Madonna Thunder Hawk of the Lakota People’s Law Project on the Indian boarding school legacy

EDITOR’S NOTE: ReadTheSpirit magazine has been involved for many years in lifting up Native American voices. After our recent cover story about the launch of North American investigations into the legacy of Indian boarding schools, we have heard from many Indian readers and writers. This week, we chose this brief column to share from Madonna Thunder Hawk.

She has been active with the Lakota People’s Law Project, which was formed by grandmothers concerned about children who were still being removed from families by government officials as late as 2004.

Here is the message she sent:


The Intergenerational Trauma We Live With


There’s a lot of justified anger and trauma in Indian Country right now. For many of us, the reality of what happened in these horrific church-run and state-sanctioned facilities is not something we want to relive. That said, because I was there, I want to share with you some of what my experience looked like.

By the time I went to boarding school in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, things weren’t as horrifying as they’d once been. I spent a period of these years in the U.S. government and parochial boarding school systems on and off the Cheyenne River reservation. It may not surprise you to learn that I was always on the verge of getting kicked out. They said I was “too mouthy!”

My parents’ generation had it much harder. In their day, boarding schools were military in style and very strict. In the late 1920s and early ‘30s, my mother attended Pipestone Elementary. It was a U.S. government school, but many like it were parochial, mainly Catholic. She and her classmates were made to wear uniforms and march wherever they went. Neither crying nor laughing was allowed. No one talked, and many tried to escape, but they would always be found and brought back against their will. Then the administrators would shave their heads bald, march them into the auditorium, string them up and flog them. All the other kids were made to watch as a lesson in what happens when you run away. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that many children died from illness under these harsh conditions.

This is the intergenerational trauma that I and so many of my contemporaries still live with today. It informs our current fight to keep our young ones from being stolen away into white foster “care.”

It’s why we, as an organization, support U.S. Interior Secretary Haaland’s investigation, and why we hope even more will be done to empower a true reckoning here in the U.S.— through an audit of our own school properties and teaching real history in the schools of today. There is much that our past can show, if everyone will stop turning away from the truth.

Wopila tanka—thank you for your understanding and allyship at this hard moment.

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project


Madonna Thunder Hawk, a member of the Oohenumpa band of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has a long history of grassroots activism prior to her formative work for LPLP as a Tribal Liaison. She is co-founder of Women of All Red Nations (WARN), as well as the Black Hills Alliance—which prevented corporate uranium mining in the Black Hills and proved the high level of radiation in Pine Ridge reservation’s water supply. She was a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and occupied Alcatraz and Wounded Knee in protest of the federal government’s genocidal policies against Native Americans. She spent months camped in Standing Rock to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline and protect clean water and treaty rights. Her work with LPLP builds alliances and support for Indian child welfare among South Dakota’s tribal leaders and communities. She is a grandmother to a generation of Native American activists.




Exposing the horrors of the Indian Boarding Schools: Why we need to read Warren Petoskey’s ‘Dancing My Dream’ in 2021

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was the best known institution in this nationwide system of “schools” where children were forced to give up their Native languages, dress and customs. Author Warren Petoskey’s grandfather was among the children forced to attend Carlisle.


“Dedication: In honor of the victims and survivors of the Indian boarding schools, orphanages and foster care systems …”
First words in Warren Petoskey’s memoir Dancing My Dream

“The Indian Boarding School story that Warren Petoskey shares with readers is all too familiar to Indians in the United States and Canada. The story, however, is an unfamiliar one to white America. It is a story that needs to be told. Virtually every Indian family was touched by the policy of assimilation that the boarding schools were designed to promote. “Kill the Indian, but save the child” was the desired outcome. Instead of assimilation, the boarding schools created a syndrome of intergenerational trauma that afects most Indians in America to this day.”
Anthropologist Kay McGowan in the Foreword to Dancing My Dream


UPDATES: On July 11, 2021, an alert reader suggested we also share a link to this National Public Radio report on July 11 that represents a fairly in-depth overview of the story to date. And, on July 4, 2021, we published this column by Madonna Thunder Hawk of the Lakota People’s Law Project.


Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

The stories are true.

As horrifying as these stories seemed when they emerged into white American journalism over the years—stories of Indian children beaten to death or murdered in other ways over many years by a systematic government-sponsored repression of the Native population—the fact is: The stories are true.

We should have known better, but in the summer of 2021, the world is shocked to read about the discoveries of hundreds of children’s bodies buried near the sites of former Canadian Indian schools where Native children were held against their will.

And the American chapter of this story is coming. Soon, all of us who have been following this story expect that we will begin reading such horrifying news reports from across the United States. A forensic process to search for mass graves near boarding schools in this country is only beginning.

