January 15, 2015
John Lewis —
The Art & Discipline of Nonviolence

We take in the extraordinary wisdom of Congressman John Lewis, on what happened in Selma on Bloody Sunday and beyond — and how it might inform our common life today. A rare look inside the civil rights leaders’ spiritual confrontation with themselves — and their intricate art of nonviolence.

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is a member of the United States House of Representatives from Georgia’s 5th District. He is the author of Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change, and the graphic novel March: Book One, the first installment of a three-part series.

Video Interviews with Krista Tippett

In the Room with Congressman John Lewis

Before a live audience in Montgomery, Alabama, Krista interviewed the civil rights legend John Lewis during The Faith & Politics Institute's annual Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. Watch their complete, unedited conversation from a front-row seat in the room.

Selected Audio

Celebratory Sounds in Remembrance of the Struggle for Civil Rights

Journey with Krista and experience a few audio highlights of the 13th Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage organized by the Faith & Politics Institute. Feel free to download them and share with your friends and family!

About the Image

Congressman John Lewis attends Sunday worship services at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, Alabama before retracing his footsteps across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

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Mr. Lewis, thank you for making such a positive impact on my day and my life. I also believe in the importance of building a beloved community through love and nonviolence. I believe that this not only Dr. King's dream, but it is also God's dream for all creation. Like you, I believe that I'm not doing enough and I'm not reaching out effectively to the younger generations. Would you be interested in working on a redrafting of the Pledge of Nonviolence from the civil rights movement, to create a "Pledge of Nonviolence for the New Millennium? The idea is to take this pledge and put it into todays context and into today's words. However, the key points of love, nonviolence, sacrifice and service would remain consistent. I felt "lead" to start this recently and found the process of recreating the pledge both powerful and transformative.

Skip Hutton
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee Member
St. Augustine, Florida

Hello, I haven't listened yet, but I am super excited and grateful for the show. I am a doctoral student at the University of Florida who has studied with Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, mentioned by Vincent Harding in his broadcast on your show. It has been wonderful to learn about the Black Freedom Movement from Dr. Harding's words and now from Mr. Lewis'. Your work has greatly enriched my studies. You should definitely interview Dr. Simmons, here in Gainesville, Florida! She would be a great addition and interesting perspective to round out the two freedom movement interviews you already have showcased.
Thank you!

That a man who derives his income and political power from the threat of violence towards the inhabitants of the geographical territory controlled by the him and his colleagues operating under the color of the "United States Government" dares to lecture on the 'art and discipline of nonviolence' demonstrates a level of hubris and intellectual sophistry of truly amazing proportions.

Ms. Tippet, I have admired your work for years, but shame on you for not recognizing this internal conflict in logic. Non-violence, more properly called non-aggression, is a principle which stands in absolute contradiction to any form of government which relies on the threat of violence to extract obedience from those over whom it claims to have sovereignty.

Mr Escher, With all due respect sir, you are making an assumption about an individual (Mr. Lewis), whom you have likely never met nor studies, based on a generalized belief you hold about the institution of Congress rather than the actions of this individual. Do you suppose that part of the reason so many people view John Lewis as a hero is precisely because of how he sets himself apart? Perhaps you might reexamine your own logic.

SD, cannot agree with you but wish I could. John Lewis,once a great man, now while almost breaking his arm patting himself on the back in every interview with him that I hear has voted in lock step with his fellow Democrat after 9/11 and otherwise unlike other Representatives from his own state. Mr. Escher's post is perfectly correct.

Is there a difference between submission and non= violence. I do believe so. Fighting leads to more war and bloodshed. Consciousness is the goal. In reality, non-violence is a way of maintaining power

This is just a phenomenal interview. Thank you both.

I am born, raised and live a muslim but married for about thirty years to a Christian. We have three girls and son. As a student, a youth, a Special Troop and a Diplomat I woorked hard throughout my life with LOVE. I was abused, denied EVEN salaries for months as diplomat, neglected, my life threatened and abandoned abroad by my people and country yet continued to hold my own guards. Try to hold my family together and with sanity I have been fighting hard than before to raise and give these children a father, education and a life each. This isnt always easy and great to recall. A fall from grace to grass, from diplomatic immunity to doubtful refugee status, I prayed from my own country, the people who hurt me and LOVE them all. My worry has always been that I could have been wrong loving my enemies and not fighting them but this morning, the morning of EASTER, a time of resurrection I i had JOHN LEWIS spoke clearly as though biblical; "its is gonna be OK.." John you resurrected my spirit and hopefully oneday I shall be privileged to speak out perhaps through Krisat Tippett to world. "We stil have goodness and good people on this earth. With sanity and love every pain deminishes several folds and several of the several folds severals times, comes such great days of testimony like we heard from JOHN. I STILL FEAL I CRY A LOT JOHN, BUT HOPE TO BE CONSOLED WIPPING THEM TEARS OF LOVE FROM THE CHINS OF THE ABUSED. WE SHALL OVERCOME AND I AM MOVING MY FEET OUR FATHER. It still is not easy to maintain faith in one's enemies. Be blessed.

fr david eberhardt (Baltimore 4 and CORE leader in Baltimore)
Thanks for the program w John Lewis- a "non violent revolution"? Where?
In this time of the NRA and endless war- this seemed to this vet of the civil rts, peace and criminal injustice mov't to b a little feeble. Couldn'[t you have brot this wonderful philosophy more up to date?
It seemed preserved in ???? amber????
What about the Transform Now Plowshares? They face a trial NOW!!
Lewis is a in highly disregarded body- the Congress! What does he think of that? Of the economic system that we are in?
Come on Krista (sp).

