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, writes the author, for a Third Reconstruction to combat extremists. With the help of Wilson-Hartgrove (New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church, 2008, etc.), Barber offers a narrative that’s part memoir, part civil rights history, and part organizer handbook. The author 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.
A heartfelt dose of old-time religion mixed with modern-day activism.