four freedoms rally: saturday, january 7, 2017

Last Christmas, I preached - and then was published in our local paper - a message deploring the rising acceptance of hatred, fear, bigotry and violence.  At its core, my concern last year was this:

In the Christian tradition, we are encouraged to "Rejoice in the Lord always." This has too often become disembodied sentiment without regard for the pain of real life. In a recent editorial, The Eagle concluded that citizens must stand up to the demagoguery of Donald Trump. I would argue that this is a moral imperative for Christians who have often been used to fuel religious fear and violence rather than solidarity and justice.

Untold millions of our people are afraid of domestic and international acts of terror. But rather than nourishing peace and compassion, some spiritual leaders are supporting xenophobia and bigotry. Take Franklin Graham — Billy Graham's son — who last week tweeted that American Muslims represent a frightening evil that is tearing apart the security our nation. Consider Jerry Falwell, Jr. — current president of the largest Southern Baptist University in the US — who not only encouraged students at Liberty University to carry concealed weapons to class and dorms, but is on record as saying: "I've always thought, if more good people had concealed-carry permits then we could end those Muslims before they walked in killing ... Let's teach them a lesson if they ever show up here!"

And then there is Trump: current front-runner for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, a multi-millionaire, self-acknowledged Evangelical Presbyterian and master manipulator of the media who continues to insist that Muslims be banned from entering our nation. Trump has called for surveillance of US mosques, a prohibition of Syrian refugees and the registration into a national database of all who practice Islam as a religion. And now he is advocating banning immigration because of one's religion.

Small wonder that bastion of progressive journalism, the NY Daily News, ran a front page attack editorial stating: "When Trump came for the Mexicans I did not speak out because I was not Mexican — and when he came for the Muslims, I did not speak out because I was not a Muslim " Those words are, of course, a satirical restatement of Martin Niemoller's poem written after his incarceration by the Nazis. Pastor Niemoller began his ministry in support of Adolf Hitler. But as the Fuehrer became more aggressive — and broke his promises to the German Church — Niemoller abandoned ship and was arrested in 1937.,294457

A short year later, the danger that we hoped would pass has come to pass in the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States. His most vulgar supporters have taken this to be their "get out of jail" card as acts of racial violence, bullying and bigotry have skyrocketed since the November election. His more refined allies have been drawn into his proposed Cabinet representing a reversal of civil rights for America's most vulnerable citizens. The legal safeguards against organized money will go largely unchecked in this administration. And who knows what will happen to both the Affordable Health Care Act and Social Security?

As a witness to solidarity in these dangerous times - and as a call to action against those who feel empowered to act out their fears and hatred - a broad, non-partisan coalition has been formed in our community:  The Four Freedoms Coalition. Embracing the 76th anniversary of FDR's call to freedom of speech and religion and freedom from want and fear, a march and rally will take place this Saturday, January 7, 2017.  The schedule is as follows:

12:30pm: Gather in front of St. Joseph's Church, 414 North Street, Pittsfield
1pm: March down North Street towards Park Square
1:30pm: Indoor rally at First Church of Christ on Park Square, 27 East Street 
2:15pm: Community open house featuring info tables from many four partners

Speakers for the rally include: U.S. Senator Edward Markey,Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, member, Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, James Roosevelt, grandson of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Elizabeth "Liz" Recko-Morrison, 2015 Berkshire Labor Person of the Year, Dennis Powell, President, Berkshire County Branch of the NAACP, Eleanore Velez, BCC Multicultural Center Director  To date the following groups have signed on in endorsement:
Lead partners:
Berkshire County Branch of the NAACP
Berkshire Central Labor Council
Berkshire Brigades

Community organizations:
350Mass - Berkshires
Barrington Stage Company
Becket Democratic Committee
Berkshire Citizens for Peace & Justice
Berkshire Community College
Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT)
Berkshire Family YMCA
Berkshire Immigrant Center
Berkshire Museum
Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition
Berkshire Theatre Group
Cafe Palestina of the Southern Berkshires
Community Access to the Arts (CATA)
Congregation Ahavath Sholom
Elegant Stitches
Elizabeth Freeman Center
First Church of Christ on Park Square
First United Methodist Church of Pittsfield
Great Barrington Democratic Committee
IS183 Art School of the Berkshires
Jewish Federation of the Berkshires
Knesset Israel
Lift Ev'ry Voice
Living the Change Berkshires
MadJacks BBQ
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
Manos Unidas
Morningside Neighborhood Initiative
Multicultural BRIDGE
Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires
Out in the Berkshires
Pittsfield Democratic Committee
Progressive Democrats of America
Rites of Passage & Empowerment (R.O.P.E.)
Sheffield Democratic Committee
Sheffield Historical Society
Temple Anshe Amunim
Unitarian Universalist Meeting of South Berkshire - Social Justice Committee
United Africans of the Berkshires
United Educators of Pittsfield
WAM Theatre
West Stockbridge Democratic Committee
The White Rose Party
Williamstown Democratic Committee
Women of Color Giving Circle
Young Democrats of Massachusetts
Youth Alive

For more information, please see this article from the Berkshire Eagle (http://www.


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