NEW BRITAIN (09/13/2016) -- Twenty five UCC clergy, faith leaders, and Racial Justice Ministry facilitators joined their Jewish, Unitarian, Baptist, and Moslem brothers and sisters on September 8, to hear the Rev. Dr. William Barber ll, Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, President of the North Carolina NAACP, and architect of the Moral Monday Movement in NC, speak on the origins and journey of the Moral Monday Movement. Speaking at Central Connecticut State University just prior to his keynote address that evening at a Democracy, Unity and Equality (D.U.E.) Justice rally, Barber called for a coalition of faith leaders to demand a "Higher Ground Moral Declaration" from policy-makers and legislators. These demands on state leaders included supporting voting rights, labor rights, good jobs and a morally just living wage, universal access to quality public education, a fairly funded public sector, and a racial, gender, and ethnic justice-centered democracy in our state and work places.
Rev. Dr. Barber characterized this moral, faith-led movement as a fundamental reset of the conversation we are having in the political sphere and as a kind of moral revival. He stated that poverty, injustice, war, healthcare, and gun violence are moral issues, and are subject to the what he called the "violence of inattention," ignored and unmentioned by current candidates, legislators, and the media.
He acknowledged that in North Carolina, when 17 were arrested for civil disobedience, in the face of some of the worst voting restriction legislation in the land, and the passage of discriminating, civil-rights violating state legislative practices, that "the people would know…. would hear of moral dissent, that we sow the seeds of victory later, when arrested now."
"You can't see the way unless you get IN the way!' said Barber.
Barber shared the history of the Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina, a movement now spreading around the country. He implored faith leaders to get off the sidelines, and to understand the intersectionality of the movement and the "theological malpractice" of the Christian Right in "hijacking" the issues. He reminded us that Jesus started his public ministry addressing systemic poverty, saying "Jesus was a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew who was profiled by the police and charged with tyranny… who preached the Good News to the poor!"
At the D.U.E. Justice Rally later in the day, Barber reminder the CCSU crowd that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed at the "heart" of our democracy and our founding documents is establishing justice… and yet we have a society that manifests racism, materialism, and militarism.
"We have a heart problem when we bail out crooks, banks, but refuse to grant the working class a living wage," said Barber. "We have a heart problem when states let 8 million citizens go without health care, when we allow deaths from low levels of education, and we allow big money in our elections, but we have insufficient education for our inner city schools."
"We have a heart problem."
Conference Minister the Rev. Kent J. Siladi opened the rally with a prayer. The Rev. Damaris Whittaker, pastor of First Church of Christ in Hartford, testified about the need to hold political leaders accountable for their commitments in the 5 areas of justice that Barber spelled out earlier. Also speaking at the rally was Bishop John Selders, pastor of Amistad UCC in Hartford. Selders and members of CT's Moral Monday delivered the Moral Monday Declaration and the D.U.E. Justice coalition signatures to state legislators and Gov. Dannel Malloy on September 12.
Anne Hughes is a Racial Justice Ministry trainer for the CT Conference, UCC.
Anne Hughes is a LMSW and a member of the CTUCC Advocacy Corps. She was formerly co-director of the Silver Lake Conference Center.