The North Carolina preacher who’s become a national leader of the Religious Left called on those packed in a Charlotte church Sunday night to respond to Donald Trump’s election with an even greater commitment to standing against racism, poverty and injustice.
Speaking for more than an hour to 750-plus people at Myers Park Baptist Church, the Rev. William Barber acknowledged the “profound anxiety” many are feeling in the wake of Tuesday’s “rejection election.” But, to show the way forward, he invoked the biblical story of Samuel the prophet, whom Israel rejected in favor of a new king.
“Samuel’s role as a prophet and prophetic voice grows even more necessary, to be a continual check and critique on the new king,” Barber said. “This is where we need to remember, in this moment, how our ancestors responded to disappointment without allowing it to deter them in their march toward justice.”
The 53-year-old Barber, who spoke at last summer’s Democratic National Convention, used strong words to condemn the president-elect during his Sunday sermon. He accused Trump of feeding the forces of racism and xenophobia during the campaign and of rejecting “moral statesmanship” in favor of “buffoonery and gamesmanship.”
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In January, Barber told his liberal audience, the country will say farewell to President Barack Obama, “a man of integrity and dignity,” and “then we will witness the inauguration of a con,” referring to Trump.
He also ridiculed Trump for promising during the campaign that he would “drain the swamp” in Washington and then, once elected, appointing the very people “who helped dig the swamp.”
Barber is president of the NAACP in North Carolina and founder of the “Moral Mondays” movement. These weekly vigils in Raleigh have protested the Republican-controlled legislature for, among other things, its refusal to expand Medicaid, its enactment of restrictive voting laws, and its repeal of a law that commuted death sentences to life without parole if race shaped the decision for the death penalty.
“Moral Mondays,” which began in 2013 and built interracial and multi-denominational coalitions, has become a model for liberal groups around the country.
He spoke Sunday in Charlotte as part of a service organized by Myers Park Baptist and the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice.
If you can’t afford to keep the lights on, we’re all black in the dark. And we better come together to get the lights back on.
The Rev. William Barber, president of the NAACP in North Carolina
Preaching from a grand pulpit in the church sanctuary, Barber acknowledged that some Trump supporters were feeling real economic fears. “But you don’t solve that by saying the minimum wage is already too high,” as Trump did at one point in the campaign, Barber said.
Barber echoed a 50-year-old call by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for poor whites to join poor blacks and poor Latinos in a coalition to demand more from politicians.
Barber suggested race was the reason many poor white voters have not been interested and, during elections, “walk away from the people you need to be allies with and rely on a wealthy (GOP) oligarchy who … have never delivered for poor whites.”
He added it’s time to have “a grown-up conversation” about race in America. … If you can’t afford to keep the lights on, we’re all black in the dark. And we better come together to get the lights back on.”
Barber, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, saved some of his most cutting remarks for white evangelical ministers who endorsed Trump, despite the Republican’s controversial comments about women, Mexican immigrants and Muslims.
By emphasizing other issues over poverty – a subject that Jesus spoke about often – these ministers are guilty of “theological malpractice that … borders on heresy,” he said.
He said they cherry-pick passages from the Bible to justify their focus on issues other than the poor. “You say so much about what God says so little,” Barber said about the ministers, “and you say so little about what God says so much.”
As for the new president-to-be, Barber concluded, “we can’t congratulate Mr. Trump because to congratulate him would be like congratulating a Christian for being hateful. ... We need to say to him, ‘Before you take office and put your hand on the Bible, repent!’ ”