Moral Monday organizer and frequent keynote speaker Rev. William Barber has a familiar refrain in his sermons from the stage: the Republicans in the NC legislature are trying to move the state backwards.
It's actually the rallying slogan: "Forward together, not one step back."
Yet, the economic system he's championing in a handbook for fellow clergy is one that developed almost 200 years ago -- Christian Socialism.
Christian Socialism, movement of the mid-19th century that attempted to apply the social principles of Christianity to modern industrial life. The term was generally associated with the demands of Christian activists for a social program of political and economic action on behalf of all individuals, impoverished or wealthy, and the term was used in contradistinction to laissez-faire individualism. Later, Christian Socialism came to be applied in a general sense to any movement that attempted to combine the fundamental aims of socialism with the religious and ethical convictions of Christianity.
Helpful guide for the flock
As lead organizer of the Moral Monday rallies, the NC chapter of the NAACP has thoughtfully put together a handbook for clergy who want to incorporate the message of the political movement with scriptures. (All while maintaining tax-free status, of course.)
Here's a link to the Lectionary that is offered to spiritual shepherds at no charge.
It doesn't argue specific policy positions. It does, however, assume an underlying assumption that NCGA policies adopted by the GOP are "extreme," "immoral," "regressive," corrupt," and "wicked."
Doing good must be done by GovCo
The guide hides the underlying political and economic system it describes with a cloak of righteousness and Biblical texts:
As we consider the a policies enacted by the General Assembly, policies that undermine voting rights, attack women’s rights, hamper education, and remove the safety net upon which many poor North Carolinians subsist, are these consistent with the way that we should treat those who are valuable because they are reflections of the image of God?
Notice how the assumption here is that the state should do these things - not individuals?
God’s repetitive, yet often ignored charge that we all care for the needs of the needy in our midst. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amo 5:24 NRS); Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isa 1:16-17 NRS) He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your
God? (Mic 6:8 NRS) This common and coordinated response from God uniting the ends of these three prophetic utterances reveal what it really is that God wanted and wants from human communities!
The NC NAACP guide uses the Christian belief that God calls us to do for others as justification for the government to do these things.
Grace and good deeds
The lectionary also seems to argue that man cannot get into heaven without performing good deeds. As I understand it, this is not a position normally adopted by Baptists. Indeed, I thought it was Catholics who believed that grace alone doesn't guarantee entry into the eternal paradise.
As a result people have frequently imagined the message of God to be a solely spiritual concern and forgotten that God's word was intended to transform this world and not just offer us benefits in the next. It is for this reason that this brief lectionary was created, to serve as a reminder of what it was that God really said, over and over and over again about justice being done in this world and to provide a context from where sermons and lesson plans can be developed by religious leaders to address justice issues with their congregants.
Statism must be bipartisan
The most bizarre passage attempts to argue that Biblical warnings against tyrannical government only apply when a single political party controls government.
(And when that party is the Republican party.)
In essence, kingship becomes a source of the fall of the people and their subsequent loss of the Promised Land. In our contexts, the unfettered power of the state government agencies dominated by a single party that is driven by an elitist agenda that disregards the needs of common citizens may well be a source of our collective undoing.
The NC NAACP argues that Kingship (totalitarianism) is bad, while extolling the benefits of a redistributive system throughout the rest of the lectionary.
So, socialism is fantastic and Godly, except if the Republicans run it?
Kingship, according to YHWH, threatened this ideal and imperiled the people with the imposition of taxation, slave labor, a standing military, a government enforced corvee system of imposed service to the state, and the development of a ruling class. In the midst of this all we have a series of verbs suggesting the nature of monarchical “taking” and “giving.” In a reverse Robin Hood manner, the King is described as one who will take from the common people and give to himself and his cadre of ruling elites.
I should note: Robin Hood stole from the government to return to the taxpayers what was theirs.
The contradiction here is obvious.
The NC NAACP spends most of this guide arguing for state-run redistributive programs, but then argues against the powerful government needed to administer those very programs. If it's not an oversight, it's intellectual dishonesty.
Let's use the Bible to make policy
I also wonder what atheists and non-Christian Leftists will think about using Biblical texts to create government policies:
For many of the participants, Moral Mondays really are a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.
This passage offers an alternative paradigm for interpersonal and communal engagement that can serve as a critical rejoinder to the policies of our state government. It represents God’s alternative vision of the way that human beings can relate to each other as a community and provides us a model for the kinds of policies necessary for a just and sustainable society.
I think some conservative Christians would be quite happy to start crafting government policy based on religious texts. Are they invited to the party?
Selling the flock to slaughter
The purpose of the lectionary is to help Leftist clergy justify greater government intervention in peoples' lives and the economy. The natural tendency of government is to take liberty from the people, and the natural tendency of the people is to yield to government. This helpful guide seems more like a roadmap to state servitude than some holy blueprint for governance. Do the preachers realize this?
I'm no Biblical scholar, but I always considered the call from God to help people as a personal compulsion - not a reason to create a larger government.
The creation of a government that provides all things to all people removes the responsibility from the individual and places it upon the state.
And, honestly, I'm not sure that God is going to give me any "Get Out of Hell" credit just because NC government funded education at a level the unions wanted.