Whispers and Shouts
Sometimes God whispers. Whether through hymns or homilies or kids dancing their way down the aisle… Continue Reading
By Rebecca Cary, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Durham
During the past winter and spring, as I followed the news, I grew increasingly dispirited. Our state government was taking more and more actions that I believed, as a Christian, to be fundamentally unjust. Christ healed the sick and fed the hungry. The legislature was blocking access to Medicaid and taking benefits away from those who had little, and claiming to be helping our state by doing so.
By Dr. Leonard Beeghley, Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Durham
During the summer of 1969, I found myself in Fayette, Mississippi, where I met Mr. Charles Evers. Just elected the first Black mayor of a southern town since reconstruction, he proudly called himself “the most hated man in Mississippi.” His election symbolized the spread of democracy into the South.
By Chris Liu-Beers, NC Council of Churches, Raleigh
I felt called to participate in Moral Mondays as a way to “bear witness” in this time and place. I believe that as a society we are judged by how we treat the most vulnerable people among us; and as a North Carolinian, I could not stand silent while the General Assembly passed bill after bill that harmed the marginalized and propped up the powerful.
By Susannah Tuttle, North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light, Raleigh
As Director of NC Interfaith Power & Light, it is both my personal and professional responsibility to draw connections between the spirituality of stewardship and the procedures of policy making. I often lead my presentations with the point that caring for the environment is not just political, it is spiritual doctrine shared by all faith traditions. When the seventh Moral Monday focus was designated as environment, justice, and health, I was absolutely elated.
By Mary Klenz, League of Women Voters of Charlotte-Mecklenburg
League of Women Voters members here in Charlotte-Mecklenburg spent several hours making signs for today’s Moral Monday in our home base. It is inspiring to see the energy, commitment and caring that people have around these issues of social justice, fairness and access to voting. The LWV has been fighting for voting rights for all people since 1920, and we’re not stopping now.
By Rev. Jeanne Finan, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Asheville
Since that day others in my congregation made the long trek to Raleigh for Moral Mondays. People care. The church cares. We are called to care for the entire community, most especially the poor. How could I not go and make that stand?
By Jay Davis, Rougemont United Methodist Church
In 1959, I graduated from Central High School in Charlotte in what I believe was the first integrated graduating class in the state. A brave young African American named Gus Roberts suffered two years of living hell to make that kind of dramatic progress for North Carolina. I was not among the students that hit him or spat on him or verbally assaulted him during that time. I, also, was not one of those who befriended him, or supported him, or stood up for him. At least once during those two years I could have said to the bullies attacking him, “Leave him alone. He is not bothering you,” but I didn’t. By my silence I, in effect, held the coats of the cruel students that daily accosted Gus. In later years I would be haunted by that silence, but, at that point in my life, my eyes were blind to the evils of prejudice and racism.
By Leigh Sanders, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh
In the beginning, I was hesitant to attend Moral Mondays because I thought it was a strictly religious response and not being devoutly anything, I assumed I wasn’t invited. Then I attended a Moral Monday meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh and understood that not only was I invited, I was late!
I am a social worker by profession and am especially concerned about cuts to health care for as many as 500,000 particularly vulnerable people in North Carolina. I am confused by politicians who say people should be allowed to have guns, and those who are mentally ill should seek treatment. How are they going to do that when hospitals and other treatment options are having their budgets cut, thus fewer resources are available?
By Rev. William Jeffries, retired United Methodist Minister, Durham
It has been a refreshing experience to participate in Moral Monday rallies. It has given voice to those who are frustrated by the North Carolina General Assembly’s turning the clock backward on social programs.
A key to reversing this “race to the bottom” is rescuing the elections process from suppressive measures, so that young, elderly, and poor voters do not have their votes denied
On June 10, I chose to exercise my Constitutional right to petition my legislature, to express my concerns about legislation they had passed and were considering. To be clear, we did not go there to be arrested, we went to present our grievances to the legislature. I chose to remain standing when the police ordered us to disperse, and I was arrested, handcuffed, and brought to the Wake County Detention Center. My reasons for feeling so strongly are many.