Why Our Front Edge Team Cares So Much

One reason that the folks at ReadTheSpirit magazine and Front Edge Publishing feel so strongly about justice for the long-oppressed Native peoples across North America is that our co-founders, our Publisher John Hile and I (Editor David Crumm), have been advocates for these issues for many decades.

As early as the 1990s, I was the leading American wire-service reporter covering a tragically ill-conceived United Methodist attempt to take the traditional Native American Green Corn Ceremony, revise it as a Christian ritual and print it in a new edition of the denomination’s worldwide guide to worship. United Methodists thought this was one way to honor the many Indian Christians within the denomination. However, those church leaders had failed to widely consult with Native leaders. In fact, most Indian leaders remained deeply wounded by the denomination’s refusal to publicly apologize for a Methodist preacher, John Chivington, who led the Sand Creek Massacre of hundreds of men, women and children. As a result of that wire-service reporting on the United Methodist Green Corn controversy, the denomination eventually met with Native leaders, dropped their plans to Christianize the traditional ritual—and did formally apologize for Chivington and the church’s role in Sand Creek.

Why Indigenous Voices Are So Important:
‘Race, Public Memory and Intellectual Property’

Site of the Sand Creek Massacre as it looked in 2004, when the National Park Service was beginning to develop visitors’ resources near this rolling grassland in the prairie. Photograph by John Hile.

In 2004, working with John Hile as the photographer, I launched another wire-service project in the American West, a series of reports about deep wounds in American history that was called Anger in America during the week-long run of these stories.One extensive part of that series focused on Sand Creek, which the federal government was in the process of transforming into a protected National Park Service National Historic Site. The reporting we did that summer wound up being cited in a great deal of other writing about injustices toward Native Americans. Among those other writings was a 2013 dissertation by Susan Chase Hall, which she titled Something Terrible Happened Here: Memory and Battlefield Preservation in the Construction of Race, Place and Nation.

In her book-length dissertation, Hall wrote:

In Anger in America, Crumm explained that “America’s anger often is fueled by the movement of people, especially as outsiders move into settled communities. But the problem is more complex. After all, in America, who is truly a settler and who is an outsider?” In his reporting, David Crumm has introduced an essential question of race, public memory and intellectual property rights. At the beginning of the 21st Century, who had a right to weigh in on what happened at Sand Creek and why? Who had a right to tell the Sand Creek story? Who has a right to be angry about what happened at Sand Creek?

Please, Learn More about Boarding School Trauma from a Native American

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

This is why our publishing house, which was founded in 2007, almost immediately began developing a Native American memoir with Warren Petoskey, an Elder of the Waganakising Odawa and Minneconjou Lakotah Nations. He is a freelance writer, native artisan, traditional musician and dancer, ordained Christian minister and a lecturer who speaks frequently on the history of the nation’s infamous Indian boarding school system.

Warren talked at length about these issues in a 2009 ReadTheSpirit Cover Story. As part of that earlier “conversation with Warren Petoskey,” he said: “I think the greatest damage that was done was spiritual. As we lost our traditional languages, our elders will tell you that we lost something in the way that we pray. And there is an even larger spiritual wound here. This was more than a century of organized attempts by our government to destroy our spiritual validation as human beings.”

To learn even more, please order a copy of Warren’s book today from Amazon.

And—we’ve got more about Warren’s book in this week’s Front Edge Publishing column, including an inspiring excerpt from the book. Plus, in that Front Edge story, we’ve got an overview of our other important book produced with Native American journalists, 100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America.

Mindy Corporon with the Interfaith Center at Miami University on ‘Healing a Shattered Soul’

Click on the cover image to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Mindy Corporon continues to crisscross the country with events that share her message of hope and healing in embracing diverse communities. This week, we can share this video sponsored by our friends at The Interfaith Center at Miami University in Ohio.

Are you just meeting Mindy today? Here is our April profile of Mindy when she launched her book.

This latest video begins with an introduction from Geneva Blackmer, program director at the Interfaith Center. Mindy reads a passage from her book about her own introduction to Judaism after the murders of her son and father in an anti-Semitic attack. Then, Mindy opens up the session to Q and A—and begins talking with other participants, including journalist Bill Tammeus.

“I would say my Christianity is a faith about humanity and about God,” Mindy says at one point, explaining that she really does feel the spirits of her late loved ones still alive today. “My faith is in believing that our loved ones are with us in some way,” she says.

There are parallels throughout the Abrahamic faiths, she explains. “If I were to explain Christianity to a niece or nephew now,” she says, “I would use many of the same phrases we find in Judaism and Islam: Be good to others; do good to others; believe that there’s a higher spirit that is with us and loving us—and, in the end, I would say God is love. God is love in all the faiths.”

If you are planning a group discussion of Mindy’s book with friends or in a small group in your congregation, Mindy’s videos can be a very helpful introduction to these conversations.

