By Jeff Brumley
Baptists will continue to be right in the heart of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays protests, which will be revived with a march in Raleigh on Saturday, Feb. 8.
One pastor said it’s the duty of Christians to agitate for change on the local level and of Baptists in particular to participate in civil rights struggles.
“I think grassroots movements are the only thing that will make a difference or bring about a change in legislation,” said Kenneth Cooper, senior pastor at Christian Faith Baptist Church near downtown Raleigh.
The Moral Mondays movement erupted last year in response to Republican efforts to drastically cut spending on public education, unemployment benefits, pre-K programs, Medicaid coverage and other programs.
Thousands descended on the state Capitol, and close to 1,000 were arrested.
It will all begin again Saturday with what the movement’s minister leader and state NAACP President William Barber calls the Moral March.
Thousands are expected to attend, and among them will be Cooper and members of his congregation.
“I have encouraged my parishioners to make sure that they participate in the march,” he said.
Last year, Cooper’s National Baptist Convention USA church served as the pre-protest gathering place around 10 times, Cooper said. It’s where participants gathered for last-minute instructions and to hear from those affected by the Republican-led cutbacks.
The reason for such intense participation, he said: the Christian faith demands Jesus’ followers follow his example of standing up for the persecuted and poor.
“The Christ we serve was a grassroots movement person,” Cooper said. Moral Mondays is about social justice and ethics and therefore “right in line with our theology and right in line with the one we follow.”
Baptists, too, have an obligation to participate, Cooper added.
“For Baptists there is historical meaning” in protest movements like Moral Mondays, Cooper said.
“It goes back to the ’50s and ’60s when the one who was leading [the Civil Rights movement] was a Baptist minister from the South,” he said. “The Baptist church has always been in the forefront, if for no other reason than Dr. [Martin Luther] King was a Baptist minister.”