It shouldn’t be surprising that a government-funded broadcasting service would happily promote a socialist Christian preacher that eschews all those old conservative Christian concerns like prayer in school, abortion, and homosexuality – even calling that “heresy” and “theological malpractice.” There was no rebuttal from the conservatives.
The puff piece subject was Rev. William Barber, who started a series of leftist protests of the Republican governor he called “Moral Mondays.” The correspondent for this segment was Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a longtime co-anchor of the NewsHour in the ‘80s and ‘90s and one of two African-Americans to enroll at the University of Georgia in 1961.
Barber was promoting a new book titled The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear. Marxist professor Cornel West proclaimed in a book blurb “William Barber is the closest person we have to Martin Luther King, Jr. in our midst." Hunter-Gault began the segment with the same comparison:
HUNTER-GAULT: In recent weeks, Reverend William Barber stepped down from heading the NAACP in North Carolina to focus on what he calls a national moral revival, updating the Poor People’s Campaign started by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. that linked the civil rights struggle for African-Americans to demands for equality for all poor people.
He was joined by his co-author Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a former Republican operative and Moral Majority worker who said Barber helped him recognize he had been a racist. He has another book titled Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. There were no ideological labels, only what PBS presents as common sense:
REV. WILLIAM BARBER: I said, listen, this legislature just cut, denied Medicaid expansion. There are 1,000 people in this county that would get health care, and they can’t be black, because there are no black people are up here. They cut funding for public education. You are losing teachers here. And they have to be white.
Now, you voted for some of the people because of what they told you they stood on prayer in school and abortion and homosexuality, but let’s look at what they are doing, and how it is hurting you.
HUNTER-GAULT: So, basically, what you did was to talk to them about the things that they had in common. And it registered. It permeated their consciousness.
BARBER: You talk to people honestly, you talk to them about what it means to be a human being, and you show them the hypocrisy. You know, you show them how they’re being fooled, if you will, that people are saying, I care about your best interests, but those people are actually putting in place policies that are hurting everybody.
This is basically the African-American version of Thomas Frank’s What the Matter with Kansas?, which argued cultural issues caused Americans to vote against their own economic interests. Let's go back to Barber “permeating the [false?] consciousness” of the working class and identifying the "heresy" of the conservative Christians:
HUNTER-GAULT: What strategy did you use to reach people who had been brought up like Jonathan? What did you do to convince them that this wasn’t right?
BARBER: I know that many of my white evangelical friends or many African-Americans who were bought into this kind of a public engagement-type faith really have been introduced to — and I say this sorrowfully — a form of heresy and a form of theological malpractice.
To try to suggest that Jesus was just about a little prayer, a little preaching and a little worship and a little charity — the very Jesus that white evangelicals claim to lift up was a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew whose first sermon was challenging the economic exploitation of the empire.
This sounds like the Jesus in the Reza Aslan book Zealot, a man who sounds more like a guerrilla fighter than a nonviolent man who says he didn't come for earthly political ends. The sickest joke about this campaign is these radical leftists call themselves the "Repairers of the Breach" while they divisively attack the conservatives as the worst kind of Christians.
PS: Hannah Lutz at the Juicy Ecumenism blog also found Barber pushing his conservatives-are-heretics line on The New Yorker Radio Hour.