Here is this latest video by Mindy from The Interfaith Center’s program.


In ‘The Sandbox Revolution,’ Lydia Wylie-Kellermann helps us to raise kids for a just world


Author of God Is Just Love

Click on this photo to visit the book’s Amazon page.

More than a year ago I learned that Lydia Wylie-Kellermann would be publishing a book in 2021 on the theme of parenting and justice. For many years, beginning in 1973, I led many intergenerational religious education groups.

At that time, my indispensable resource on teaching justice themes to families was Parenting for Peace and Justice, by Kathleen and James McGinnis, which is now out of print. Of course, the world has changed, becoming much more unjust, less peaceful and far more perilous in my view.

I am now the father of four and the grandfather of thirteen. My passion for the well-being of children, now and in the future, has risen to the top of my priority list. When I heard about Lydia’s plans, I was about to publish my own book (God Is Just Love: Building Spiritual Resilience and Sustainable Communities for the Sake of Our Children and Creation). My attention was turning rapidly towards spending the rest of my life working directly with children and families seeking to live abundant, just and loving lives, no matter what was happening around them.

I hoped to find new allies in the most important work I would ever do.

I could not have been more pleased to discover Lydia’s new book, The Sandbox Revolution, Raising Kids for a Just World.  I am tearfully grateful to learn more about Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, and her many partner and parent writers. In them, I recognize friends on this journey.

So, that is what I needed to say, from a most personal point of view.

Then, I also want you to read Lydia’s book, so here are a few additional insights.

When you get the book and read it. Read every word. Digest the words. Live the words. For me, this was especially critical when I got to chapter 13 and chapter 14.

In chapter 13 we hear from Lydia’s father—pastor, author and prophet Bill Wylie-Kellermann. He writes about what I will call “the community imperative.” You cannot know just love and be just love—in a very broken world getting more fragile every day—outside of community.

Back in the times when Lydia and I were being raised, this was true for the Wylie-Kellermann family and just as true for the Whitt family. The community imperative is one of the three vital messages of my book also: 1. Spiritual resilience, 2. Beloved Community and 3. Adaptation. Yes, I’m urging you to read both of our books. I think Lydia’s book addresses a broader range of sub-topics from the point of view of more writers. My book invites you deeper into the current predicaments and their intersections and the future that must be shaped by Just Love.

In these times, as we are walking with our children and grandchildren, the community imperative may well mean the difference between fear and love, despair and hope, violent assaults and peaceful partnerships.

When I reached chapter 14, I found even more valuable lessons. I already knew that the beloved communities of the future must adapt many of the ways of indigenous peoples. But now I would be specifically instructed by a parent who, herself, was learning to pass on her tribal traditions to children.

It is way past time to begin putting children, the creation and the future first and foremost in the priorities and decisions of our lives.

You can find a way to afford the price of a book. You cannot afford to miss this wisdom.

Lydia Wylie-Kellermann


Care to read more?

GET THE BOOK. The Sandbox Revolution is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle, plus Barnes & Noble sells the book in paperback and the Nook format.

If you preview the book at either online retailer’s website, you can look at the entire Table of Contents, which includes chapters such as:

  1. What Makes a Family? Infertility, Masculinity and the Fecundity of Grace
  2. Money: Nurturing a Family Culture of Generosity and Justice
  3. Education: Learning at the Speed of Trust
  4. Where to Live: Putting Down Roots and Being Known
  5. Spirituality: Entrusting Our Children to the Path
  6. Moving beyond Normativity: Family as a Haven for Authenticity, Self-Expression and Equity
  7. Raising Antiracist White Kids: Some Rules Need to Be Broken
  8. Resisting Patriarchy: Messy, Beautiful Independence
  9. Ableism: Opening Doors and Finding Transformation
  10. Honoring Earth: Healing for the Carceral Mind and Climate Crisis with Joyful Interconnectedness
  11. The Power of Story: Subversive Lessons from Grandmother Oak
  12. Building Community: Choosing Life in the Certainty of Death
  13. Risk and Resistance: The Cost and Gifts to Our Children
  14. How Do I Heal the Future? Reclaiming Traditional Ways for the Sake of Our Children

You can learn more about the diverse contributing writers in this section of the book’s website.

Then, if you wish to contact Lydia about this book, here’s the part of the book’s website where you can send a message by U.S. mail, email or via a message through that website.


PLUS! A DISCUSSION GUIDE—AND—CHILDREN’S BOOKS! Lydia also has developed a discussion guide, packed with ideas for conversation and activities as you read each chapter either individually or with friends. AND she recommends some great children’s books that could accompany various sections of her book. You’ll find those free resources on the book’s website.


Click the cover to visit the geez magazine website.

