For a couple weeks she and I have participated in an action organized by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP to protest recent political changes going on in our state. I have gone as a private citizen, and a person of faith, but I also went as a pastor. Even though I didn’t look like one, with no stole or collar, there were people there from other churches whom I recognized. I knew that someone from my parish might see me in a picture or on the nightly news.
And that is why I thought it might help to take a minute to think through why it is that my daughter and I participated in Moral Monday, and why we will continue to participate.
First, though, reasons that don’t motivate me.
1) Because I am a Democrat. One of the tricky parts about Moral Monday is that a lot of causes are covered in these protests. It can start to feel like an anti-GOP rally. In truth, this political response does come on the heels of massive overhauls from our now Republican-led legislature. I do tend to vote for the Democratic party, but I am not so committed to the party that I would spend every Monday driving to downtown Raleigh.
2) Because I agree with everything being protested. On Monday I heard a woman stand up and talk about the evil of charter schools. I can actually see both sides of the charter school debate. There are other protests I’m not on board with. I’m for a legal restriction on most abortions. But despite the NARAL folks being out in force there are reasons we do show up.
We participate because:
1) We believe our faith compels us to action on behalf of the poor and vulnerable. You may not find a specific call to political action on behalf of those at risk. You may find yourself in a direct service role, serving as a foster parent, offering free clinic services, giving away funds. But everyone is called to work for justice and peace who is a Christian. One of the ways I want to do that is by providing a prophetic voice within our political system. As a clergy person I feel a particular call to be present at Moral Monday.
2) I want my daughter to see what democracy looks like. I want her (and all our children) to know that we are responsible for one another. I want her to know that power does not belong only to elected leaders. As we walked into the legislative building and she was feeling nervous I remember one of the legal advocates saying over and over again, “don’t be afraid. This is our house.”
3) Specific agenda items. While some may find a need to faithfully respond to charter schools or women’s health, I am compelled to respond to the repeal of the Racial Justice Act. This is a piece of legislation that allows for capital trials to be reexamined on the basis of racial bias. Since 1998 there have been several death penalty convictions that have been converted into life imprisonment sentences because racism was unequivocally found to be at work in the conviction. It would be working against my conscience to sit by while racism continues to send prisoners to death.
Last week the Racial Justice Act was repealed. I wept in my car when I heard the news. Later that day I listened to reports from The Innocence Project about men and women falsely imprisoned and the fight to free them from jail. Repealing the act was wrong and I refuse to be silent.
We’re participating in Moral Monday because we know that Jesus loves the poor. We are told by Jesus that if we want to see him we need to look in prisons. We will find him with the naked, and the hungry (Matthew 25:36). Our family will continue to be present with our friends and neighbors at Moral Monday.