The Third Reconstruction, by The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, written with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, is a guidebook to social and spiritual renewal for America. The Rev. Barber considers the two kinds of renewal to be one and the same.
While most of the principles espoused by Barber – feed the hungry, help the poor, heal the sick, train the imprisoned, teach the children, save the planet – are espoused by Democrats these days, Barber by no means excludes Republicans, atheists, and people of other religions. Not all people are knowledgeable about all issues, but we can stand together on those we do care about. He reminds the reader that the current problems of America have been developing for a long time. Donald Trump and recent elections are just the most recent iteration.
Barber goes deep. He delves into historical precedent, biblical text (and texts from other religions as well), and long experience with social justice movements to instruct the reader.
His style comes straight from southern preaching, changing the “altar call” into a call for action, “Who’s ready to go to jail today?” There were a lot of people who answered the call, and not all of them were Democrats – they were fighting for better treatment of “all God’s children.”
I have attended teachings by Barber, and he is an approachable, charismatic, humorous, and well informed speaker. He has stories, quotes, people, places, dates, laws, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible and American history at hand.
I am a Unitarian-Universalist, with a background in Christian Science, Episcopalianism and Judaism, but have never seen the Bible stories used to greater effect. You don’t have to hold dogmatic beliefs to understand the story of the Good Samaritan, though Barber presents a shiny, new Amos or Ezekiel, figures of lesser renown. Knowing that people have been fighting the same fight for justice and fairness for more than two thousand years is comforting and inspiring. It makes Facebook and Twitter irrelevant, the telephone dispensable, and made this reader realize, again, that it is our compassion and intelligence that matters, and you don’t have to go to college to be intelligent.
I don’t personally pray, and don’t bother much with what the word “God” means, but Rev. Barber’s words moved me. He does not tarry with the latest scandal, but uncovers the heart of the matter. Reading him is interesting and inspiring; hearing him speak is more so.