Rev. James Lawson was pastor of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles when this article appeared. He was a primary trainer for many nonviolence movements, most notably the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s. Lawson was interviewed by telephone by Joe Nangle, O.F.M.
- The Editors
Sojourners: As a pastor, how is the Bible relevant to your recent experiences in Los Angeles?
James Lawson: I feel that in the fires in LA, God is offering the community of faith another burning bush experience. In Exodus the burning bush caught hold of Moses' attention so that Moses could hear God saying that it is the world that sets God's agenda. Chapter 3 is very clear: I have witnessed the misery of my people; I have heard them crying out because of their oppressors; I know what they are suffering; and I have come to rescue them out of the hands of the Egyptians, to bring them out of that country and into a new land that flows with milk and honey.
The fires of LA are the fires of frustration and pain and misery and oppression. They are an indication of the frustration of millions of people who cut across the lines of class and color, if we want to hear it.
But the "Egyptians" do not want to acknowledge this. Pharaoh wants to pretend that it's the looting and killing that's immoral and that law and order must prevail. The burning bush offers people of faith and people across the nation a different look, an opportunity to stop and hear what is going on among all people.
Excessive force is violence; racism is violence; economic exploitation is violence. And they all perpetrate the myth of--"we and they"--the myth of racism.
Sojourners: You have a long record of nonviolence. In the rebellion in LA, did you see a spark of resistance, of hope?