LEARN MORE ABOUT LYDIA’S COMMUNITY OF WRITERS. In addition to editing and contributing to this new book, Lydia is the editor of the quarterly magazine called: geez—contemplative cultural resistance, where you can enjoy her work along with many other writers and teachers, including many of the folks who contributed to the new book. If you want to know much more about the ongoing life of this magazine community, stop by the Blog area of the geez website. You’ll find lots of helpful news there.


LEARN MORE ABOUT THE REMARKABLE WYLIE-KELLERMANN FAMILY. Get a copy of Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s memoir Dying Well: The Resurrected Life of Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann. Jeanie was an internationally known journalist, editor, filmmaker and peace activist—and was Lydia’s mother. If you are interested in learning more about faith-based ways of approaching family milestones, including the death of a loved one, then you will want a copy of this book, too.


GET KEN WHITT’s BOOK. Finally, Ken urges readers to consider his book and Lydia’s new book as companions in this important niche of inspirational challenges for multi-generational experiences of faith and justice. Ken’s book is God Is Just Love: Building Spiritual Resilience and Sustainable Communities for the Sake of Our Children and Creation.

In ‘Pillars,’ Rachel Pieh Jones inspires us with her story of ‘How Muslim Friends Led Me Closer to Jesus’

Clicking on this colorful banner will take you to Rachel Pieh Jones’ website, where you can learn about her many other resources, her newsletters—and you’ll find links to purchase the book as well.


Rachel Pieh Jones extends a ‘Holy Welcome’ to all of us

She offers a host of inspiring resources


Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

In four decades of covering religion in America, I cannot recall a book by a Christian author that so eloquently explains the Muslim faith’s close parallels to Christianity—until I discovered Rachel Pieh Jones’ new, Pillars: How Muslim Friends Led Me Closer to Jesus. 

Clicking on this cover will take you to the book’s Amazon page. The book also is available from Barnes & Noble and other online retailers.

Certainly there are many academic texts examining these connections by scholars such as Huston Smith, Hans Kung and Miroslav Volf. From the perspective of Muslim family life interacting with Christian families, there is Victor Begg’s Our Muslim Neighbors: Achieving the American Dream, An Immigrant’s Memoir. But there’s nothing else like this intimate memoir of daily life between Christian and Muslim neighbors—written by a Christian and, most importantly, by a Christian woman.

What’s even more startling about Pillars is that it’s a real “page turner,” based on Rachel’s adventures during two decades of living in the Horn of Africa with her husband Tom, an educator, and their three children. In these pages, you’ll find stories about schools, markets, foods, athletic challenges, women’s health, raising children, headline news and even terrorism.

“I knew as I began writing this new book that some American Christians may be uncomfortable with how much I have opened myself to the wisdom and experiences of my Muslim neighbors,” Rachel said this week as we Zoomed an interview from her home in Djibouti. “But I want to emphasize: This book is not about coercion or conversion from one faith to the other. I like to describe this book as an invitation to ‘holy welcomes,’ because that’s the kind of hospitality I’ve experienced among the Somalis with whom we’re living.” (Djibouti is a small country north of Somalia and Somali people live across the entire region. Currently, Tom and Rachel run the International School of Djibouti.)

“This book is my invitation to readers to experience my own sacred story—it’s my holy welcome,” Rachel said. “I want readers to honestly understand the kinds of experiences I have had over the years as I have lived with and learned from Muslims. I’m saying: Come into our sacred space and experience what these five pillars are like for Muslims and for Christians. You don’t have to pray like us, but I think we all can learn from each other.”

The Five Pillars of Islam

The Pillars of Islam form the five major sections of Rachel’s memoir, sub-titled this way in her book:

  1. Shahada—There is no god but God
  2. Salat—Prayer
  3. Zakat—Almsgiving
  4. Ramadan—Fasting
  5. Hajj—Pilgrimage

Readers who are Muslim, or who have been involved in interfaith connections for many years, will recognize right away that Rachel has not shied away from the difficulty of these pillars for Christians. Even newcomers to religious reflection understand that all world religions have some form of prayer and charitable giving. Those parallels are obvious. Lesser known perhaps is that all the great religious traditions include challenges to fast in various ways. And, of course, pilgrimage is one of the most common metaphors for religious experience.

But the Shahada, firmly declaring the specific Muslim approach to worshiping and serving God? That’s usually perceived as the main deal-breaker for Christians. Of course, it is indeed one of the core differences between the Abrahamic faiths. But please read the first major section of Rachel’s memoir, Shahada—There is no god but God, and you will think much differently about this pillar. Through Rachel’s 50 pages of personal experiences—including her family’s arrival in that region of Africa and the challenges of growing a garden there—you will discover that this first pillar is far more complex and spiritually nuanced than you may guess.

