Bonnie Boswell (Courtesy photo)


 I met Pastor James Lawson, pastor emeritus of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, decades ago when I was asked to co-host and produce his national cable talk show, “Lawson Live.”  

 I learned quickly about his historical role in the Civil Rights Movement. Lawson was asked by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to teach others, like a young college student named John Lewis – later Congressman John Lewis – the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.  

 They successfully engaged in peaceful lunch counter sit-ins in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, becoming “the model of the Movement,” according to King. I worked with Pastor Lawson for 11 years and became impressed by his lifelong commitment to the practice of non-violence, even in the most violent times.  

 I recently interviewed Pastor Lawson and Attorney Bryan Stevenson for “Bonnie Boswell Presents,” now airing on KCET.  I asked Pastor Lawson how he was able to keep actively involved in the social justice movement for 80 years. He said, “I’ve come to recognize that non-violence is the way that we human beings can see our own lives transformed on a regular basis.”  

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 Recently, I’ve grappled with the hideous acts of violence that engulf our country. I can only conclude that many in our country live in a world of fear and unresolved trauma.  We have never unpacked the racism, sexism, violence, and economic inequalities that destabilize our nation.   

 Unresolved trauma, fear of not being able to survive, and fear of others means we can be continually manipulated by others.  The strategy of “divide et impera,” or “divide and conquer,” has been traced to Phillip II of Macedon, and utilized by people like Julius Caesar and Napoleon among many others.  

 One thing is for sure, it’s a very old playbook and it’s still being used. So, those of us who believe a peaceful world is possible need to figure out how we can truly become “indivisible” as we vow in our pledge of allegiance.

Perhaps, it starts with embracing the practice and theory of non-violence – recognizing that folks who engage in violence are uninformed about our common humanity and/or deeply hurt in some corner of their lives.  Maybe, and wrongly, they believe they don’t have jobs or health care because of “those people.”  

 In any case, we clearly need to hit the reset button. South Africa had to do it when they moved away from apartheid and centuries of racial discrimination. It required a national effort at truth and reconciliation.  

 “Truth-telling” as Bryan Stevenson puts it, is essential to healing.  Based on the African concept of “Ubuntu,” the decision was made to redress imbalances, broken relationships, and lift the idea that no one is healthy if anyone is sick.  

 Pastor Lawson reminds us that the non-violent approach allows humans to “come alive and reflect the glory of life.” Let us begin now, so we can “save the soul of America.”  

 To learn more, watch Bonnie Boswell Reports on KCET, Fridays at 2:58 p.m. or visit