"The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement"

Jan 13, 2016

On this edition of ST, we chat with The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, who's the president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. Rev. Barber is also the pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and the co-author of a new book, "The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement." As was noted of this volume -- which might be seen as part memoir, part socio-political history, and part call to action -- by a reviewer for Kirkus: "A battle-hardened pastor calls for a faith-based, grass-roots movement for social justice.... Now that the white power structure has 'found quieter, more subtle ways to suppress the electoral power of black and poor people,' it’s time [this book argues] for a Third Reconstruction to combat extremists.... [Rev. Barber] came to national prominence in 2013 as the leader of Moral Mondays, where for 13 consecutive weeks, hundreds of North Carolinians went to jail, peacefully arrested after protesting the General Assembly’s assault on a wide range of issues dear to progressives. These demonstrations drew tens of thousands of participants and attracted the national spotlight, a success attributable to years of patient coalition-building based on truths Barber drew from the Bible, history, and his own personal experience. He links his life story -- fighting for unions, for death row inmates, heading up North Carolina's NAACP, pastoring a small church -- to the civil rights battles of the past, identifying common themes and successful tactics that run from Frederick Douglass through Martin Luther King to the present. It's the religious component that makes his story particularly interesting. Fully aware of the suspicion Bible-speak arouses in modern progressive circles, the author still insists on viewing the justice struggle through a moral prism, one always backstopped by 'a Higher Power.' His coalition welcomes people of all religions, including those 'who struggle with faith,' and he pointedly rejects attempts by opponents to divide the movement on controversial issues like same-sex marriage. Sufficiently hip to the modern leftist vocabulary to name-check the likes of Saul Alinsky or Cornel West, Barber more often employs language -- 'yield to the Spirit' -- likely to baffle or irritate his largely secular progressive audience.... [His book offers] a heartfelt dose of old-time religion mixed with modern-day activism." (Please note: Rev. Barber is actually speaking here in Tulsa today, Wednesday the 13th, as part of the Remind & Renew Conference at Phillips Theological Seminary.)