Thursday, September 15, 2016

William Barber's Revival

Most of us who were Southern Baptists 50 years ago, and earlier, were very familiar with what were usually called revival meetings. Perhaps that was especially true in rural and small town churches, and it was probably much the same in several other denominations as well. 
In my boyhood and early ministry, “revivals” were primarily evangelistic meetings, although they also emphasized renewed Christian commitment among those who were already believers. An outside preacher was usually brought in for the revival services, which often lasted eight days and sometimes longer. 
“The Revival”
There is, however, a different sort of revival now taking place. It is a “national tour” being conducted under the name “The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values.” Currently, “The Revival” is scheduled for 20 stops between April 2016 and January 2017. It will be in Kansas City on Sept. 19, the 10th stop of the tour, and in Ferguson/Florissant, Missouri, on Sept. 27. 
(For those of you in the Kansas City area, here is the link to information about The Revival to be at St. James United Methodist Church next Mon. evening. For those of you not in or from the Kansas City area, St. James is the church where U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver II was the previous pastor and where Rep. Cleaver’s son serves as pastor now.)
The other speakers at The Revival are Traci Blackmon, pastor of Christ the King United Church in Christ in Florissant, Mo.; Simone Campbell of “Nuns on the Bus” fame; and James Forbes, emeritus pastor of the historic Riverside Church in New York City.
Rev. William Barber
Although Rev. William Barber, Jr., the leader of The Revival claims that it is neither Democratic nor Republican, liberal nor conservative, some of you likely saw him give a stirring 10-minute speech at the Democratic National Convention on July 28. (Here is the link to a YouTube video of that powerful talk.)

Since 1993 Barber (b. 1963) has been pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He has also been the head of the North Carolina NAACP since 2006. Not long after assuming the latter position, he began the Forward Together Movement, mainly in opposition to Tea Party activities in N.C. 
Barber has also been the main leader of the Moral Monday Movement, a grassroots movement that began in 2013. That was mainly a series of peaceful protests against the politics of the N.C. government and the new governor, Pat McCrory. (I wrote briefly about “Moral Mondays” in a 9/30/13 article.) 
From the beginning, among other dissatisfactions, Moral Monday protesters were especially unhappy with new restrictions in voting rights, the cutting of social programs, changes in tax legislation, and the repeal of the Racial Justice Act.
Higher Ground Moral Declaration 
Barber has authored a book about the Moral Monday rallies. It was published in 2014 under the title Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation. I have enjoyed reading it this month. 
More recently Barber has initiated the Call to Action for a Moral Agenda, asking people to sign the Higher Ground Moral Declaration (which I have done, and which you also could sign after opening this link). The Revival is part of that initiative seeking to redefine morality in American politics. 
According to their press release, The Revival national tour “challenges leaders of faith and moral courage to be more vocally opposed to harmful policies that disproportionately impact the poor, people who are ill, children, immigrants, communities of color, and religious minorities." 
That sounds good and important to me.


  1. William Barber's new book, "The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement" was published in January of this year, but I have not had access to a copy of it. In his 2014 book, though, he talks about the first and second reconstructions: the first being from 1868 to 1898, ending in failure with the Jim Crow laws. The Second Reconstruction, as he sees it was the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968, ending with the assassination of MLK Jr. and that tragedy's aftermath. The Third Reconstruction, Barber seems to believe (or at least hope) is the one that has started now with his various activities, such as The Revival, and other similar movement.

  2. Very informative article, Leroy! I think I need to investigate the Moral Monday Movement more because I've been thinking about nationalism/patriotism lately and wondering (contra Reinhold Niebuhr, but consistent with Ed Chasteen's "world-class persons") that there's no reason why we can't move away from a narrow patriotic consciousness that "it's all about us (Americans)" to a more gracious and inclusive global consciousness.

    And, yes, we old and former Baptists know all about revivals. I had my born-again experience during the revival by a visiting preaching at my Baptist church in St. Louis, and I started preaching youth-led revivals when I was 18 or 19. As a boy and young man, I was personally shy and somewhat afraid of life (probably still am), but enthusiastic faith drove me out to do things against the shyness and fear, for which I'm thankful.

    I'm hoping you'll give us the gist of Barber's book in some future article.

    1. Thanks for reading and for posting pertinent comments, Anton.

      I am afraid there is not much in Barber's emphasis on global consciousness. He is still working on development a more gracious and inclusive consciousness within the United States, something that still seems to be sadly lacking here.

      As for revivals, some of the good memories I have from being a "ministerial student" at Southwest Baptist College (1955-57) was being the preacher at several weekend revivals led by SWBC students in small town churches across southwest Mo. I was also shy as a boy and young man, so that was a stretching activity for me, and I am grateful for those opportunities to grow as well as to serve.