When I learn about your faith, I deepen my faith

Because I am making such a dramatic claim about the unique nature of Rachel’s book, I thought I would ask a long-time colleague to challenge my judgment. Bob Bruttell has been both a university-based scholar on religion as well as a nationally known teacher, workshop leader and organizer of interfaith efforts. In Michigan he is co-founder of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit.

I called Bob and discussed Rachel’s new book in some detail. He hadn’t read it yet, but agreed that he would—and likely would want to recommend it to others.

“I think you’re safe to say there isn’t another book like this—at least I can’t recall or point to another similar book as I think about it with you, David,” Bob said. “But, I do want to say that these ideas are  important to our interfaith work—and that I have been talking about these same ideas in many talks and presentations over the years. In my talks about this, I say: ‘When I have increased my understanding of Judaism and Islam, I have increased my own faith as a Christian.’ I’ve said this many times—and I’ve heard many others say this same thing in interfaith dialogues.”

Bob continued, “We say this because, quite simply, this is true: If you get involved in authentic interfaith work, and you’re someone who already has a faith basis in your own life, then the experience will deepen your own faith.”

I said to him, “I know you haven’t read Rachel’s book yet, Bob, and I don’t want to leave you with a mistaken impression of her book. In these 265 pages, she does address the very hard stuff we all face, including religious extremism and terrorism. She writes about Muslim extremism—and she writes about Christian extremism. She doesn’t shy aware from the life-and-death dangers in our world. And she isn’t trying to obscure the difficulty in forming these relationships. There will always be questions. There will always be points of disagreement.”

“Of course,” he said. “That’s the truth of this work, as well. Let me put it this way: Millions of Americans go to Sunday School. That’s believers’ school. You to go Sunday School to learn about your faith without question. Later, if you begin to question something about your faith, you may begin moving down a road where you become more self-reflective and this journey can deepen your faith. Then, if you come into a relationship with a person of another deeply held faith, through your conversations and experiences you can move even deeper in your own faith.

“One example I like to give,” he continued, “is that, as a Catholic, we have what I thought was a strong tradition of fasting—until I got to know Muslims and began to experience Ramadan with them. My first reaction was: ‘Oh my gosh! They do this for an entire month!’ I’ve said that to Muslim friends. I’m hardly able to do the little bit of fasting I’m asked to do as a Catholic during Lent. So, how are they able to do this? What happens when they do it for an entire month? What can I learn about my own tradition of fasting from my Muslim friends?”

And that is precisely what Rachel does in story after story throughout her book—focusing on one pillar after another.

The Jones family in Djibouti with The International School of Djibouti in the background.

Meet Rachel And Discover Her Multi-Faceted Work

Although Rachel lives on the other side of the world from the U.S., she is deeply engaged in American life through her journalism and magazine-style writing. She is widely known for her reporting on food, long-distance running and the ongoing challenges of the nations within the the Horn of Africa.

She also is willing to consider requests for appearances with groups where people are interested in discussing her new book. She asks that contacts be sent to rachelpiehjones(at)gmail(dot)com

But wait! Before you email her, get to know her and her work. Order her new book from Amazon, Pillars: How Muslim Friends Led Me Closer to Jesusand while you’re at Amazon, follow her via her Amazon Author’s Page. Authors always are more eager to engage if you are contacting them after having read their work, so that your inquiry reflects serious interest. Perhaps you may want to organize a discussion of her book in your community or congregation, and then you may want to invite her to appear with your group via Zoom.

In fact, Rachel told me in our interview that one reason she devoted so much time to writing this book is: “I couldn’t find any books like this out there, so I wrote one—so I would be able to give this book both to Christian and to Muslim friends and say: ‘Hey, let’s talk about this.’ ”

And—there’s even more! Because Rachel has been so engaged as a writer over so many years, there are many other ways to experience her delightful storytelling and her wisdom about so many subjects.

RIGHT NOW, you can read one of Rachel’s columns related to caregiving. Among her many global interests are coping with cancer. As of summer 2021, her doctors tell her she seems to be free of cancer after treatment for thyroid cancer. She has given us permission to repost one of her caregiving-related columns, headlined: Gifts for those with cancer—and their caregivers.

SHE ALSO gave us permission to republish her earlier column in which she shares with other writers about tried-and-true tips for generating story ideas. That column appears in our Front Edge Publishing blog, headlined:10 Ways to Generate Story Ideas.

YOU CAN ENJOY SO MUCH MORE—Rachel has a lot of information on her personal website, In fact, here’s a column she wrote specifically related to the launch of Pillars, an essay titled Are You Afraid of Muslims?

Spend some time looking around her website, which includes lists of recommended stories on several topics close to her heart. Here’s a list of recommended readings on the Horn of Africa, for example, and lists on Running. and Food. She also maintains an archive of some of her best columns over the past decade.

