UnRival is our name because we understand rivalry to be the primary dynamic that holds us back from a world free of oppression and violence. Unrelenting rivalry breeds animosity and shame. It restricts belonging and results in fearful communities prone to cycles of violence and systemic oppression.
But there is hope. When we unrival our hearts and create shared, nonrivalrous spaces, we draw people into ever-expanding circles of belonging—including those who were once our enemies. When new, nonviolent patterns gradually supplant the old ones, Peace with Justice is possible.
Suzanne has launched programs and taught in Montessori classrooms, Sunday schools, and in corporate settings. As a member of the Colloquium on Violence & Religion, she has attended and presented at the annual conferences and has served on its Board of Directors. Suzanne is the author of The Wicked Truth: When Good People Do Bad Things, and her articles have appeared in the scholarly journal Contagion and online at Sojourners and Patheos. She has led post-show discussions at Chicago theaters and is currently writing a play based on the life of Maria Montessori called The Miracle of San Lorenzo. She also co-founded the Raven Foundation, an online community for those seeking to connect to nonviolent Christian theology.
Lyle brings his love of learning, research, and storytelling to the unRival team, where he interviews artisans of peace and studies the patterns across their experiences. Taking seriously that knowledge is friendship, he loves collaborating with other academics and practitioners to discover new insights into peace and justice. Since earning his PhD in English from Loyola University Chicago in 2019, he continues to publish widely on religion, ethics, literature, and popular culture, winning several awards for his scholarship and fiction. He lives in Northeast Ohio with his wife, son, and daughter.
Jason brings academic preparation in history and education into dialogue with organizational development, cross-cultural communication, and leadership studies. Jason previously served as a Program Director at Cornerstone Trust (2011-2020), a private family foundation. He oversaw granting in leadership development around the globe, with a special focus in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. Jason holds a master’s in history and a Ph.D. in education, although his greatest formation has come in the school of life, particularly travel in 130+ countries. He is the father of four teenage daughters and lives in Grand Rapids.
Joe has over a decade of experience in the marketing space, with a portfolio that includes fashion, live events, e-commerce, and wellness. At the core of his work is a love of storytelling and a desire to foster meaningful connection. Prior to joining the unRival team, he worked with Suzanne Ross at the Raven Foundation, an online community for those seeking to connect to nonviolent theology.
Joe lives in West Hollywood, California, with his husband, Jeff. When he’s not being a marketing professional, he enjoys pursuing writing and making music.
Billy tells stories through motion pictures and digital media. He is an award-winning writer-director-producer, actor, cancer survivor, and father of two. William has collaborated professionally with Grammy-winning bands, non-profits, startups, healthcare companies, and aid and justice organizations. His personal work reflects a darkly tinged spirituality that aches for transcendence and embraces the brutal tension between beauty and suffering; this spirit informs his efforts as a screenwriter, director, actor, and creative director—forming pieces that often orbit around questions of identity, relationship, terror, and hope for mercy.
We embrace our interdependence, celebrate each other’s successes, and grieve each other’s setbacks.
To be instruments of peace, we must sometimes admit when we have been obstacles to peace.
We offer each other the attention and life-giving listening that can transform rivalry into friendship.
No one is expendable. Every story deserves to be told and generously heard.
Each of us imagines a more just and peaceful future. Each of us contributes something unique to that coming reality.
We raise issues, address conflicts, take risks, and approach the future with open hands that don’t create victims.
A nonviolent way of life pursues economic, political, and social justice, practicing equity and restoring relationships.
unRival began in 2021 with a year dedicated to speaking directly with and listening to peacebuilders around the globe—as well as deep reading and research on the great work already happening to bring about justice and peace for all people. Our path forward has been profoundly directed by the thoughts of figures such as John Paul Lederach, Libby Hoffman, Willie James Jennings, Thich Nhat Hahn, Lynne Twist, Julia Robinson-Moore, Gena St. David, Duncan Morrow, and others. Most centrally, since our formation, we have been guided by René Girard’s Mimetic Theory.
Mimetic Theory has developed over forty years of interdisciplinary research in theology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, economics, literature, myth, and ritual. These are the key insights that have emerged which guide us:
1. We are less individual than interdividual. Healthy identity, self-worth, and desire are received and sustained in communities of belonging.
2. Conflict escalates when we experience unchecked rivalry and cling to insecure and fearful identities.
3. When rivalry escalates among those with power, the suffering of the marginalized is deepened, discounted, and even ignored by the rivals.
4. When we’re motivated by rivalry, we often find relief by fixing blame on a scapegoat.
5. Scapegoating is dangerously effective but short-lived. It allows us to deflect our own responsibility. The path to true peace with justice requires each of us to look inward for the causes of conflict and open ourselves to change.
6. Violence is contagious and cyclical—especially when driven by rivalry. Rivalry leads to intractable conflicts and repetitive scapegoating. However, justpeace is contagious as well.
7. Peace is not passive. It is a generative, creative act that finds surprising paths through conflict and expands circles of belonging for all people.
The unRival Network draws together activists, nonprofit leaders, researchers, donors, and artists committed to nonviolence and justpeace. Our diverse connections form a deep well of learning and potential for change.