Moral Revival Comes at Critical Moment

It has been said that the only thing that is effective against organized money is organized people.

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and architect of the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina, and the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, senior minister emeritus of the Riverside Church and president of Healing of the Nations Ministries and national minister for the Drum Major Institute, have launched a "moral revival," hoping to organize people to "help redefine morality in American politics."

Barber and Forbes are being joined by Rev. Traci Blackmon, acting executive minister of the United Church of Christ's Justice and Witness Ministries, and Sister Simone Campbell, leader of the "Nuns on the Bus" and executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK in Washington, DC.

The revival, which formally began on April 3 at the Riverside Church in New York, is being held to bring attention to "harmful policies and hateful rhetoric" that disproportionately impacts the marginalized in this nation, including the poor, racial, ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ and transgender communities.

In a recent sermon given at the Haley Farm as part of the Children's Defense Fund annual conference, Barber declared that America is in need of a "heart transplant," explaining that the policies which are being shaped and implemented show too little Christian love and compassion. God, declared Barber, demands better than that of those who say they are people of faith.

These religious services, which will be conducted in Christian churches, of course, will also be held in mosques and synagogues. According to Rev. Barber, "this revival will advance a fusion movement where people from all walks of life see themselves connected in the struggle to support a multi-pronged agenda. We will reframe the conversation not as left versus right, conservative versus liberal, Democrat versus Republican, ...but we will reframe it to ask if policies are morally defensible, constitutionally consistent and economically just when measured under the lens of our deepest moral and constitutional values."

With powerful and passionate commitment, Rev. Barber has led the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina. In language reminiscent of that used during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, Barber wrote in his book, The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics and the Rise of a New Justice Movement that in spite of gains made in the 60s, he found himself as a leader in a "reemerging Southern freedom movement." The issues, from poverty to mass incarceration to immigration to voter suppression...in addition to a slew of other issues which could no longer be ignored, made it clear that this was no time to be quiet, still and complacent. Too much was going on; too many lives were being negatively impacted. "We in North Carolina were caught up by zeitgeist in something bigger than ourselves," he wrote. The one thing Barber and the others realized as they began to work together was that they had "found the essential struggle of our time. Inspired by nothing less than God's dream, we were ready to go home and do the long, hard work of building up a new justice movement to save the soul of America."(italics mine)

Saving the soul of America was what Dr. King and leaders in the Civil Rights Movement set out to do as well. The 60s was a time when many religious leaders in the South stood on the sidelines, urging black people to "wait" for the change they wanted to come. In spite of that, the movement continued forward, not without resistance, violence and deaths of some who worked for justice. In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Barber referred to the work done in the 60s to get black people the right to vote. A big part of the energy behind the Moral Mondays movement has been to stop the suppression of voting rights being put into place by the North Carolina legislature. "Allowing this kind of retrenchment on voting rights sets a dangerous precedent, especially in the South," Barber wrote. "We cannot allow this level of political power to be determined by discriminatory voting laws." (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/28/opinion/the-retreat-from-voting-rights.html

This revival, which is being conducted in what Barber says is America's "Third Reconstruction," will intentionally seek to reach the hearts of people who are troubled and whose lives are threatened by the current political landscape, yet who may need a push to move from fear to faith and work to change that very landscape. The First Reconstruction, says Barber, was attacked by the lynch mobs of white supremacists in the 1870s. Angry whites used violence and political machinations in order to reverse almost every gain made by African Americans following the Civil War. The Second Reconstruction emerged in the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s. Again, the advances made by black people in that movement were attacked, compromised and in many cases, eliminated. Now, legislatures across the nation are adopting laws that will seriously impair the ability of vast numbers of Americans to vote. These legislatures are also passing laws which threaten basic rights for people of color, poor people, women and immigrants. "Nothing less than a Third Reconstruction holds the promise of healing our nation's wounds and birthing a better future for all," Barber wrote.

Barber said he hopes that this revival will train faith leaders to provide a strong moral voice against what is going on politically, economically and socially in this nation. The fight, he wrote in The Third Reconstruction, "is for liberty and justice for all."

The Revival will be in Atlanta on Monday, May 23 at St. Mark's United Methodist Church The first part of the national revival tour, which began in April of this year and which will run through January of 2017, will have 19 stops, including Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Kentucky, Washington, D.C., Tennessee and Virginia.