Many of the readers of The Edgefield Advertiser have been following the politics of our neighboring state, North Carolina. The Republican Governor had sponsored several controversial pieces of legislation that passed the Republican-controlled legislature. These pieces included some that were viewed by the Democratic opposition as making it more difficult for poor people to vote, that reduced funding for public education, and that moved the state from an unbiased arbiter of contentious issues between LBGTQ citizens and religious citizens morally opposed to them to active participation by enacting what was euphemistically called “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” or RFRA. One result of RFRA was the NCAA moving their basketball championship series to other states. Another result, not just of RFRA but of the general tenor of the legislation, was the rebirth of an active Civil Rights movement. The leader of that movement, the Rev. William Barber II, led a weekly protest at the Raleigh capital that he called “Moral Mondays.” And a third result was the defeat, very narrowly, of the incumbent governor’s reelection bid by his Democratic opponent in an election whose result was contested all the way into December. When the result was finally clear about three weeks ago, the outgoing Republican Governor called the legislature into special session and asked for legislation to reduce his own executive powers and, hence, those of his successor. Again civil rights protests resulted, led by the Rev. Barber.
This week marks the 10th Annual Interfaith Celebration by the Progressive Religious Coalition of the CSRA, honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The actual MLK Holiday is still a week off, but the Celebration is this week – on Thursday, January 5th, beginning at 7:00pm at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in downtown Augusta. The date was set to accommodate the busy schedule of the main speaker: the Rev. William Barber II, of North Carolina. I have attended this celebration at various churches in the areas over the past five or six years, and they are always interesting: truly “Interfaith,” with ministers from across the spectrum of Christian churches as well as at least one Rabbi, one Hindu cleric, and the local Islamic Imam. All are uniform in their praise for the life and work of the Rev. Dr. King, with an underlying theme: his work was not complete when he was assassinated in 1968 but rather a challenge to all of us to carry it on into the twenty-first century. The speaker last year was Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, and his address was fascinating; given the recent events in North Carolina, this year’s speaker promises no less.
Regardless of where you may stand regarding politics this past year, and whether or not you are familiar with the events in North Carolina, the Rev. Barber will be an informative speaker and the service honoring Dr. King will be memorable. If you are able to attend the Interfaith Celebration on January 5th, you will certainly be moved by it and will gain a new perspective on the continuing American struggle for civil rights. I hope to see you there!