(Author) Divine Rebels: The Radical Religious Left

chicago2Deena Guzder,  DIVINE REBELS: The Radical Religious Left

Literary Nonfiction; Chicago Review Press (US & Canada); Tentative Publication Date: May 2011

(NOTE: The publishing house agreed to print the book on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper with soy-based ink and chlorine-free processing. A percentage of  royalties will go to the Fellowship of Reconciliation). See: IPG Spring 2011 Catalog (p. 33) or scroll to bottom for PDF.


In January 1917, Alice Stokes Paul led mass demonstrations outside of the White House demanding women’s suffrage—she was imprisoned thrice in the U.S. and thrice in England, to which she responded by waging hunger strikes that were severe enough to require hospitalization. On May 4, 1961, James Zwerg participated in Freedom Rides to the segregated South and was greeted with chants of “Kill the nigger-loving son of a bitch!” as a mob of 3,000 used bats and pipes to beat the young white man nearly to death. On January 21, 1998, Roy Bourgeois was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $3,000 for illegally entering, disrupting and trying to close down the Fort Benning U.S. Army base that trained Latin American dictators such as Bolivia’s Hugo Banzer and Panama’s Manuel Noriega.

The common thread connecting Paul, Zwerg, and Bourgeois is not leftist politics or anarchist leanings, but religious convictions. Paul, a Quaker, believed that all people are created with an indistinguishable “Inner Light” regardless of their gender.  Zwerg, a minister in the United Church of Christ, regards his contribution to the civil rights movement as “an incredible religious experience” because he believed he was doing “God’s work” when protesting segregation. Bourgeois, an ordained Catholic Priest, denounced America’s support for dictatorships in Latin America and founded School of the Americas Watch, which seeks to shut down Fort Benning, in an effort to “live according to the justice and charity of Christ.”

Divine Rebels chronicles the extraordinary efforts of our nation’s radical souls, renegade angels, and divine rebels who agitate for a world free of racism, patriarchy, bigotry, retribution, ecocide, torture, poverty, and militarism.  These social justice activists view their faith as a personal commitment with public implications; they straddle the seemingly insurmountable divide between religious zealots striving for a Christian state and secular humanists prematurely bidding good riddance to God.  Their “third-way” is a religiously pluralistic modern world in which people of faith play a unique role in protecting the weak and safeguarding the sacred.  While pundits speak of the “Religious Right,” this is the underreported story of American Christians who are progressive because they are religious.  They don’t see themselves simply performing good work, but Godly work. These rabble-rousers are small in number and their efficacy is best measured on the margins, but they are part and parcel of an underreported American tradition that began with the nation’s earliest Quaker abolitionists. The activists profiled in this book believe in a community based on ethics, a world with infinite potential for improvement, and an inclusive God of love. They do not pursue political power or public approval, but the integrity of their own souls.  Fearing moral suicide over physical death, these activists regard moral autonomy as more liberating than physical freedom.  They sacrifice not only their own safety, but also their religious organizations’ approval.  By profiling social justice activists on the frontlines of the “Christian Left” since the 1950s, Divine Rebels articulates a forward-thinking alternative to both the Tea Party drone warping Christianity as well as the political left’s alienating cynicism towards all religion.


View a PDF of the book preview in the IPG Spring 2011 Catalog (p. 33)

Copyright © 2009 Journalist Deena Guzder