Where should you focus, if you’re first meeting Rachel and her wealth of writing? She tells us that her two current passions in writing are focused, at least in 2021, on Do Good Better and Stories from the Horn. Gateways to these online resources appear on the homepage of her website. Both of them  are hosted on Substack, a flexible service that has become very popular with experienced columnists in recent years. If you choose to sign up for these services via Substack, you will find that there are options to pay a fee for deeper access to Rachel’s offerings—and also a free option. If you choose the free option, you will receive occasional columns via email that Rachel sends out to the general public.

Does Rachel’s body of work seem amazing to you? It should. This is a remarkable outpouring of journalism and personal reflection. Why does Rachel work so hard on all these multi-faced media projects?

“Because we need to encourage wider community conversations that cross our cultural and racial and religious boundaries,” she said. “That’s why I hope many Christians will read this new book. I am hoping that they will come away from reading my story much less scared of the Muslims around them. I hope that, after reading my book, more people will engage each other—even if that just starts with saying hello in a welcoming way. That would be amazing. We need to start more conversations that eventually can lead us into sharing about our spiritual lives.”



Care to Read More?

Our own publishing house offers many popular volumes about interfaith relationships.

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

OUR MUSLIM NEIGHBORS in the memoir of Victor Begg and his family. He came to the U.S. as a young Muslim immigrant from India who dreamed of starting a business, working so hard toward his personal goals that he even pumped gas and sold vacuum cleaners door to door. Victor successfully built a thriving, regional chain of furniture stores. Along the way, he discovered that America’s greatest promise lies in building healthy communities with our neighbors. Available from Amazon.

REUNITING THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM starts where Victor’s and Rachel’s memoirs end. This book collects many helpful resources used by interfaith peacemaker Brenda Rosenberg, whose work over many years has focused especially on teens and young adults. This is an inspiring, nuts-and-bolts resource book ideal for starting your own interfaith group of friends. Available from Amazon.

FRIENDSHIP AND FAITH should be considered a close cousin to Rachel’s new book. Rather than an entire memoir about a single woman’s journey through interfaith relationships—Friendship & Faith contains dozens of real-life stories by dozens of women from eight different faith traditions. Each story tells how a woman dared to cross a boundary in her community—and how she discovered friendship on the other side. Available from Amazon.



I updated the page and this link should work now for the essay about being afraid of Muslims:


Larry Buxton: Remembering the sacrifices of Peacemakers as well on Memorial Day

HONORING PEACEMAKERS AND WARRIORS IN A SINGLE IMAGE: U.S. Army photographer Rachel Larue took this photo at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day a few years ago. It shows Audrey Hsieh laying flowers at the gravesite of U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Donald C. May Jr. who was killed in Iraq when his tank plunged off a cliff into the Euphrates River. After his death, May’s wife connected with TAPS, a nationwide nonprofit that aides families grieving the death of a loved one in the military. Hsieh volunteered to serve as the TAPS mentor to May’s young sons. In addition to helping the boys, Hsieh visits May’s Arlington grave on Memorial Day.


Contributing Columnist

What are the iconic images of Memorial Day? A man, a woman or a child pausing in prayerful reflection in a cemetery, near the grave of a loved one who served in the military.

Such powerful images of war and peace! They bring tears to our eyes, because this is the eternal spiritual struggle that explodes into headlines in every season—especially this spring. It’s a spiritual tension in all of the world’s great faith traditions.

I was reminded of the universality of this struggle when my Muslim friend Ibrahim Anli and my editor-and-publisher David Crumm spent time with me recently on Zoom discussing the role King David plays in Islam. David Crumm then wrote about his impressions from that conversation. And I followed up with my own video meditation on these timeless questions.

In a real sense, this is an ongoing conversation in which we all share, isn’t it? That’s especially true as we reach Memorial Day.

In our initial talk, Ibrahim offered a provocative insight that I wrestled with powerfully over the past week. In Islam, he told us, King David—also known as Dawud—is honored for living “a balanced life.” It was balanced because “David was a warrior by day and a priest by night,” Ibrahim said. That is, his daytime work involved planning, leading and strategizing, focusing on military power to protect his people. David’s nighttime work involved praying, meditating and interceding, focusing on divine power to protect his people. The balance came because David equally valued both. He was a man of war and a man of prayer, and the two were of equal importance.

I nodded. As a Christian and a pastor, I liked the sound of that—at first.

Except, that “balance” bothered me all week. With apologies to my friend Ibrahim, I think his use of the word “balanced” is confusing here. “Balanced” sounds like an equilibrium, like something that is settled, at rest, peaceful, content.

Like the iconic photographs we see in newspapers, magazines and TV reports each Memorial Day, I don’t think that those people visiting the memorials in our graveyards would describe their experience as “balanced.”

Our Challenging Choices

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Like most Americans, throughout my lifetime I have had a love-hate relationship with the military, both the U.S. military and other armed forces all around the world.

