Breitbart News’s daily emails of “Latest News” often includes something labeled “Social Justice Jackass.” Under that label on Sept. 2 were these words (and this link): “Rev. William Barber: ‘Jesus Is a Socialist.” So what about it? Was Jesus a socialist, or is Rev. Barber a “jackass,” to use Breitbart’s inelegant word?
|Cartoon by Bill Day, 2009|
Most of you know of William Barber II, the Disciples of Christ minister who has been president of the NAACP's North Carolina state chapter since 2006. (If you need to review a bit about Barber and what he has done, check out my 9/15/16 and 5/5/18 blog articles.)
The link Breitbart gave was just a short snippet of a longer interview with Barber and his friend Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove by Joy-Ann Reid on her regular Aug. 31 AM Joy program on MSNBC. (Here is the link to the whole 7.5-minute segment, including what Barber said in an Aug. 23 talk.)
Even the Brietbart website accurately states that Barber said that “if caring for the sick and poor is socialism then ‘Jesus is a socialist’”—and that is enough to label Barber (and maybe Jesus?) a “social justice jackass”??
When I printed off the Breitbart.com article more than a week ago, over 1,000 comments had been posted there. (I didn’t print them all!) The first ones that I read were almost all negative toward Barber and what he had said.
For example, “If idiots like Barber think Christ was a socialist, why do socialists recoil at his name?” He is “a Trojan horse sent to do the bidding of evil.” And, “Rev. William Barber is a MarxistAss clown.” Also, “For sure the ‘Rev.’ does not know what he’s talking about.”
The Republicans’ Strategy
It seems quite clear that Republicans, on both the national and more local levels, are using socialism as a “scare word” for political gain. Harry Truman denounced that use of socialism back in 1952 (see this Snopes article).
Just last Tuesday in North Carolina (hear here), DJT said that a vote for any Democrat in 2020 is “a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream.” Mark it down: this will be what we will repeatedly hear between now and Nov. 3, 2020.
Also last week, Missouri Governor Mike Parson kicked off his 2020 bid for re-election by warning against the “rise of socialism.” (The Kansas City Star article about this is here.)
This is all a part of the strategy to demonize or ridicule Democratic politicians and to win votes for GOP candidates. That was doubtlessly the intent of Breitbart’s calling Rev. Barber a “social justice jackass.”
The Plight of the Poor
Journalist Errol Louis (born in Harlem in 1962) recently wrote an op-ed piece titled “‘Socialism’ isn’t a boogeyman in an unequal world.” If you’ll notice, most of those who denigrate socialism in this country are white. By contrast, according to a June 2019 Pew poll, 65% of black Americans and 52% of Latinos have a “positive impression” of socialism.
The theme of the Summer 2019 edition of Plough Quarterly (published by the Bruderhof) is “Beyond Capitalism.” In the powerful opening editorial, Peter Mommsen (who is white) writes,
Socialism’s champions know how to take effective whacks at capitalism, and they get at least one thing right: the fact that we live in a society of immense affluence and desperate poverty is a public sin with which no person of good will can be at peace.
Because of great economic inequality — and the looming risk of catastrophic climate change! — something is badly needed. If Jesus wasn’t a socialist, maybe what he taught and the way his first followers lived do point to what is so badly needed today.