On Easter Sunday, I happened to turn on the radio and encounter a moving conversation between On Being host Krista Tippett and Rep. John Lewis, one of the civil rights movement’s great leaders who now represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional district.
In describing his life and commitment to non-violent action, Lewis told a moving Easter story of love, suffering, and redemption.
We are called to love others, Lewis says, not because it is politically expedient but “simply because it is good unto itself.” “Love is not how you feel, but a way of being, a way of action that has the ability to make things right,” he said. “For hate is too heavy a burden to bear.”
How can a person have the strength to meet hate with love and violence with non-violence? A profound personal faith gave Lewis the courage and commitment to confront in love those who would harm or even kill him. Beaten and spat upon, Lewis never fought back in violence but continued onward in love. This “redemptive suffering,” as Lewis calls it, was possible because of his unwavering belief that a different world is not only possible but already exists, if only we have the faith and courage to bring it into being through love. Lewis calls this “praying with your feet.”
Today, Americans are divided from one another across any number of social, religious, and political issues. The public discourse has become distinctly un-loving and even downright hateful. John Lewis would remind us that love’s reconciling power is as available to us now as it ever has been. And it’s as hard as it has ever been. It requires discipline, commitment and faith.
How can Episcopal schools and church-school communities model such a courageous way of being in the world? On this, the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement, John Lewis may have some answers.
Since 1999, Lewis has been a leader of the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage, a bipartisan congressional delegation that spends three days learning about the legacy of the civil rights movement and its relevance today.
Watch Krista Tippet’s extended interview with John Lewis and access related music, speeches, and resources related to non-violence.