The United States has a heart problem. We need justice-loving people to come forward and act as moral defibrillators for the nation. We need more people like North Carolina’s Rev. William Barber.
Rev. Barber sees the social and political ills plaguing America — everything from moves to cut school funding and make voting more difficult to attacks on LGBT and immigrant rights and drives to slash taxes on the wealthy — as all part of a single national moral problem. His solution: a moral revolution.
Rev. Barber, the head of the North Carolina NAACP chapter and pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, first came to national prominence in 2014 as the architect of the Moral Monday movement. He’s now taking this statewide movement to the national stage with his new book, The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement.
The Third Reconstruction works as both autobiography and blueprint for building a progressive social movement. Its message has its roots both in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and today’s progressive values of today. Its goal: to help us improve where past movements have failed, to spark “indigenous- led” movements at the statewide level.
Moral Mondays originated as a response to the Republican state legislature’s efforts to limit voting rights in the state. It started as a small group of clergy going down to the state house to protest and risk arrest to draw attention to the issue. Before long, hundreds and then tens of thousands of people were rallying at the statehouse with them and engaging in civil disobedience.
Rev. Barber’s rhetoric deftly integrates an evangelical reading of the bible, but he welcomes people of all faiths including, as millennials often are today, atheists. He sees no distinction between the regressive forces of the 1890’s, the 1950’s, and today who fight against movements for justice and shared prosperity. The new justice movement must learn from these past struggles and organize against today’s oppressors.
Rev. Barber is touring now in over 20 cities across the country as part of “The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values” along with Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, and Sister Simone Campbell.
“Some issues are not left vs. right or liberal vs. conservative but right vs. wrong,” Rev. Barber summed up in a riveting speech at the Democratic National Convention in July. “We can’t give up on the heart of our democracy. Not now, not ever.”
Josh Hoxie is director of the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-editor of Inequality.org.