It all started because I had seen Rev. William Barber speak during the Democratic National Convention. His words were so filled with hope, conviction, and power, I wondered to myself who this man was, and marveled at how much he spoke for me, as a Christian.
So, although I should’ve known who he was as a progressive Christian, I had to Google his name to discover him associated with North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement, a coalition of people of faith birthed by the Tea Party takeover of the NC legislature and governor’s office a few years ago.
So there we were, last Monday, gathering in the church parking lot to take the mini-bus to Pack Square Park in Asheville to attend my first rally in quite a while. We got there early, and spoke with quite a few people about why they’d come.
One retiree said she was looking for positive things in the midst of a very negative campaign. Another mentioned following a lot of what Rev. Barber has been doing and saying since the movement began traveling to the statehouse in Raleigh a few years ago. “I just resonate so much with his words as a person of faith,” she said.
A quiet, older man named James, a person of faith who had already voted, was standing on the periphery of the park, between organization booths distributing literature about progressive causes, and the central area in front of the stage. One of the questions I was, with voting underway and many people already firm in their decisions, why was he there? He said he was interested in who else would be there, the mixture of black and white and Latino.
My sense is that the Moral Monday movement has gathered longtime civil rights warriors in NC together with young political activists and people of faith who’ve never been politically active, along with some folks who love rallies and always show up to them, lending their voices to those chanting slogans like, “It’s our time. It’s our vote!” which was the day’s slogan.
Amanda, co-pastor of Land of the Sky United Church of Christ in Asheville, summed up a lot of why I was there, too: “I’m preaching on Sunday, and I’m really looking forward to hearing Rev. Barber, who’s become the voice of progressive Christianity in our state. I feel he has his hand on the pulse of our country right now. This is a real watershed moment in the nation, but especially in North Carolina, being a swing state, and the eyes of the rest of the nation are on North Carolina, with HB2 and how this state is going to vote, especially with the Governor’s office up for grabs.”
What was most compelling, for me, was what had struck me when I attended the LGBTQ Faith and Equality Forum in Claremont earlier (see my previous post in mid-August): the feeling of HOPE that comes from gathering with others who have found common cause, even among their differences.
And this was the theme of Rev. Barber’s speech that day: Finding out that no matter our race, person of faith or agnostic or atheist, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, politically mainstream or fringe, economic class or educational status—we had found common cause around economic justice, equal opportunity to better our lives, racial and gender equality, health care for all.
His words didn’t form the rally’s identity by defining our cause as against a party or a candidate, so much as sharing how his own hope had grown from the days when Moral Mondays started organizing in the mountains of Western North Carolina among poor whites in Franklin who didn’t have health care, LGBTQ progressives in Asheville who opposed House Bill 2, the so-called “Bathroom Bill,” and blacks pushing back against voter suppression efforts—as well as white liberals like me who just want a return to kindness and basic human decency.