to share his message that the American Bible is full of holes, to call our attention as a nation to the Biblical call to care for the poor and to address the root causes of poverty. Though we are no longer a biblically-based tradition in our UU congregations, we do draw inspiration from the Bible, and from many other religions which tell us to pay attention to the plight of the poor, and so we too must heed this call.

Last month I preached about our UU value of Equity, and in that sermon I talked about class in American society. Our culture has gotten more engaged on the topic of race and racism, with some unfortunate backlash, but we still struggle to talk about poverty and economic inequality, and the ways that race and class intersect. As we prepare to join the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace on May 12, it is important to reflect on the root causes of community violence, and how we are called to work for a more equitable society. As the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence explains:

Racial disparities in gun violence rates are the result of centuries of deliberate policy choices that created racially segregated neighborhoods that are underfunded and under-supported by policymakers. Gun violence is a symptom of deeper issues: racism, poverty, trauma, and lack of opportunity. This is why we see higher rates of gun violence in communities of color – policymakers have intentionally created neighborhoods with high rates of poverty, poorly funded schools, and high rates of over policing.

We know this is unacceptable. And we know that we can be part of the work to build a world that is more fair, a world where all may have what they need to survive and thrive without threat of violence.

Yours in faith,

Rev. Jolie