"Selling the Poor for a Pair of Shoes": Amos, MLK, & "Citizens United"

Dear Friends,

This past Friday (Jan. 18, 2013), I was invited to take part in a rally near Philadelphia’s City Hall, calling for adoption of a Constitutional amendment reversing the “Citizens United” decision that invited corporations to flood our election campaigns with their money. This is what I said:

Blessed are You, the Breath of Life, Who in every generation blows Truth through human throats and mouths as we blow our breath through the ram’s horn – giving voice again and again to the Vision of the Prophets.

We gather to remember the raw power grab of just three years ago –- a Supreme Court case named “Citizens United.” The most ironic name in all Supreme Court history; the one thing the 5-4 vote of the Justices did NOT care about was Citizens united. They cared about “Super-rich United, Corporate Power United.” WE, gathered to work to end this oppressive decision, are the real citizens united.

Did this plague of top-down corporate power begin three years ago? ?   Not hardly! 

Hear someone who called himself merely a pruner of sycamore trees and who spoke up 2700 years ago:

“Hear this, O you who swallow up the needy, ravaging the poor of the land -- Saying, We must swiftly reduce the wages that we pay and break the power of the people, so that we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yes, and sell them only chaff to eat  -- not the nourishing grain and bread.

“Yet “  -- he clamored – “ if the wealthy and the powerful cut off the life of the poor, then the Breath of Life will cut off the prosperity of the land – yes, of the Earth itself! --  will make the land tremble, and every one who lives there mourn.  Disaster shall rise up as a flood; and their cities shall be cast out and drowned.” 

He said he just was a citizen who pruned sycamore trees; we know him as the prophet Amos, who warned that God would prune the swollen super-wealthy.

Amos spoke about real life, not legalisms. The Citizens United case is no abstraction, no mere legalism. It is about real life!  It means the ruination of the poor and the shattering of the middle class. It means teachers disemployed, homes dispossessed, the planet scorched by the burning of oil, coal, gas far beyond the ability of our atmosphere to absorb and manage the heat --  so that cornfields are parched, the farmers are ruined, the hungry are starved. It  means that the corporations of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Unnatural Gas boil the oceans till they over-run their boundaries and drown the edges of New Jersey and New York.

Do you hear the Prophet Amos,  “Disaster shall rise up as a flood; and their cities shall be cast out and drowned.”

What is the answer to this oppressive power?

This weekend we celebrate the life of a prophet whom many of us experienced in our own lives:  Martin Luther King. But even as we celebrate him we repress and ignore the wisest and deepest of his teachings: The speech he have at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, a year to the very day before his death:

"A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will see individual capitalists investing huge sums of money, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just."

"A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on the military than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and declare eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."  (Isaiah)

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late."

Too late.  Too late! Too Late!  Is that a death sentence, or a question? Are we too late to remake an America that is of the people, by the people, for the people? I ask you, is it too late?  [CROWD RESPONDED: NO!]

Are we too late to turn the mountains, the pyramids of illegitimate corporate power into the fruitful valleys of abundance shared? I ask you, is it too late? [CROWD RESPONDED: NO!]

 Let me ask you – to join with me:

If we stand together [CROWD REPEATED}

it is not too late. [CROWD REPEATED}

 If we work together/ [CROWD REPEATED}

it is not too late. [CROWD REPEATED}

 This is  / [CROWD REPEATED}


 This is  / [CROWD REPEATED}










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