I listened to this program twice on Easter Sunday. I found Mr. Lewis incredibly moving and intend to explore all the other content related to this episode. His message truly resonated with me -- love, nonviolence, sacrifice and service: what better message during this Pascal season.

Listening to John Lewis made me hope that those struggling for fair immigration reform will take a page out of his playbook.

Dear Krista & Senator Lewis,

I cannot thank you enough for the beauty of your messages and the elegance of your story telling and interviewing skills.
I have passed this along as a gift to all who long for Resilience in the Spring Sunshine of a new day.
Thank you again,
PS James Lawson came to us when I studying social change with Dan Snyder at Pendle Hill, a Quaker Study Center in Wallingford, Pa. I remember him as a peaceful presence, a practical, wise and unflappable man. Thank you for reminding of his investments in us all. May I be such a trainer one day!

Krista thank you and your staff for the effort that went into this wonderful, comprehensive, presentation.
It was a blessing to hear John Lewis and learn more about him. The world is a better place because of him.

In the unedited interview, Rep. Lewis mentions his meeting and forgiving Elwin Wilson, who had assaulted Mr. Lewis in 1961. After spending much of the last few years apologizing and asking forgiveness for his racially motivated attacks, Elwin Wilson passed away on March 28.

Rep Lewis and Mr. Wilson appeared together on ABC News 2009

My heart has expanded beyond all conceivable boundaries upon listening. I savored every word. We have all already arrived!

Thank you for this conversation, Krista Tippett and John Lewis, which reminds us of the complexity of life and love, and the spirit and courage of the Civil Rights Movement; for me, Mr. Lewis, you embody that spirit, courage and promise. Krista, your preparation, sensitivity and thoughtful questions made the hour, for me, an act of love, spirit and community.
A neighbor and now I have started sending the link to the conversation everywhere we can think of.

I can't wait to have my children hear this podcast on MLK weekend. What resonates even more surprisingly and hopefully with me is Mr Lewis' perspective on bringing love to congress. I see red/blue polarization as a face of new prejudice, and a destructive fissure in our communities. Our family has moved recently to a rural satellite of Seattle, Wa, and I went to school I think in the part of Georgia Mr Lewis represents. I could have moved us close to my Kids grandparents in Georgia, but feared the racial discrimination(both ways), fear, and in effect, ongoing segregation in Georgia now would risk my kids growing up prejudiced.But here am shocked by different kind of broken community. I see Xenophobia,(even my own?) red versus blue, but also including assumptions based on race, cooks up a new face of prejudice that kids are left to work out if we dont. Your words speak to these things too. Thank you for the focus, Love is the answer to whatever new problems we make for ourselves. Love with courage, faith, work,outspokenness, respect, and willingness to make a little trouble. You and God have proven beleif in freedom for everyone, I should too. Your call is to have faith in the "other side"and refuse to dehumanize the "other side", and not be controlled by the coercions of forces that would divide the real community we all are built to be.

Missed this the first time around. MLK's advice continues to be valid today as it was then: "Just love the hell out of them."

I just heard CongressmanLewis on the radio this morning. I am at a crossroads in my life and found his words such an enormous source of strength. "It is already done. You just have to find a way to make it real...". Transformational thoughts for a time full of challenges that requires us to rise above our differences. Thank you.

It is an hour of words and conversation to listen to. One that takes my breath away every week...THIS one touched my heart so deeply i cannot insult it with simple words and fragments of impressions...i can only send my very deepest gratitude for all the effort you put into these sessions..i am grateful....and send Blessings to grace all of you.

You referred to the opponents of civil rights as "enemies" of Mr. Lewis. I beg to differ. I believe Mr. Lewis and Dr. King refused to recognize anyone as "enemies" and extended friendship, reconciliation and redemption in the name of Christ to those that you and others might call "enemies".

I tuned in to this interview this morning and I am so grateful that I did. It affirmed for me once more that the only way to walk through this life is with love. The type of love where I am free to express myself, be myself and live fully. Happy, Joyous and Free. Thank you

I heard this program today and possibly almost 2 years ago as well. I recommend the comments of both Escher and Eberhardt from '13. John Lewis did great things in his youth, but if you search for him by name you appropriately get John Lewis (politician).

