By Alan Bean
Yesterday, William Barber preached a mesmerizing sermon at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference in Dallas. Barber wants to recapture the moral high ground in American politics. You can’t do that, he says, by shilling for the Democrats of the Republicans; you need a moral vision rooted in biblical justice.
Barber’s sermon yesterday centered on the theme of higher ground. When you’re lost in the Wilderness, he says, the temptation to wander into the nearest valley is powerful. Walking downhill seems natural because it is easy. But the snakes live in the valleys. The only safe course is to climb, even if it makes your legs burn and your chest heave. Snakes can’t live at high altitudes, so the goal is to get above the snake line.
Barber doesn’t mess with left/right, black/white, or Democrat/Republican distinctions; he’s all about the cleavage between morality and immorality.
Sounds old school, I know, but when you start with the Bible, that’s where you end up. Yesterday in Dallas, the preacher had his audience on their feet belting out the old gospel standard, Higher Ground.
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith on Canaan’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
If you have never heard of Dr. Barber or the Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina, check out this brief video. 85,000 men and women rallied in Raleigh earlier this week to protest political extremism. That’s the biggest civil rights crowd in the South since the 1960s.
Dr. Barber’s oratory in the video is restrained compared to the fireworks display he unleashed at the Fairmont hotel in Dallas yesterday. Preaching for a room full of preachers brings out the best, but I suspect the relatively subdued tone in Raleigh was intentional. Barber wants this movement to spread, and that can’t happen if everything depends on his personal charisma.
The Moral Monday movement has been successful because it’s goals are clear, limited and simple. This is an agenda that people of good will can support regardless of party affiliation:
• Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability;
• Provide well-funded, quality public education for all;
• Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state’s communities;
• Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference;
• Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.
A couple of months ago, I attended an all-day briefing in Raleigh and shared my reaction. If you want to know more about the philosophy and strategy underlying the Moral Monday phenomenon, my original post follows.
Moral Monday movement unleashes ‘linguistic trauma’
By Alan Bean
I write this from my motel room in Raleigh, North Carolina after spending the day with the most energized group of movement activists I have ever encountered. You may have heard of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina. These are the people that made it happen.
Dozens of gifted people have devoted their energies to the Moral Monday (or, more accurately, the Forward Together Moral Movement), but the undisputed leader is the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a man of gentle power who may be the most gifted civil rights leader to emerge in the United States since Martin Luther King Jr. (more…)