During a recent interview on her “You and Me Both” podcast, former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton claimed that youth are leaving the church because, in part, they perceive it to be “judgmental” and “alienating.”
In the first half of her Sept. 29 broadcast, Clinton, who identifies as United Methodist and supports abortion and homosexual “rights,” interviewed social activist William Barber II, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in North Carolina, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.
“I was taught that there is no separation between Jesus and justice,” Barber said during the interview in explaining his story of being brought up during the civil rights movement.
“To say that Jesus and justice are the same thing seems to me to be so obvious,” Clinton remarked minutes later. “I mean, how can you be a Bible-reading person, a church-attending person, and not understand how profoundly true that simple phrase really is?”
She then asked Barber how he tries to help people understand how justice and Christianity go hand-in-hand.
Barber stated that racism and gender inequality are the results of misinterpreting the Bible, noting that there are more than 2,000 Scriptures about the care of the poor, the immigrant, the sick, and other similar topics.
“How is it that so many folk claim then to be ‘Christian’ but then have been anti-immigrant, anti the freedom of Black people, anti the liberation of women, anti treatment of indigenous people right? In order to do that, somebody had to twist the Scriptures,” he said, to which Clinton agreed.
He said that he was taught that to be born again and to have the Holy Spirit is to have a “quall with the world’s systems of injustice,” and if your faith does not do that, “then your claim of it being the Spirit” is suspect.
Clinton then took issue with the concept of one political party “owning” Christianity, stating that it “overlooks” the role of the African American church. She also opined that “Black lives matter” is essentially a theological statement, to which Barber agreed.
He talked about the George Floyd incident, the COVID outbreak, death from poverty and how the responsibility of the government is to protect life.
“I think this moment can be a moment where we come to terms not just with systemic racism as it affects Black people, but systemic racism in all of its manifestations against brown people, against First Nations people, but also systemic poverty and ecological devastation and the war economy and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism,” Barber opined.
“How do you see now what the church should be doing?” Clinton later asked. “Because a lot of people are leaving the church, a lot of young people are leaving the church in part because [of] the way they understand what Christianity has become is, you know, so judgmental, so alienating, that they think to themselves, ‘Well, I don’t need that. I don’t want to be part of that.'”
“So, this should also be a time for the church to take a hard look at itself and try to figure out how it can be a real partner in this moment of moral awakening,” she added.
Barber said that when he first started working with youth and was told that they would not listen to his preaching, he presented a distinction: that young people “don’t like this bland form of religion that … is just praying and wishing for stuff” but rather are open to a faith that is about love, justice and equality.
“There’s no way in the days in which we live [that] the church can stay quarantined inside of the four walls of a building because that’s never what it was intended to do,” he stated.
“I’ve made a pact with some pastors, for instance, and we’ve said if anybody in our church dies from the lack of health care, we’re going to do just like Emmett Till’s momma. Call the media in and say, ‘This is what bad government policy looks like.’ And I’m gonna say, ‘How in the world can you claim to follow Jesus, who if He did anything, He healed everybody free and He never charged a leper a co-pay.'”
Clinton closed her segment by asking Barber to speak to those who are struggling during this time in American history, to explain how they can keep the faith and understand that “Jesus and justice mean the same thing.”
He said that much of current circumstances is not “God made but human ineptitude” and that people consequently shouldn’t give up but “join up.” Barber also urged listeners to live as if their time was short.
“Some of us have decided to say this, Secretary Clinton,” he said. “[R]ight now, in this moment, in 48 hours any one of us could be on a ventilator breathing our last breath. If that’s the possibility in this moment, then what are we going to do with it? Well, one of the things we could do with it is say, ‘If I knew I only had two days to breathe, what kind of world would I fight for with my last breath? What kind of love? What kind of grace? What kind of truth? And then start living like that.”
“Black and white and red and yellow and gay and straight, trans — whoever we are — we are this movement,” Barber added. “And the last thing we can do is just die.”
“You are a man after my own heart, my friend,” Clinton said. “That’s how I feel every day.”
In John 7:24, Jesus taught that it is how one judges that matters — not that men shouldn’t discern right from wrong at all.
“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment,” He said.
He also outlined in Matthew 7:13-14, which many identify as the “judge not” chapter, that the way to Heaven is narrow and exclusive, and there are few that walk that path.
“Enter ye in at the straight gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat,” Jesus explained. “Because straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Similarly, in Luke 13:23-27, one asked Jesus, “Lord, are there few that be saved?” He answered with the sobering words, “Strive to enter in at the straight gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able.”
“When once the master of the house is risen up and hath shut the door, and ye begin to stand without and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open unto us.’ And He shall answer and say unto you, ‘I know you not whence ye are.’ Then shall ye begin to say, ‘We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets.’ But He shall say, I tell you, ‘I know you not whence ye are. Depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity.'”
A preacher once stated, “The person who loves you most will tell you the most truth.”