As a pastor for many years, I experienced families with ties to the military as strong supporters of congregational life, as generous givers and often engaged in volunteer community service.

But, like many Americans of my generation, I came of age during the Vietnam War. In fact, I came of age at a time when a lot of reflection and prayer went into my decision to file as a Conscientious Objector. This is one reason I’m pleased to see my publishing house releasing the new book, What Belongs to God: Reflections on Peacemaking by a Conscientious Objector, by the late Disciples of Christ pastor, teacher and singer-songwriter David Livingston Edwards.

David Edwards rejects the whole idea that faithful Christians can lead a life balanced between war and prayerful peace. In my case, my own choice to file as a CO became moot when it was clear that I would not be called in the draft. In David Edwards’ life, he did formally become a CO and performed alternative service at a children’s hospital. In his new book, David argues that all of us who consider ourselves people of faith must consider the call to “Choose Peace.”

This begins to sound much more like a struggle than a balance.

One thing my friend Ibrahim emphasized in his description of David’s prayer life was its overwhelming intensity. Ibrahim describes it as if David needed to pour an equal amount of physical, emotional and spiritual energy into his prayerful connection with God—because of the challenges of his life as a military ruler.

What’s the character of my peacemaking?

This raises questions we all ask need to ourselves, don’t we? What’s the character of my prayer life? And what’s the character of my peacemaking?

These questions haunt me especially as I stand before the rows of military graves in nearby Arlington Cemetery at yet another Memorial Day. I know those graves hold men and women of courage. And they also hold reluctant soldiers, frightened warriors, men and women who prayed not to be where they were.

And other graves around the world hold civilians who showed sacrificial courage in more peaceable ways. They prayed about military service, or they stood ready but were not called, or they took the risk and the consequences of saying: No.

Some of our world’s graves hold those who devoted their whole selves—sometimes gave up their lives—in peaceful action.

Just this week, I was heartbroken to read The New York Times story about Ko Chan Thar Swe, who left his role as a Buddhist monk because he felt a calling to write poetry that would peacefully but forcefully confront the military dictators now running Myanmar. For his eloquent witness, he was arrested, tortured and shot in the head. Thanks to the Times’ Hannah Beech, millions now are mourning his death as he pursued the forceful service of peace.

Honoring Sacrificial Peacemakers, too

In his new book, David Edwards raises this very question from his many years serving congregations as a pastor where the community knew that he was also a CO and pacifist. He writes, “My overall experience of serving churches as a minister who was a conscientious objector, and who felt it important to speak about Jesus’ life and teachings regarding violence, was that the church simply did not talk about it. The church in our society was so thoroughly acculturated that the default position was always in favor of nationalism and militarism. There was a consistent concern for those ‘who served’ be honored and recognized, yet no interest in the same for those who had chosen, out of their commitment as followers of Jesus and his teachings, to serve the country and world in ways other than military.”

That’s quite an indictment, isn’t it? Are our communities really balanced? Do we make time to prayerfully remember and lift up the peacemakers among us as regularly as we honor the warriors?

King David’s “balanced life” is impossible for me and for most of us, if only because thankfully most of us will never face the daily challenges David confronted in his time and place.

But what we can’t do individually—we can do communally. As a nation, we can find balance this Memorial Day by honoring both the warrior—and the pray-ers, the peacemakers.

We can rebalance ourselves as a country by honoring the sacrifice of those who fought and the conscience of those who would not. Christian faith teaches us that in being a part of the Body of Christ, we have more wholeness as a community than any one has individually.

Can we find that wholeness as a nation?

Every war has more casualties than just those who wear a uniform. When we honor that truth on Memorial Day, we the people just might stand straighter than ever before.


NOTE TO READERS: As our conversation continues, David Crumm also contributed to this column.


Care to Read More?

You’ve already seen a link to David Edwards’ new book, above. If this column is intriguing to you, then please order a copy of Larry Buxton’s book about King. David, as well.

Because of the 10-week focus on David in thousands of Catholic and Protestant congregations, this summer, Larry also is freely sharing 10 videos that match those “lectionary” readings in churches. Visit to find all of the videos.

Please help with this peacemaking effort. Share that link with friends. Encourage your pastor, lector, small group leader or Sunday School teacher to check out these videos. They’re easy to share—and easy to show to friends as a brief “video clip” to spark discussion in your congregation or small group.

And, YES, for those of you who pay careful attention to intellectual property: You do have our permission to stream these clips in your community.

AN EASY REMINDER: If you want to make the videos’ location even easier to remember, just go to and you’ll find a link to the Preaching David video series right there on the opening page.