He has been in Congress for 28 full years; he has been a member of the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives and has served in the Whip organization since shortly after his first election to Congress in 1986. He is Senior Chief Deputy Whip, leading an organization of chief deputy whips and serves as the primary assistant to the Democratic Whip. You can't vote for "love" while in those positions. In 2001, three days after the September 11 attacks, Lewis voted to give Bush authority to retaliate in a vote that was 420–1. One representative had courage to vote No; not the "love" man John Lewis. Lewis challenged Julian Bond to take a urine drug test during their 1986 Democratic runoff which Lewis won. That's non-violent but not love.

28 years in the House yet have the lives of the poor in our country gotten better? Lewis has made vile charges against Republicans that have reached national audiences at least twice, the usual Democratic slander that Republicans want to bring back slavery or segregation this in spite of his having a safe seat and in spite of his philosophy of love. We all need to make a living but Lewis is now a hack politician who gets a lot of love because of his great past which ended at least 35 years ago. Start a church if you want to spout philosophy without doing anything to back it up.

“Blessed Are The Meek”

in human

of perfectionism

for there will be

and the rest.

Blessed are the meek

in human

of perfectionism

for there will be

with their exiled
and their condemned

Blessed are the meek

in human

of perfectionism

for there will be
routine victories

with lynchings.

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds,
he went up on a mountainside and sat down.
His disciples came to him,
and he began to teach them.

He said:

“Blessed are the humble in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they are comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they are filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they know mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they are
children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matt 5:3-12

I appreciate the reminder and awareness presented by this interview/dialogue. Mr. Lewis is inspiring in the way he promotes love without being naive about the times in which we live. He showed great appreciation for the progress made and yet the longevity of the struggles that still persist. I thank Ms. Tippett for sharing the ways that spending this time with Mr. Lewis taught her more and for her investment of time and study in preparation for it.

This was such a wonderful program this morning. I learned so much from Congressman Lewis and his involvement in the civil rights movement. It seems to me that our present Congress could learn a whole lot from the nonviolent movement that brought about so much change through Dr. Martin Luther King and others like Congressman Lewis. In the end, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ no matter our race, heritage, political party and income level.

Not only is Mr. Eschers comment correct and must be considered in the overall picture of Mr. Lewis, the entire inner circle of Dr. King betrayed him in the later years after the civil rights movement because of their own self interests and fealty to capitalism. There is no serving capitalism but then separating yourself from it. Mr. Lewis can project the illusion that hes "above" the fray in congress that support the U.S.'s violent and imperialist aggression in the world or as King said, "the worlds largest purveyor of violence" but it is a self deception on his part. Personally I'm sure John is a wonderful loving individual, but it is naive to believe that "love in action" will ever solve the worlds largest problem - capitalism. Kings progress to this conclusion and the organization of the poor peoples march, left his closest allies with personal conflicts and self interested concerns they could not resolve, other than to betray King and protect themselves. This is the deeper, darker world King entered that is under the purvey of the Pentagon, State Dept., Intel., Corporate/Wall st, DOJ.

thank you thank you. very moving to hear a convo from your cross generational family pilgrimage.

Krishnamurti critiqued 'non-violence,' referring to Gandi's ideas as well, and said that there is no such thing. I think he is right. Gandi was not opposed to the violence of the British directed against Indians -- in fact, he counted on it. Otherwise there would have been no effect of the non-violence, so called, which is still a form of conflict, and it is called 'resistance.' If we are in conflict in our thoughts, it is still violence and works its way out in mutiforms.

God Bless John Lewis, Krista Tippet and her entire staff for bringing forth the work that they share with the world. It is exactly what we need. Love is strength. Not everyone is ready to accept and live that message, but the message is powerful and needed. For those commenters who denigrate Representative Lewis for being a member of Congress, you miss the point. We need a congress full of John Lewis-like members. The next time you vote, think is this person capable of true love of his/her fellow man? Does this person have all of our best interests at heart? Will they acknowledge the needs of all? Or will they continue to say, You don't deserve the human rights that the members of Congress enjoy. You don't deserve health care, you don't deserve a living wage, you don't deserve peace and prosperity.

This is a country blessed with abundance. There is more than enough for all. Socialized capitalism can work. People want to work. They want to have dignity and respect. It is not all about money. In the end it is about love. So simple and yet difficult and complicated. Thank you for this and many other thoughtful wonderful shows.

Just when I was about to give up on our capacity to love one another, John Lewis inspires to carry on. Praying while moving my feet! “So you try to appeal to the goodness of every human being and you don’t give up. You never give up”. Thank you John Lewis for keeping the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr's mission for hope and love for all humanity alive. And, thank you Krista for letting us listen.

This has had a powerful impact on me. Even though John Lewis never mentioned Corinthians 13 during his interview, I heard "Love is patient", "Love holds no malice" for the first time in a different way. It's easy to see those words regarding family and friends, but to hear those words in the context of someone who wants to hurt a person, who diminishes their right to exist and still that person loves them is so moving. This interview has changed my life.

Peace And Love Always!!!

Thank You Krista, and Thank You Congressman Lewis. The work that you both have been called to is relevant and beautiful, each seemingly in short supply. Bless you both, Thank You again.