I am the vicar of a small Episcopal congregation in Elkin. When I first heard about Moral Mondays, I yearned to participate, but time was short and Raleigh was almost three hours away. As I reflected on this, I realized that one didn’t have to go to Raleigh to participate — that we could have our own Moral Monday in Elkin. So I sent an email to the congregation and another to the local ministerial association inviting folks to join me and our senior warden on a street corner in Elkin on the following Monday, June 10, at 5:00.
It has been very gratifying to meet fellow health-care reform advocates, including Physicians for a National Health Program and Health Care for All NC members, on Halifax Mall on the several Mondays I managed to make it. Some of you helped hold our banner. Others, like our treasurer, Robin Lane, addressed the 1,000 or so participants from the podium. My own experience, when I was arrested on June 3, was very personal.
By Willona Stallings, NC Council of Churches, Raleigh
I had the pleasure of joining a distinct group of social activists at a Moral Monday rally in downtown Raleigh. I decided to participate because my faith calls me to care for the least among us and to stand on the right side of justice. Also, the fact that so many people had traveled from near and far to have their voices heard was a great motivating factor for me.
I live and work in Raleigh, just minutes from Halifax Mall – so if my brothers and sisters could take the time to catch a bus, make a sign or invite a friend along, surely I could do the same.
By Rev. Robert Kennel, Covenant Christian Church, Cary
Moral Mondays helped me maintain some sanity through this unbelievable legislative session. I was able to make nine Moral Mondays but did not get arrested because my wife sincerely asked me not to, perhaps because we were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary in July.
William Barber is a friend and a fellow Disciple of Christ clergy brother. He has done a great job in leading the organization of effort and in keeping it on target and respectful. Over the spring, I met both old friends and new friends who have their heads screwed on straight and with whom I will work on upcoming elections to right so many wrongs.
By Laurel Green, Charlotte
There is a bond between people who are arrested together performing civil disobedience. It grows from a soil of shared experience and blossoms into a garden of interwoven visions.
There are way too many reasons I felt compelled to take a stand as a part of Moral Mondays. From the privatization trend in our state to the outrageous intrusions on women’s choices, from the dismantling of safety nets to the destruction of our environment, to the attempts at ripping away progress in civil rights, to the shredding of our public education system, the list is long and horrifying. North Carolina is being used as a petri dish right now by groups like ALEC; if we cannot stop them, surely other states will follow.
Rev. Ron LaRocque, Metropolitan Community Church of Winston-Salem
On May 20, I drove from my home in Winston-Salem to Raleigh to participate in the Moral Monday campaign. Part of my participation included voluntarily committing an act of nonviolent civil disobedience which resulted in my arrest. I admit I was not as calm on the inside as many of those arrested alongside me appeared to be on the outside. Still, the anxiety I experienced was a personal sacrifice I was willing to make in order to live out my faith.
By Rev. Susan Steinberg, United Church of Chapel Hill
“Let the little children come to me, do not hinder them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” As a pastor whose ministry has focused on children and their families for the past decade, these words of Jesus guide me, challenge me, and inspire me. They are words I strive to live by each day, words that shape my pastoral identity and inform my responses to events in the public sphere.
I was amazed with the commonly made references to the civil rights movement. I was surprised to see many families with little kids. And most of all I did not expect to see policemen smiling and talking to the demonstrators in a friendly way. I could hardly believe in what I saw. I kept asking myself what it was. How- ever, in time, my initial disbelief and skepticism gradually gave way to a different feeling. I realized that this was a good example of one of the ways how stable, democratic society talks, conducts inner dialogue in a peaceful way initiated long ago by Gandhi, then carried on by Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the others.
For weeks, I heard about Moral Mondays.Finally, I had time to go yesterday. I’ve been to several demonstrations, but nothing like this.This was like a rock concert for people who care about what’s going on in North Carolina and around the country. There were thousands of people there.
One of the things I like best about going to any kind of demonstration or participating in different forms of activism is that I get to meet a lot of people and talk to them. One of the things that’s great about going to a huge event like yesterday’s is that people come out and demonstrate for a variety of reasons.
