Duke Divinity professors support ‘Moral’ Monday

on July 3, 2013
Liberal clergy gather at a weekly “Moral Monday” protest in the North Carolina state capital of Raleigh. (Photo Credit: MSNBC)
Liberal clergy gather at a weekly “Moral Monday” protest in the North Carolina state capital of Raleigh. (Photo Credit: MSNBC)

By Alexander Griswold (@HashtagGriswold)

For the first time since Reconstruction, North Carolina Republicans control both state houses and the governorship. Governor Pat McCrory has taken advantage of his party’s control over the legislative process to push for lower corporate taxes, a higher sales tax, and cuts to unemployment benefits, healthcare funding, and education. In response, liberal Christian leaders in the state have begun what they call “Moral Monday,” a weekly protest in Raleigh to protest the new, rightward tilt of the state government.

This past “Moral Monday,” Duke University held an online discussion with Duke professors who supported the protest. The 45-minute discussion (which can be watched here) raises serious questions not just on how moral “Moral Monday” really is, but also what sort of religious education those attending the United Methodist-supported Duke Divinity School are receiving.

One of the first red flags came about eight minutes in, when professor emeritus of history William Chafe claimed he was concerned about “the denial of women to control their reproductive process.” Yep, one of the issues that have protesters so riled up is abortion. Not the fact that 1 in 6 pregnancies in North Carolina ends in an abortion, but the fact that North Carolina is taking steps to lower abortion rates by informing middle schoolers of the risk. Every Christian protester on Moral Monday marches alongside Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice, and a pro-choice North Carolina PAC called Lillian’s List.

Another participant in the discussion was Dr. Willie Jennings, associate professor at Duke Divinity School and an ordained Baptist minister. Jennings went a step beyond the average protester and went to Moral Monday with the explicit goal of being arrested. If that sounds like speculation, it isn’t: Jennings recently wrote an editorial in which he admits he planned his arrest weeks in advance. “An inescapable fact hit me” Jennings wrote, “I must get arrested.”[Emphasis in the original] He goes on to claim that “Real preaching and authentic teaching is inextricably bound to real criminality.”

Another professor at Duke Divinity School, Rev. Dr. William C. Turner, joined in the discussion. Like Jennings, he had been arrested at the Moral Monday protest for refusing to obey a police officer’s instruction. Speaking on the webcast, Turner said that being arrested was his way of “bearing witness.” Otherwise, a “radical Republican agenda” would be seen to reflect North Carolina’s moral sensibilities.

Although the Duke panel consisted entirely of professors who supported Moral Monday, James Todd of Duke News did read for Turner a critical quote by Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, saying that the Moral Monday pastors “take certain passages of scripture about dealing with the poor and the needy that are meant to address individual responsibility, and apply them to the government.”

Turner responded that he took “strong exception to any insertion of a category like ‘individual.’ It simply has no place in Christian scriptures, whether it’s Old [Testement] or New.”

Turner went on to compare Creech’s support of personal charity to historical defences of slavery. “Some of the strongest defences of slavery came from theologians and pastors who read the Bible. But the way they read it [was] in a way as to privilege one socioeconomic or ethnic group … The insertion of this category of individual repeats an older trope that was articulated very clearly during the slavery debate and the abolitionist debate.”

Setting aside how unfair and offensive it is to compare conservative Christians to supporters of slavery, Turner’s assertion that there is no textual support for preferring personal charity in the Bible is baffling. Consistently throughout the Scriptures, giving to the poor and caring for the needy is depicted as a form of personal charity. The very idea that the state should be the primary caretaker of the despondent is fairly new in the course of secular thought, let alone Christian thought.

If the viewpoints expressed by the Duke Divinity professors are typical of Moral Monday participants, it casts serious doubt on their claim to a moral high ground. The moral path is not to intentionally provoke law enforcement when perfectly legal forms of protest are readily available. The moral path is not to picket alongside organizations known primarily for their rabid support of unrestricted abortion-on-demand. And the moral path is not to sacrifice the virtues of individual charity at the altar of government welfare. All indications are that Moral Monday is a purely political protest at its heart, with only the veneers of morality.

  1. Pingback by IRD blogs: Duke Divinity professors support &l... on July 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

    […] Liberal clergy gather at a weekly “Moral Monday” protest in the North Carolina state capital of Raleigh.  […]

  2. Comment by Jane L. Bonner on July 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    These self righteous elites are the worst losers in the World! Just because one has a devotion to progressive agendas doesn’t grant them winner’s status, unless it is in their “own minds”. Open debate and rational exchange of valid ideas is too much of a threat to their enthroned ideology.

  3. Comment by Ramon Estevez on July 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    These professors ought to add DQ (Drama Queens) after their names. This is so pathetic. Someone ought to remind them that lots of Christians who get thrown in jail aren’t so sure that an elite university is going to bail them out. The liberals have no stomach for real martyrdom, so they have to manufacture this cheap display of faux martyrdom. They’ll be jabbering about this in the faculty lounge for the next 20 years.

    “Moral Monday” isn’t quite the right name for this nonsense. How about Bored Academic Twits Pretending to Be Saints?

    Big thumbs up to the NC governor and legislature! If the Duke faculty are upset, maybe they’ll leave!

