unifed we are a force

“This book is an invitation for us to listen, with God, to the cries of those who labor.” —Shane Claiborne

“We are all trade unionists now. We are all civil rights activists now. … Unified We Are a Force is the handbook for all of us who work and are people of faith or goodwill, who believe in a moral universe, to join hands and march together.” —Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Author of Forward Together

The American dream of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is no longer possible, if it ever was. Most of us live paycheck-to-paycheck, and inequality has become one of the greatest problems facing our country. Working people and people of faith have the power to change this—but only when we get unified!

In this practical and theological handbook for justice, renowned theologian Joerg Rieger and his wife, community and labor activist Rosemarie Henkel-Rieger, help the working majority (the 99% of us) understand what is happening and how we can make a difference. Discover how our faith is deeply connected with our work. Find out how to organize people and build power and what our different faith traditions can contribute. Learn from case studies where these principles have been used successfully—and how we can use them. Develop “deep solidarity” as a way to forge unity while employing our differences for the common good.

Get Unified We Are a Force: How Faith and Labor Can Overcome America’s Inequalities today.


One thought on “New Book: Unified We Are a Force

  1. Dear Dr. Rieger,
    I heard you speak at the recent Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolfus College in St. Peter, MN. After hearing your talk, I wanted to learn more and bought your book, Occupy Religion. The book contains a number of concepts that I hope will be taken seriously by Christian theologians and clergy. Among the ones that struck me were:
    1) Christianity should not accept the status quo
    2) The Christian god is not a top-down god
    3) The concept of leaderless leadership
    I hope that your book will be influential in helping the church to re-think its position on these points. Yet, as important as your point about the status quo is, I do not believe that it truly reflects the radicality of Jesus’ rejection of the status quo. First, the theology you describe involves making the judgment that some people (the 1%) have created and maintained a system that works to their benefit while oppressing others (the 99%). (As I understand it, you do exempt certain repentant members of the 1% from this judgment.) My point is not to debate whether the harms experienced by the 99% are real or not; deserved or undeserved. The point is that a theology that begins with judgment is one that is firmly affixed to the status quo. Judging is so much a part of the status quo that Jesus mentions several times that we should not judge saying that we are hypocrites for noting the speck in our neighbor’s eye while ignoring the log in our own eye. If we are to truly change the status quo, we must first stop judging. As difficult as it will be, we must stop judging even those (the 1%) who hold power and wealth and refuse to let go of them. Precisely because it is so difficult, this is where the church must be.
    The second point is that God is not a top-down God. He is not some old bearded guy sitting on high judging us and handing out rewards and punishments. This is a distorted picture of God that comes from a distorted theology, and I think you are right to reject it. This is why I was so surprised when you repeatedly described God as taking the side of the 99% – the oppressed. A God who takes sides is the very definition of a top-down God. It was a top-down God who sided with the Children of Israel against the Canaanites and other previous inhabitants of the Promised Land. It was a top-down God who sided with America in WW2. It is a top-down Allah who sides with ISIS while a top-down God sides with America in the war on terror. I believe that God loves members of ISIS in the same way that he loves Americans, and in this battle he does not take sides with either protagonist. Rather, he hurts whenever ISIS commits some atrocity, and he hurts whenever Americans respond in kind. What he wants is not for one side to emerge victorious, but for both sides to come together in peace and to relate to one another as human beings. It is the same, I believe, for the 1% and the 99%. God does not want one side to emerge victorious, but for both sides to relate to each other as children of God.
    Jesus says (as you cite many times) that “the first shall be last.” However, he does not leave it at that. He goes on to say that if you want to be first, you must become the slave of all. This is illustrated so nicely in Paul’s letter to Philemon. Here Paul sends a slave back to serve his master while asking (not ordering) the master to free the slave. Here the slave (the 99%) continues to serve the master (the 1%) while the master begins to serve the slave (by freeing him). The church should not be taking sides in these kinds of disputes (nor should it be doing nothing) but rather it should be promoting the kind of mutual service that we see in Philemon. To do this the church must work simultaneously from the top down and from the bottom up. The church, however, has continuously failed to do this by taking sides – sometimes with the 1%; sometimes with the 99%. Either way the radical nature of Jesus’ message is lost and the church itself becomes irrelevant.
    Third, the concept of a leaderless leadership is very intriguing to me, and I would like to see that idea developed more. For human society structure and order in the form of leaders and laws are crucial. These are constraints, but they allow us to predict and control others’ behavior to a certain extent. Thus, a conventional form of leadership is both an important and practical aspect of human society. Jesus, however, describes God’s love as being without bounds, order or structure meaning that things like leaders and laws, which create order and structure, are not part of God’s kingdom. This, probably is the most radical aspect of Jesus’ message and it is one which I do not recall hearing or reading about prior to your book. I would be very interested in seeing you develop that idea more fully.
    Bill Rostal

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