Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation
By Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Barbara Zelter
"Powerful God-rooted words, yearning for equality and justice for all." –Sojourners
In the spring of 2013, seventeen people gathered at the North Carolina state capitol to protest extreme legislation passed by the General Assembly. Thousands joined the “Moral Mondays” rallies, making this sustained moral protest one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in U.S. history. Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a pastor and president of the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP and an architect of the Forward Together Moral Movement, tells the story of a new fusion civil rights movement, a “big tent,” in which black and white, gay and straight, rich and poor, old and young, Republicans and Democrats are all welcome.
Rev. Barber’s sermons/speeches at the protests, many of them collected in Forward Together, became the inspiration and rallying cry for a new civil rights movement. North Carolina today is at the epicenter of the political and spiritual crisis affecting 21st-century America. What happens here, says Barber, can shift the center of gravity in the American political discourse. Similar movements are now growing in states around the country.
Forward Together captures the essence of what it means to preach in the public square.
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"Powerful God-rooted words, yearning for equality and justice for all."–Sojourners,"New and Noteworthy," February 2015
"This volume collects sermons by the leader of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, who has emerged as the chief critic of the Republican majority's legislative actions in that state. A pastor of a Disciples of Christ Church and the leader of the state's chapter of the NAACP, Barber is steeped in both the prophetic traditions of the Bible and the civil rights teachings of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Barber says in the foreword that his purpose is to "capture the practice of preaching in the public square." His ultimate aim is a political one: To defeat the conservative takeover of the state's legislative delegation, which has cut unemployment benefits, declined the expansion of Medicaid, and passed an array of voting restrictions. Barber quotes liberally from Isaiah and Jeremiah, on the one hand, and the state's constitution guaranteeing equal rights to all, on the other. He calls for a "third Reconstruction" to follow on the second Reconstruction begun by King in the 1950s and '60s, and rallies his listeners with lots of call-and-response exhortations. The moral message is both timely and age-old." —Publishers Weekly, 11/07/14
“Many Americans live with the illusion that we live in a post-racial society -- after all, we elected an African American President -- but the events of recent years belie that idea. While many think they are "color blind," facts on the ground suggest a different reality. One of the leading voices today regarding issues of justice and racial reconciliation has been William Barber, a Disciples Pastor and President of the North Carolina NAACP. This book brings together speeches and presentations made in a number of engagements, including several from the Moral Monday efforts, which he helped found. His vision is rooted in faith, much like the earlier Civil Rights efforts, and is broad in scope. The book is a must read for all who care about our country and its future.”– Robert Cornwall, “Ponderings on a Faith Journey” blog, Best Books of 2014, 01/05/2015
“...In this new book, Forward Together, Barber provides us with word of wisdom and guidance that can help us to pursue justice for all in our own communities. As we have seen recently in Ferguson and in New York justice remains out of reach for many. There are forces in our communities and our nation that seek to divide, so they may control our economic and social lives. They do this by limiting voting rights and limiting access to medical care and education. They impose sexual mores on the entire populace, while often failing to live up to these standards themselves. The best way to control the populace is to keep them from organizing, especially if they organize across ethnic/racial, socio-economic, and sexual/gender lines. By preaching a “gospel” of “individualism” they keep us from realizing that we are all in this together..... These speeches offer a powerful call to action. They remind us that we are all in this together, and that the only answer to the power of money is the power of people organizing for justice. Barbara Zelter has brought together a collection of responses that address a cross section of issues. They are part political speech and part revival sermon. They were presented on Moral Mondays and at the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Rally 8, the Equality NC meeting, and the NAACP National Board. There is also a speech given at a union convention that makes clear that civil rights and labor rights are connected. The final chapter of the book is a reprinting of an article published in Sojourners that summarizes the movement. A central theme in these speeches is that the call to justice crosses party lines. While his political orientation puts him in the Democratic camp and his opponents primarily come from Tea Party backed politicians including the recently elected Senator from North Carolina, he believes that these issues are not partisan but human..... Reading this book will push and challenge us. It is a theological rationale for action, good old fashioned preaching, and social justice visioning wrapped up in one book. Because these are speeches they are designed to communicate with passion and directness. There is no beating around the bush. Readers will be both challenged and inspired. Especially at this time and place in history, this is a book that needs close reading and discussion.–Robert Cornwall, “Ponderings on a Faith Journey” blog, 12/08/14
"What would happen if the American people truly took the promises of both the Constitution and the Bible seriously? This is the kind of question normally posed by those on the ideological right in the United States, but Forward Together is a resounding progressive response to this question by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II of the North Carolina NAACP. Forward Together is part biblical exegesis and part constitutional interpretation. It is part field diary of an organizing veteran and part how-to guide for building sustainable social movements. It is part revelation of a great leader's mind and part elevation of a great people's sacrifices. Barber tells the specific story of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina. He asserts the powerful imperative of a Christian prophetic tradition married to deep Southern history of progressive interracial political organizing. While this is the specific story of a particular tradition in a unique place, it is also a universal guide for transformative possibilities of using justice as a sacred precept of governance. Moral Mondays are the most important, sustained, progressive social movement of our moment. Forward Together is the handbook of that movement." —Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC host and Presidential Endowed Chair in Politics and International Affairs / Director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University
