by Jan Garrett
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach;
the restorer of streets to live in. –Isaiah 58:12.
If you regularly attend our Sunday Services, you will recognize some of these prophetic phrases. When we sing Hymn #121, We’ll Build a Land, we are singing lyrics inspired by Isaiah. So it is appropriate that Unitarian Universalists have been supporters for some time of the interfaith social justice and moral revival movement led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, who is Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, NC, and lead organizer of the Forward Together Moral Monday protests at the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013.
Moral Monday demonstrations started as weekly demonstrations that ultimately drew tens of thousands of North Carolinians and others to the state legislature, where more than a thousand peaceful protesters were arrested, handcuffed, and jailed. (Speeches by Rev. Barber given at Moral Monday protests have been published in Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation, Chalice Press, 2014.)
Repairers of the Breach (breachrepairers.org) is a nonpartisan, ecumenical organization that aims to create an agenda rooted in a moral framework to counter extremist groups that seek to dominate public life. The Repairers aspire to frame public policies that are not constrained or confined by narrow exclusionary tenets. They unite clergy and lay persons from a variety of faith traditions along with people without a spiritual practice who share the principles that lie at the heart of great moral teachings. Repairers aim to broadly spread the vision of a nation that is just and loving.
As our church’s member-delegate at the 2016 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, which met in Columbus, Ohio, this past June, I had the opportunity to hear Rev. Barber address Unitarian Universalists in three sessions. At one session, his topic was The Third Reconstruction (also the title of his book, published in 2016 by Beacon Press and available in eBook and other formats).
The First Reconstruction occurred in the post-Civil War period when freed slaves and poor whites came together to support the 14th, 15th, and 16th amendments and use the ballot to elect state constitutional conventions. They established a framework to promote justice and social equality that began to unify—and guarantee rights of—formerly divided populations. This Reconstruction was undone by the divide-and-conquer strategy of the former slaveholders and organizations like the KKK.
The Second Reconstruction is better known as the Civil Rights movement. It was led by groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with which Rev. Martin Luther King was associated, and was largely based in the churches. By working across racial, ethnic, religious, and class lines, this movement was successful to a certain extent by the mid 1960s, but it was gradually undone by the “Southern strategy” adopted by certain politicians who created “wedge issues” to separate allies from one another.
The Third Reconstruction, as Rev. Barber calls it, is the most recent attempt to regain movement for civil rights but also to “repair the breach” that developed in the late 1960s and 1970s between those groups that had been able to collaborate at the height of the civil rights movement. It also brings new allies into the struggle.
On October 4, Reverend Barber’s “The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values” comes to our state. This multi-state tour aims to redefine morality in American politics. It calls on people of moral courage to join together to oppose harmful policies that disproportionately impact vulnerable communities. The Kentucky Council of Churches is hosting this Revival, led by Rev. Barber and the Repairers of the Breach, on Tuesday, October 4, 6:30pm at St. Stephen Church, 1010 South 15th, Louisville. Kentucky.
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