Sunday, January 28, 2007

Rev. Barber at Duke Chapel

Readers’ Note:

News reporting is above the star-line; commentary’s below it.


Rev. Dr. William J Barber II, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, NC, preached the sermon today at the 11 A.M. service at Duke Chapel.

Barber’s a graduate of NC Central University (BA in Public Administration, cum laude) and Duke’s Divinity School, where he was a Benjamin Mays Fellow and earned a Masters of Divinity degree. Barber earned his doctoral degree at Drew University, Madison, NJ. (More bio information can be found here.)

Barber, who also serves as NC’s NAACP state president, spoke out often last spring concerning the Duke lacrosse case. At a series of news conferences he urged a prompt, full and fair investigation of charges made by a woman many at the time were calling “the victim.” Barber also met with Duke’s president, Richard H. Brodhead, who later described him as a friend from whom he had learned a great deal.

In recent months Barber’s said little about the case. But during today’s sermon he directly addressed it along with some issues many see as related to it. (I viewed the entire Chapel service via webcast.)

Barber told the congregation he would not speak about the treatment the players have received or “the indictments.” He was “putting them aside,” he said, because he wanted to talk about “silences” and “injustices.”

The “silences” existed, Barber said, because of our “denials” as individuals and a society of problems such as those evident in the racial slurs directed at the women the night of Mar. 13/14 and less than adequate educational opportunities for many children.

Barber invoked the memory and words of Dr. King in urging the congregation to make its own King’s work of bettering the opportunities available to the less fortunate and assuring that America continues to strive to be more just.

Just prior to his sermon Barber expressed appreciation to people who’d instructed and befriended him during his student days at Duke. He thanked Greenleaf Christian congregants who accompanied him to the Chapel. And he said he was glad to be with his “good friend,” Chapel Dean Sam Wells.


First, many of you will want to access Rev. Barber’s sermon. You can do that by going to the Chapel’s home page where you’ll see on your right a menu with a yellow background. The first listing is View Webcasts. Click. Now you’re at Webcast Archive. Archived sermons are in reverse chronological order.

Barber’s sermon is the first listed but it’s not active as of 6 P.M 1/28. Tech support will likely have the sermon active within a few days of its delivery.

When you click to activate the sermon it will take a minute or two before the sermon “loads up.” If you use Real Player there’s a clip bar, so you can move back and forth through the service. My recollection is Barber began preaching with the timer at about forty minutes.

Thanks are due the Friends of the Chapel who make the webcasts possible.

Now, my commentary -------

We benefit when we’re reminded of those in need and our responsibility to help them. The same is true when injustices are called to our attention and we’re offered the example of someone like Dr. King who sought to undo injustices.

Barber spoke about those things, but with less effect than he could have had.

That’s because, for reasons he never really explained, he put aside considerations of the monumental injustices done the lacrosse players while bringing “front and center” considerations of racial slurs made the night of March 13/14, and his judgment that the women dancers were at the party as a consequence of economic and social forces rather than as a result of individual choices they made.

Many in the congregation know the second dancer, Kim Roberts, acknowledges she began the racial slurring a neighbor overheard when Roberts taunted some of the players with “little ---- white boys.” But Barber only focused on the black women as victims of the slurs; and he directed his censure only at the white players.

Such discriminations are expected nowadays from NAACP leaders and others like them, but such discriminations have no basis in Christian theology.

Do you doubt there were at least some informed congregants, free of PC bias, who listened to Barber and asked themselves:

“Has he ever mounted a pulpit and condemned the racists who made threats of physical violence and death against Reade Seligman last May 18?

Has Barber ever encouraged President Brodhead or Dean Wells or anyone else at Duke to condemn those racists?

During all of Barber’s talking about the case at news conferences, at forums and in pulpit sermons has he ever expressed even a few words of solidarity and comfort to Reade Seligmann and his family?”
I’m sure everyone in the congregation who worships the holy trinity of race, class and gender agreed with Barber that social and economic forces brought the women to the house that night. But I wonder exactly how Barber and such congregants explain to themselves the fact that millions of women subject to the same economic and social forces as the two exotic dancers don’t do exotic dancing; and would feel ashamed and disgraced it they did.

There is more I could say but this post is getting long.

I’d like to hear Barber preach again sometime. His high intellect and theological training suggest he’s capable of a profound sermon that illuminates the heart of God. Today, for all his invocation of religious texts and beliefs, Barber merely delivered “the latest” from NC’s NAACP.

If Barber preaches again in Duke Chapel,I have a sermon topic and title suggestion: "False witness: Why God said it was sinful."


Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

I'm sorry - but the moment I read Rev. Barber was black, I knew which 'side' he was on. When he said he would speak about silence, I knew he would not speak of the black community's silence towards the suffering of the white Duke players but the other way around. When he said he would speak about racial slurs, I knew he would not speak about Kim Roberts hurling them at the lacrosse players but the other way around. When he said he would speak about bad choices, I knew he would not speak about Kim's bad choice to strip in front of strangers or Crystal's bad choice to use a sex toy on herself for money but the bad choices of the Duke players for hiring strippers.

For God's sake - and I mean that literally - I sincerely wish Rev. Barber had proven me wrong. But he chose not to.

Anonymous said...

"The Chapel Bulletin tells us Rev. Barber is currently an adjunct professor at DUKE Divinity School!

See page 6"

--JoanOfArk at Free Republic

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see Dr. Barber cite the passage in the bible that says that it should be the government that helps the less fortunate. Or perhaps where Jesus exhorts the Roman soldiers to carry people off to jail that don't give enough to the poor. Or maybe how its ok to convict innocent men because of things that happened in the past which they had nothing to do with.

Anonymous said...

Barber hates white people.

Anonymous said...

"I’d like to hear Barber preach again sometime. His high intellect and theological training suggest he’s capable of a profound sermon that illuminates the heart of God. Today, for all his invocation of religious texts and beliefs, Barber merely delivered “the latest” from NC’s NAACP." JiC

If your testament to his high intellect and theological training is accurate, it would suggest that his character is weak, and therefore would not be in a position to illuminate the heart of God, except maybe as a lesson in "How Not To..."

Anonymous said...

I probably should make clear, that I do not consider myself to be a capable judge of the character of a man, but I do on occassion have suspicions strong enough to raise questions in my mind.

The actual judgment belongs to God. And on that yardstick, I expect we all are very short.

JWM said...

Dear Carolyn,

I don't agree you can determine which side Barber is on based on his race. It's more complex than that.

Please take a look at my post: "Race and Rev. Barber."

Joan of Ark.

Thanks for the Free Republic tip.

I'll look later today.

Anon@10:53 pm,

I don't think any of that is there but many PC divines seem to think items like the ones you mention are in the Good Book.

Anon@ 8:23 am,

I think Barber is pretty typical example of the Religious Left clergy and the NAACP's leadership.

Best to you all,


JWM said...

Sorry, Straightarrow, I didn't mean to overlook you.

You do a fine job here of illustrating the old double standard.

Did you see a few weeks back where I included much of one of your comments from last April?

Please let me know.



Anonymous said...

Yes, John, I saw it. I was pleasantly surprised to be included in such illustrious company, though I am sure I dulled the shine somewhat, I felt good about it.

Anonymous said...

At one ground zero ceremony at, the black minster said " We will get through this together." I felt he spoke to my heart and felling exactly. Where are the ministers who preach love and kindness - Obviously, not in Duke Chapel on this day. Enough of the frauds.