"The Forward Together/Moral Mondays Movement launched by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and so many others in North Carolina is a new chapter in the long history of prophetic faith entering into public life. In the tradition of the biblical prophets, Barber refuses to let those in power ignore the plight of the poor and demands the voices of the marginalized be heard. Offering a profound moral critique, he makes clear the threat political extremism poses to the common good. Regardless of whether you fully agree with every policy question raised here, Christians today cannot ignore the challenge posed by Moral Mondays to protect the least of these. If you need a reminder that faith is personal but never private, then Forward Together is a book you must read." —Jim Wallis, Founder and President of Sojourners
"Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II may well be the Martin Luther King, Jr., of our generation. His faithful, prophetic, profound word is required reading for Christians grappling with God’s justice in our time." —Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Author of Whole: A Call to Unity in Our Fragmented World
"What brought together such a diverse group of activists and advocates? What are its unifying principles? What about Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and his colleagues is so inspiring and engaging? Is this possibly the beginning of a Third Reconstruction? Read this book and you will find answers to these questions. Even more importantly?,? you are likely to get the impression that God is in the midst of this movement to awaken the nation, to begin to heal its ethnic and class divisions,? and to assure us that we have 'cosmic companionship in our struggle to Move Forward Together.'" —Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister Emeritus, The Riverside Church, New York City
“To hear Rev. Dr. Barber at one of the Moral Monday gatherings is to witness our nation’s greatest emerging prophet at work. We usually study great movements after they have run their course. In this book, Dr. Barber ushers us into the center of our nation’s most exciting and promising social justice movement as it is developing. We can walk with Dr. Barber week by week as he weaves together a profound prophetic faith vision with skillful grassroots organizing, challenging and engaging the raw, ugly and crushing political extremism that swept across North Carolina in 2013. The growing Forward Together Moral Movement has already inspired, educated, and united hundreds of thousands in a most amazing diversity of preachers, rabbis, imams, labor, Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, mountain Whites, Latinos, African Americans, and youth to fight together for a better North Carolina. The Forward Together/Moral Mondays Movement is taking root across the South and drawing attention around the nation. This book is a must-read for all seeking hope and direction for the future of our country.” —Rev. Nelson Johnson, Beloved Community Center in Greensboro, NC
"Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II gives us a prophetic voice crying out not in the wilderness but at the statehouse. This book is a documentary history of the most compelling social movement the South has seen since the civil rights era, one that calls our whole country to higher ground. Transcending narrow appeals to race or the faithful, Barber presents a new moral vision of the public square and the common good. Our nation has a new moral leader. His name is Rev. William J. Barber II." —Timothy Tyson, Visiting Professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture, Duke Divinity School, and Author of Blood Done Sign My Name
"The Forward Together movement and Rev. Barber changed my life as a pastor and as a person of faith. I first encountered the words of this book as living, transforming, inspiring, and breath-taking prophetic words at Moral Mondays. I have been a personal witness to how the moral movement has transformed individual lives, the heart of North Carolina, and the soul of our nation. This book is an inspiration and guide book for every pastor committed to social justice. And it is a prophetic call to all people of faith." —Rev. Nancy Petty, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC
"From the architect and leader of the most significant social movement of the day, we hear the collective voices of past, present, and future change agents. The words of Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II tell us that change should take place, that it can take place, and that it will take place. Thus, if you believe in and want to be a part of change—I mean, real change—then do yourself a great service and read this book." —Dr. Jarvis A. Hall, Director of the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at North Carolina Central University
"If Moral Mondays are, in fact, the beginnings of another Great Awakening, they promise not only to speak to people in a context of social crisis but also to reshape religious practice in America." —Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Author of Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests
“The Forward Together/Moral Mondays Movement is one of the most significant approaches to the struggles for social, economic, and political fairness that our country has had to confront. Congratulations to the followers for their commitment and to the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II for his vision.” —William Lucy, Former Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation Of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, and President Emeritus, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
“This is a must read for anyone desiring to bring working people in our country together. The Forward Together/Moral Mondays Movement makes a demand for the values upon which this country was created. It is one of the most diverse movements in our country—North, South, East, or West.” —George Gresham, President, 1199SEIU
“What does the Lord require? This book, as well as the life and leadership of Dr. Barber, is a gift to the world that clearly articulates the answer to this question. I have been blessed to hear and be shaped by the messages written on these pages from the pulpit of Greenleaf Christian Church. It is virtually impossible to read this book and not be stirred to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” —Gladwyn Uzzell, Greenleaf Christian Church, Goldsboro, NC
"Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is truly an extraordinary leader. Knowing him has given me an understanding of what it must have been like for the rabbis with whom many of us grew up to have had the privilege and the opportunity to know Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the other great civil rights leaders of that era." —Rabbi Fred Guttman, Greensboro North Carolina