By Rev. Craig Schaub, Parkway United Church of Christ, Winston-Salem
We were tired, hot, and hungry as we wove our way slowly through the crowd to head back to our car for the journey home. Our eight-year-old daughter was holding my hand and looked up. She said, “Dad, that was sort of cool.” On our way from the final Moral Monday in Raleigh back to Winston-Salem, she fell asleep in the backseat. Arriving home, she put on her pajamas, hunted for a book in her bookshelf, and thrust it before me. “I want you to read this to me before I fall back asleep.” It was a book about how representative government works. Not my idea of a typical bedtime story, but clearly what she wanted. Something was planted within her that night. It was enough for me.
After attending several Moral Monday protests at the NC Legislature, I finally decided to join the ranks of those who “trespass” and “fail to disperse on command.” I was by no means a groundbreaker. I may have been the 800th to face this encounter with the law while expressing disagreement with policies that punish the poor and reward the wealthy.
On top of refusing federal unemployment benefits and Medicaid to people who are economically vulnerable, our legislators are setting up obstacles to voting that will cost millions of dollars to enforce while disenfranchising those who fail to jump the additional hurdles.
The three most important people in my life happen to be young, African American men. None was born in North Carolina, but all have lived here most of their lives.
Precious as they are to me, they are also beloved children of God. Their Creator values them as much as God values anyone else, regardless of skin color, wealth, age or any other factor intertwined with recent human decisions about who gained and who lost in our state.
I am an educated, financially secure, slightly-beyond-middle-age, healthy, white, heterosexual, southern male. In other words I am a person of privilege. As a teenager in the 1960s, I lived in Birmingham, Alabama and was an almost eyewitness to the events that occurred there during that era’s civil rights struggle.
I am also a person of faith, and my faith tradition tells me that my privileged status is a gift that carries with it certain responsibilities. Primary among those responsibilities is to care for those whom we refer to as the least of these…those on the margins, the ostracized, the powerless, the voiceless.
I’ve been thinking about mustard seed as I reflect on Moral Mondays. Jesus once described the coming kingdom of God by comparing it to a tiny seed that grows into a large tree.
Moral Mondays started with a simple call to people of faith to prayer, to pursue the “moral high ground” of nonviolent protest and peaceful assembly, to register distress at the direction our state was being taken by the General Assembly and Governor. The call came from the Rev. William Barber, pastor of Goldsboro’s Greenleaf Christian Church, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, and the creator and prophetic force behind Moral Mondays. On April 29 (my birthday, but I’m pretty sure that’s just coincidental) there was a “pray-in,” followed by a rally at the General Assembly, followed by civil disobedience that resulted in 17 arrests.
SalonEvery week prayers and gospel songs infuse the air and participants offer blessings to the latest batch of 100 or so activists entering the Raleigh General Assembly building to commit civil disobedience. If you’re not from here, it may all seem a little counter-intuitive: A movement for inclusive and just secular governance that is deeply inflected with Christian ethics and arguments.
The General Assembly has adjourned its 2013 session after a final cascade of disappointing and disturbing bills that now await review by Gov. Pat McCrory. Among the bills approved are ones that will make it less convenient for many citizens to vote and that weaken regulatory oversight of the environment.
There was at least one bright spot, as the House rejected a last-minute push by the Senate to speed up the environmentally risky natural gas extraction process known as fracking. But on the whole, legislators succeeded in putting the crowning touches on a session devoted to a conservative agenda the likes of which modern North Carolina has never before seen.
I finally had the chance to go my first Moral Monday earlier this week. Walking around Halifax Mall with our Executive Director, George Reed, I was struck by how many people we both knew. I’m deeply proud of the involvement by clergy and faith communities in particular. So many of our members are represented not only in the crowd but also in the faces of those participating in civil disobedience and getting arrested. As we celebrate Independence Day this week, we give thanks not only for the many freedoms our country offers, but in particular for the countless faithful voices speaking up and speaking out for those who are being pushed to the margins by this General Assembly.
As rabbis at this week’s event told reporters, the civil disobedience was not an option of first resort – Republican legislators repeatedly blew off meeting requests from clergy who are eager to discuss the impact the North Carolina GOP’s policies have on the common good. As the movement has gained steam, some politicians have resorted to insulting Moral Mondays participants. The governor dismissed it all as an effort led by “outsiders,” and one state legislator dubbed it “Moron Mondays.” It brings to mind Gandhi’s saying, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
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