  4. Comment by Sandy Naylor on July 3, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Well, this was very enlightening. This “Dr.” William Turner informs us that the teachings of Jesus weren’t intended for us individuals, just collectives, which I guess is bad news for those of us who don’t belong to one of the approved victim categories. (Yeah, as a woman, I could identify as “oppressed,” but I choose not to, thank you.) I think Rev. Creech made a valid point about the importance of individual charity. This whole incident shows the real contrast between liberal and conservative, with the liberals it’s all about the group. Silly me, I had the impression that the minority most in need of protection was the individual.

    Note to all you United Methodists: Were you aware than in donating to your church, you helped support this fine institution and its radical faculty? Do you like having your money spent that way?

  5. Comment by Amyclae on July 3, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    “Real preaching and authentic teaching is inextricably bound to real criminality.”

    I couldn’t agree more. It is why his false arrest has led to, you guessed, neither real preaching nor teaching.

    A bit of me knows this article is pandering, shamelessly, to my confirmation bias. I can’t quite take it seriously because of that. But, at the same time, I can’t help but wonder whether there is a kernel of ‘something’ that I think people without my views will also find objectionable.

    Primarily, doesn’t this whole experience reek of the ‘spectacle’ of politics? The spectal-ization of public life in toto and the related decline in sincerity. Shakespeare quipped that ‘all the world is a stage,’ but would he after seeing this sort of piddle–draped with the coat, if only a thin one, of religion?

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  7. Comment by Hershel Daniels Junior on July 5, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    I have friends who lead these moral Mondays and I must say that our GOP friends in the N.C. Legislature and nationally seem to take great pleasure in legislating what women can and should do with their own health and reproductive decisions. Wish they would care so much about the 16 trillion dollars lent at 0% to major banks all over the world by the US treasury / US Federal Reserve between 2007 – 2010 [till the president learned about it through a audit that most GOP’ers fought and then he shut it down]. One of these banks is in their state who got 3 trillion of those dollars, I don’t see them asking questions about that.

    As to the state being the primary caretaker of the despondent has been a rule of law in the US since the Great Depression when we enacted August 14, 1935 the legislative act which created the Social Security system in the United States then in 1965 the Medicaid/Medicare which was created by Social Security Amendments. So yes we have a long history in this country since the second American civil war with the state being the primary caretaker of the despondent.

    Don’t get me started on corporate welfare, but then again that is another subject those in the NC GOP have no problem with cutting the middle class while handing out hundreds of millions in tax breaks to companies.

    On Monday they look to pass HB685 which when put into law does not add more money for the children to be born in NC or address the causes for abortion, but does in women’s health in general to reach their target Abortion [ie Planned Parenthood]. As a matter of fact while doing there work they have not only cut back on education they have destroyed over 30 years of race based solutions.

    In addition they seem to have no problem with trying to keep a women “in her place” by paying her less than men are paid for the same job performed.

    These are the same people in the GOP who voted against the “Violence Against Women Act” and are bold enough to say in public that some rapes are legitimate while some other rapes are not legitimate.

  8. Comment by ramonestevez83 on July 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

    No one is trying to legislate “what women can and should do with their own health.” The child in the womb is a distinct person from the mother and father, with its own DNA, its own brain. A man who assaults a pregnant woman and causes the death of the unborn child can be arrested and can even go to prison, which sort of suggests that the states understand that the thing in the womb isn’t just a tumor or skin tag that can be removed with impunity. Whether lefties like it or not, it’s a child, and I think we all know that abortions done for the actual physical survival of the mother are very rare. Given the easy access to birth control, there is no excuse for any women getting pregnant if she doesn’t wish to, and North Carolina and other states recognize that a lot of people, even ones who are pro-choice, recognize that it is immoral to use abortion as a method of birth control.

    You liberals are so accustomed to mouthing the same cliches that you don’t realize how false they sound. Protecting the life of an unborn child is NOT part of a stealth effort to “put women in their place.” There is no “war on women,” unless you count in the millions of female unborns that have been aborted, while the left-wing churches thank God for the “doctors” who are nothing but paid killers. Your cliches may make yourselves feel good, but they only serve to make you look foolish. Christians ought to at least be known for their honesty, and the “war on women” is at the bottom of the dishonesty barrel. Can’t you make a case for your liberal agenda without lying?

    As you watch your church membership shrink further and further, ask yourself: Are our clergy and denominational bigwigs maybe, MAYBE, out of touch – not just with the will of God, but with a culture-wide antipathy to abortion? Did it occur to you that the feminist enclaves in academia and church bureaucracies shouldn’t have the final say in politics?

  9. Comment by leonmorris21 on July 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    It is amazing to me that the UMC doesn’t understand the bible. They seem to believe that it can be used(or not used) to support the position of letting the state take care of all of this as well as justifying any “Social Justice” argument they want to. I may not be a bible expert but I am a Christian and do read the bible daily. This is NOT the understanding I get from the bible. Maybe the “Book of Discipline” and the “Book of Resolutions” should be phased out and the UMC return to THE BOOK only.

    BTW: Notice the sign the lady is carrying. It has nothing to do with Gays. The “Moral Monday” issue as a whole is to do with Lack of control for the progressives and is sponsored by so-called clergy. Remember what GOD said. “There will be false teachers who teach in my name.”

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