Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed during an interview on her new podcast last week that young people are leaving Christianity because it has become too “judgmental” and “alienating.”
Speaking with pastor and social justice advocate William J. Barber II, who heads Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Clinton also asserted that Black Lives Matter is “a theological statement” and urged the American 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.”
Barber was a guest on “You and Me Both with Hillary Clinton,” the failed presidential candidate’s latest project that sets out to offer “astute, nuanced” takes on current issues with guests such as failed Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and feminist Gloria Steinem, among others.
Barber, who organized the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, co-chairs the Poor People’s Campaign, and wrote a new book, titled “We Are Called to Be a Movement,” spoke to Clinton about his life and what he believes the role of the church should be in the strife afflicting the country.
“Well, let’s prosecute the case a little bit and do a little theology and admit from at least Western culture and American culture, we have two great problems that have affected and infected theology in a bad way,” Barber said at one point. “And that is the genocide of First Nations people and the enslavement of African Americans that were all rooted in racism and interestingly enough, the exclusion and oppression of women.”
Referencing something one of his professors told him, Barber said, “To be a Christian—to be born again, sprinkle whatever you call it—and to claim the Holy Spirit, is to have a quarrel with the world’s systems of injustice. And if whatever you claim you have doesn’t produce a quarrel with injustice, then your claim of it being the Spirit with the big S is suspect.”
Clinton agreed, adding, “When you think about the very deliberate, concerted effort by one political party to basically try to own Christianity and it overlooks the role of the African American church, it overlooks, as you say, a lot of theology, a lot of history. It also overlooks this moment in time. You know, Black Lives Matter I view as you know very profoundly as a theological statement.”
Clinton then wondered aloud if the country is headed toward “the moral reckoning that has been distorted and perverted and postponed for so long,” prompting Barber to predict “a third Reconstruction.”
“Every generation has their moment,” Barber said. “We’ve had two reconstructions, one between 1868 and 1896. And then we had the second reconstruction, 1954 to 1968. And I think America needs a third Reconstruction. I think this is the birth pains of it.”
Clinton, a Methodist, later asked Barber what the church should be doing differently, given that a lot of young people are leaving it, a statistic she blamed on judgmental attitudes.
“A lot of young people are leaving the church, in part because 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 said.
“Young people are very open to faith that is about transformation, about love, about justice, about equality, about the essence, the essence of what it means to be people of faith,” Barber responded. “And I think we have to be engaged. There’s no way in the days in which we live the church can stay quarantined inside of the four walls of a building because that’s never what it was intended to do.”
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