Confronting “Dangerous Memory,” Heeding the Power of the Moral Imagination

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Josh Rushing via Creative Commons

Rev. William Barber’s book, The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, is a refreshing primer on moral movement building.

We progressives tend to generate our policy prescriptions on the grounds of their “rightness.” If we were honest with each other, we would acknowledge that we engage each other too much from the head and not enough from the heart, too much from policy particulars and not enough from the depth and despair of lived experience.

Rev. Barber breaks that unhelpful mold. He deeply understands what too few people do: There is power in the moral imagination. There is power in speaking directly to the heart and to the moral center. He understands that when the heart is fully engaged and awakened, the head and feet will follow with purpose and steadfastness.

thirdreconthumbCentral to Barber’s work is a commitment to engaging what theologian Johann Baptist Metz terms “dangerous memory” rather than nostalgic retellings. It is these dangerous memories that force us to confront the world as it is and name the multi-dimensional, death-dealing policies that are killing poor people. It is these same memories that enable us to claim the possibility of a different and more humane world. Only then can we commit to the “third act of faith” by having the courage to refute the “isms” that pit us against each other or involve us in false alliances.

Rev. William Barber is calling us to take the audacious path. He—and God through him—are calling us to empty ourselves and be born again into a new humanity, a new people-hood. Together. Dreaming, praying, singing, disrupting—moving always “forward together, not one step back.”

See here for Peter Laarman’s interview with Rev. William Barber, and here for the full range of responses.