I spent yesterday evening at the Riverside Church, a nondenominational church with great Gothic arches and 80 years of practice supporting Christian social activism. Riverside is the church where in 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr., declared the war in Vietnam a moral failure. To this day, the church includes portraits of King, and a wing of the building is named after him.
I was there for the final pre-electoral stop on the Moral Revival tour, a series of rallies on people of faith’s responsibility to “tell the truth” in the public sphere and hold space for personal testimonies of public policy’s human costs. (There are, of course, many ways to tell the truth and hold space. Find your ways and work them.)
The Moral Revival tour began in 2015 “with a revelation,” Rev. Dr. William Barber told us. His insight about the kind of values and discourse shift that the United States needs was confirmed by Rev. Dr. James Forbes, one of Riverside’s former ministers. Pastor Traci Blackmon of Florissant, MO, and Sis. Simone Campbell of NETWORK and the Sisters of Social Service also joined the core team and they have toured twenty states since then.
Last night they and partnering ministers and activists from several religious traditions shared a litany that directly names the values that motivate them.
I’m reproducing it here in full from the printed copy I received. Go to the Moral Revival website to learn more.
Call for Prayer, Conscience, Healing, Action, and to Vote
Rev. Fred Davie: On April 4, 1967, in this The Riverside Church in the City of New York, Martin Luther King preached, ‘We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.’
Brother Mansoor Najeeullah: Since sent out from this church on April 3, 2016, the Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values has traveled around the nation listening to the cries of the people, hearing the hard truths of deep poverty, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, the lack of access to healthcare, the trials of predatory lending, the horror of police violence and mass incarceration, and the destruction of our land and water.
Linda Sarsour: This Moral Revival has visited 22 communities, connected tens of thousands of community members, and gotten thousands of people including more than 3,000 interfaith clergy and faith leaders to sign on to the Higher Ground Moral Declaration.
Rev. John Vaughn: The Moral Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values has heard the call from faith and community leaders to focus on the real moral issues of our day: voting rights, worker’s rights, immigrant rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, the rights of religious minorities, women’s rights, the right to health care, housing, education, and the affirmation of dignity and righteousness for all. We have heard the prophet’s call to repair the breach and we know our Constitution’s goal of a more perfect union.
People: We reach back to our sacred texts that affirm life, love, and justice. ‘This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood.’ (Jeremiah 22:3)
Rabbi David Adelson: We affirm the prophets and proclaim, ‘Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make misery for the poor, that rob my destitute people of dignity, exploiting defenseless widows, taking advantage of homeless children.’ (Isaiah 10:1-2)
People: We hear the cries of the people from the [Hebrew scriptures], ‘All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of God.’ (James 5:4)
Imam Ali Rashid: We uphold dignity and respect for all from the Qu’ran, ‘The believers, both men and women, are responsible for one another; all enjoin the doing of what is right, and forbid the doing of what is wrong.’ (Qu’ran 9:71)
Dr. Iniva Ngaka: We challenge those who claim [so-called] evangelicalism is only concerned with prayer in public schools, abortion, and homosexuality, remembering that Jesus preached, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sign for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to protect the year of the Lord’s favor.’ (Luke 4:18)
People: And we will not rest in our quest for freedom until it comes as is affirmed in the Bhagavad Gita, “For the prosecution of the virtuous, for the extirpation of the evil-doers, and for establishing Dharma, righteousness, on a firm footing.
Prabhjoy Singh: From this very pulpit, nearly 50 years ago, Dr. King preached, ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal. The truth must be told.’
People: And the truth is that more than 250,00 people die from poverty and the lack of education each year in the United States, and that millions of children are homeless, lack adequate food and housing, and don’t have quality education. There comes a time when silence is betrayal. The truth must be told.
Arisleyda Tapia: Llega un momento en que el silencio es traición. La verdad debe ser dicha.
Milly Silva: And the truth is that voting rights are being eroded 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, that systemic racism plagues America as extremists drum up bigotry and hatred, that in many communities it is more likely that teenagers will end up in prison than graduate from high school.
People: There comes a time when silence is betrayal. The truth must be told.
Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: But we also believe this to be true: All people have inherent rights, and no one can take them away.
Arisleyda Tapia: Todas las personas tienen derechos inherentes, y nadie pue llevárselos.
People: We have the right to live, to liberty, to enjoy the fruits of our labor, and to the pursuit of happiness.
Rev. Ray Rivera: We believe that the power of our governments derives from us, the people…
People: For the purpose of providing for the general welfare.
Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: We believe in the values of democracy we were taught, so we cannot accept our democracy’s feeble state.
People: We cannot accept voter suppression and intimidation that target people of color and the poor.
Rev. Ray Rivera: We cannot accept demagoguery and fear-mongering that demonize and divide.
People: We cannot accept that half of the US population are poor or low-income in the richest country in history, or that 1 in 5 children are food insecure.
Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: We cannot accept wages that don’t provide for a decent life, or the suppression of workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively.
People: We cannot accept segregation and inequality in our public schools, or the attempts to privatize and profit-ize them.
Rev. Ray Rivera: We cannot accept that 29 million Americans don’t have health insurance, including more than 4 billion denied Medicaid expansion by their state.
People: We cannot accept inaction in the face of climate change and the disproportionate impact of the ecological crisis on impoverished communities nor suppression of the rights of those protecting our water and land.
Rev. Dr. Jackie Lewis: We cannot accept that 1 in 3 Black men born today can expect to spend time in prison, nor that our country holds one quarter of the world’s prisoners but only 1/20 its population.
People: We cannot accept endless war, which spends lives and resources only to destroy lives and resources.
Rev. Ray Rivera: We cannot accept attacks on our neighbors: immigrants, indigenous people, religious minorities, people of color, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer folks, [disabled people], or the poor.
People: We cannot accept the way things are because we have been given a moral vision of how things ought to be.
Rev. Yolanda Brown: We are here to summon the better angels of our nature and press together toward higher ground. We are here to revive the heart of our democracy. We are here to get engaged and to prepare to cast our ballots for justice and morality. We are here for a call to prayer, a call to conscience, a call to healing, a call to action and to vote!
All: Hallelujah, Thine the glory.
Hallelujah, Thine the glory.
Revive us again.