  3. Here's your stray "Roaming Catholic" checking in. In the midst of so much conflict, and no little confusion and obfuscation, surrounding us in this fractious election year, it is heartening to see an example just as the "Revival". That it involves representatives across denominational lines is encouraging, although it appears to me that the moral principles enunciated are not being accepted in all of our denominations. Certainly, there is need for a "Revival".

    I have been following Simone Campbell and the "Nuns on the Bus". They produced a very similar, more detailed proposal of moral positions related to our current context. Kudos, as always, for Emanuel Cleaver II and son Tre, who have been active sign bearers for us on the national and local level.

    1. Thanks, Larry, for your comments also. Your being a Catholic, as not many of my Thinking Friends are, makes your comments especially significant and appreciated.

      I have been an admirer of Sister Simone for quite some time now and wrote a blog article about her back before you started reading my blog. The link is

  4. As he often does, Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago shares significant comments:

    "Thanks, Leroy, for information about 'The Revival.'

    "Mike Pence, Trump's running mate, believes that America is facing a spiritual crisis because of gay marriage and abortion. I agree with him, but not because of gay marriage. Abortion is a problem, but the number of abortions has recently declined significantly.

    "The real spiritual crisis is our unwillingness as a nation to move beyond racism and xenophobia; our failure to affirm the full dignity of every human being; our emphasis on material goods, immediate gratification, and narcissism; our tendency to value wealth and money over human life and dignity; and the widespread belief that military power can solve our international problems.

    "I have not heard Mr. Pence address any of those issues."

  5. Here's a LINK describing the Mennonite version of the tent revival meetings. I remember them being in Hutchinson, Kansas in the mid 1950s.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Clif. I had heard of tent revivals, of course, although I don't think I ever attended one. But I didn't know that there were Mennonites who conducted tent revivals.

      Where do you think we could set up a tent and have a revival meeting in Rosedale?

  6. Americans hear so much blather about "exceptionalism" that we tend to forget just how dark and dangerous a legacy it taps. When we bump into the thorns of one branch we tend to treat it as an isolated problem. Rather, we should think of it as a giant iceberg, with most of its mass hiding beneath the waves (of patriotism).

    This morning I happened to read "Rather a Hell Than a Home" by Richard White in "The Nationl" September 12/19, 2016, pages 30-34. It is a painful review of a new book, "An American Genocide" by Benjamin Madley. It covers a generation of "extermination" that killed the vast majority of the Indians living in California from 1846 to 1873. This was institutional genocide sponsored and supported by the state of California and the US federal government. Now, before we feel too comfortable in the 21st century, think about what is happening to the Sioux in North Dakota today. Unfortunately, I could not find an online link to the article, but here is a link to a blurb on the book itself:

    Putting such a piece of history up besides the modern struggle for black rights just highlights the deep roots of the problems being challenged by "Black Lives Matter" and Rev. Barber's "The Revival." Once was the time when a liberal could be a "Pollyanna" assuming that a little education would chase the darkness away. Today a liberal needs a tragic soul. The dark night of evil is constantly attempting to reassert itself over every corner of America and the world.

    As Martin Luther put it his great hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," at the end of verse one, "For still our ancient foe/ doth seek to work us woe;/ his craft and power are great,/ and armed with cruel hate,/ on earth is not his equal."

    1. Thanks for posting substantial comments, as usual, Craig.

      I was just thinking this week how I remember one of my seminary professors saying that the trouble with Marxism was that it had too high an evaluation of humans. Christianity (and by that he meant mainly traditional Protestant, and perhaps Catholic, Christianity) has a much more realistic understanding of the sinful nature of humans.

      I think that is often a problem among liberals: they (we?) tend to think that most human problems can be solved by education, programs, money, effort, good intentions, etc. But none of those things take the sin problem seriously enough.

    2. Craig, I just read your response above. I said to Leroy, "I'm always in awe of Craig's ideas and his writing." Missing out on your contribution in Milton's class was a great loss to me.

  7. Bro. Leroy,
    As I shared in a precious comment, I am not a great fan of Bro. Barber either for some of his rhetoric or his tactics. From my perspective they have at times hurt the cause of black Americans more than helped them here in North Carolina. HOWEVER, with the current stance of our Republican governor and state legislature (and I normally vote Republican), Bro. Barber is making more sense all the time. Here it seems almost as if things have changed from having a difference in opinion on economic dynamics and equal opportunity to a simple abuse of political power. It is these very times that make it unfair to classify anyone as liberal or fundamentalist, moderate or conservative. These issues have nothing to do with political leanings. It has everything to do with human dignity, human equality, and the value of ALL human life.

  8. For a reminder of why black voices sometimes sound strident to our white ears, here is a link to an article I happened to read this morning, about the history of massive resistance to Brown v Board: