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Paul Sawyer and Ken Brown introduced Rev. James Lawson, the year 2000 recipient of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Peace Fellowship Adin Ballou Award. Rev. Lawson began his work for peace and justice in Nashville in 1958, where he taught young students sit in and freedom rider techniques. His guiding light was a need to incite not to violence, but to nonviolent action to unlock the trap of Jim Crow and segregation. As a minister in Memphis, Lawson was active with the garbage workers. In his introduction, Ken Brown stated that Jim Lawson has never been confused about the connection between peace and religion.
As a senior in high school, in 1945, Lawson was struck by the encouragement to love the USSR, Chinese, and other communist states and the demonization of the Japanese, Germans, and Italians. The Cold War led to a switch. He decided he wasn't going to hate because some government had changed its policy. Love had to be inclusive. At age eighteen in 1948, he recognized he was a Conscientious Objector, CO, even though he did register for the draft. He later returned his draft cards and spent much of 1951-1952 in Federal prison as a draft resister.
We who call ourselves apostles of peace have failed over fifty years or more because we have not swayed the government even an eighth of an inch to end economic exploitation and intervention. He blasted the hypocrisy of the U.S. for its inconsistency. Our government supports some communist governments but hates others on the grounds they are communists. He feels the U.S. is the #1 enemy of peace and justice in the world today. How can we then persuade anyone we are for peace? The U.S. government cannot be trusted to know what peace is about. Lawson believes we must transform our own society. Budgets must be transformed from budgets of war to budgets of people—schools, economic justice. This nation must be moved from its obsessive pathology of racism to solidarity with other human beings. The number one priority for peace making is to eradicate poverty and end a rapacious capitalism that seeks to turn this nation into a plantation where we all are indentured servants. It's an impossible task that must be attacked. To bring this restorative event, we must withdraw our loyalty from any apology for racism, sexism or poverty and from the status quo. The greatest kept secret of the 20th Century, which honed the art of violence to the highest perfection, is the power of people acting nonviolently.
Reverend Lawson's vision of how to achieve peace remains powerful today, at age seventy-one, and his vision and passion still threaten to burn the complacent, uncaring and greedy.
Reported by Bob Hurst
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Last updated on Tuesday, March 30, 2010.
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