Interested in placing a group order of books for your class or circle of friends? Amazon ordering is quick and easy for most of us. If you are interested in 10 or more copies, email us at [email protected] 

In ‘What Belongs to God,’ David Livingston Edwards prophetically urges us to: ‘Choose peace!’

Clicking on this image will take you to the book’s Amazon page.


Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

What Belongs to God is a book on a mission.

David Livingston Edwards. (Clicking on this image also will take you to the book’s Amazon page.)

It contains the multi-media prophetic message of the late David Livingston Edwards, who died of cancer in 2019.

Why do we use that powerful word “prophetic”? Because David was a prophet. He lived his life urging everyone he met, he taught, he pastored, he serenaded with his songs that we are called to always—as the Study Guide at the conclusion of his book is titled—to be “Choosing Peace.”

This book is launching on May 25, 2021, with a publicly streamed hour-long presentation about the book’s message from David’s family, friends and his publisher.

A summary of David’s life that captures the warm, heart-felt storytelling you will find in the pages of this book comes from his obituary:

A kinder, more peace-loving man would be hard to find. He adored his family. He loved fishing and singing especially with children, hiking the trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains, taking walks in the woods and swimming in the ocean. He cherished quiet time alone, reading and studying scripture, exploring the sacred writings of other religions, writing and composing music and sitting to reflect and think. Because of his deep commitment to the teaching of Jesus, he became a pacifist and a conscientious objector to all violence and war. During the time of the Vietnam War he did two years of required alternative service to the draft by working as an orderly on the cardiac/surgical unit of Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Though David contributed in many ways to what is good in this world, he considered his work as a conscientious objector to be the most important contribution of his life. 

That 150-word portrait of David’s life and prophetic mission captures the spiritual adventure that unfolds in the pages of this new book. This is why this singer-songwriter-pastor-teacher appears on the front cover of this book with his banjo, sitting along the banks of a stream in the Blue Ridge Mountains. That’s why a photograph of him singing songs with children appears on the back cover.

That’s why the covers of this book contain a multi-media array of resources you can use to talk about peacemaking with family, friends and anyone in your community who might be inspired by this story, these songs and this wise overview of the role the Bible calls Christians to play in this world.

In the midst of a global community that is shattered along dozens of racial, ethnic, religious and nationalist lines today—David Livingston Edwards is calling all of us, especially Christians, back to our roots as the people who welcome and love our neighbors.

This Truly Is a Multi-Media Treasure Trove

When this book manuscript first came to the Front Edge Publishing team more than a year ago, our initial response was: “The world needs this book right now.”

Our second response was: “How can we publish a book about David without hearing his music spring from these pages?”

David’s wife Kaye Edwards, shown here, along with their family and friends worked for more than a year to help develop this new book as well as the related website. Clicking on this image will take you to that website.

So, we are pleased that David’s family and friends assembled this website:—and our team of editors added convenient links within the pages of this book to key songs within that website. As you read your way through these pages, you can use the codes provided to hear David sing to you.

As you get ready to visit that website, now, we want to point out a few of the gems you’ll want to explore:

“THE BOOK” section takes visitors to either a summary of the book—or to text from the Discussion and Action Guide that also appears in the final 17 pages of every copy of the book, whether that’s Paperback, Hardcover or eBook. Showcasing the Discussion and Action Guide on the website ensures that you can look over the many suggestions for individual and group reflection, even before you buy a copy of the book. (Interested in a group order to plan a discussion or retreat? There’s a convenient link on the website to contact the Edwards team—or email us at [email protected])

“THE MUSIC” section may overwhelm first-time visitors, because it contains so many choices from David’s many years as a singer-songwriter. That section of the website summarizes what you’ll find:

This music was created and performed by the Rev. David L. Edwards. He wrote music for worship, music for children, and music for the enjoyment of all. David recorded seven CDs, and created music used in the Chalice Hymnal of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. His music remains as an expression of his life, and of life itself. Kaye Edwards wants to share the music her husband created to add meaning to all our lives. On this website, you can hear and download MP3 files of his songs. You can download PDFs of his music sheets. You can download more than 40 responsive psalms to use in services of worship. Please use these resources freely, using the copyright notice shown at the top of each resource page. 

PLEASE NOTE: Any church leaders—including teachers, preachers and worship planners—will immediately understand that this is a remarkable gift to the world. The Edwards team already has prepared an easy way for you to use these resources, including how to freely share this material in a responsible way.

If you’re involved in the life of your congregation, please send a link to this story to worship leaders who you think may want to use some of these resources. They likely will thank you for passing along the news.

Ready to Invite Friends to Discuss this Book with You?

We can help with a full-color, printable handbill you can tack up on a bulletin board—or share in a newsletter—or post to your own website. This handbill includes a blank space at the bottom for you to write in details about where your own class or other local program will be held.

Simply right click on this image and save it to your own computer.

Simply right click on this image and save it to your own computer.