Faith

Former White Supremacist Sheds Hate, Embraces Christianity

RNS photo by Sean Proctor | MLive.com

Chris Simpson after being baptized. RNS photo by Sean Proctor | MLive.com

Two years ago, Chris Simpson led a white pride march.

Six months ago, he abandoned the white supremacy movement.

On April 15, he was baptized.

Five days later, Simpson sat in the waiting room of a skin and vein clinic, waiting to start the long and painful process of having his tattoos, most replete with Nazi or white pride iconography, removed.

"Hate will blind you to so many things. It will stop you from having so many things," Simpson said. "It consumes you."

Church No More: Part 2 — Church That Doesn't Steal Your Joy

The Collection. Via the band's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/davidwimbishandth

The Collection. Via the band's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/davidwimbishandthecollection

I lost my joy. I suspect there are a few of you who feel the same way. Not that you aren't happy, but there is this deep place of celebratory joy which you once knew that really doesn't come around much anymore.

There was a time when I was a pretty joyful guy. Not “blind to the world's problems” kind of joyful, just “blessed to be blessed in the midst of this mess” kind of joyful. Lately though, I've found joy to be an increasingly difficult thing to come by.

The thing is, I have every reason to be joyful. I'm lucky enough to be married to an amazing woman – truly amazing. I couldn't be prouder of my kids who, in an age of “be different just like us” are very much their own kind of different simply because they aren't afraid of being themselves. My personal interests, like my blog, just keep getting better. I have some of the best friends in the world. Yet, I'm not the generally joyful person I once was.

It's a dull malaise that I just can't quite shake. I don't like it. Not one bit.

Recently though, I've been catching little glimpses of my joy making cameo appearances in the storyline of my life. I like it. A lot. 

The question is, why now? Why not back then?

From the Mountaintop: A Closing Liturgy from the Wild Goose Festival

Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.

Lisa Sharon Harper leads the closing liturgy at the Wild Goose Festival. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.

We have listened to many of the modern-day prophets of our times. They have pointed the way toward justice and restoration. We have prayed together and moved our bodies together and exercised the discipline of silence together in order to get a glimpse at God’s kind of justice. In more ways than one, we have had a mountaintop experience, but most of us don’t live on mountaintops. We live back down in the valleys, in cities and town, in the commotion of life and work and love.

And so, it is necessary that we take time while on the mountaintop to reflect on all that God has given us in this special place. To imagine the implications of these truths, these questions, these stories on how we will live our lives.

Colorado Springs and the Wrath of an Angry God

Colorado Springs really must have angered God.

I’m not sure what the city's residents have done, but He has to have a reason for burning up homes and possessions. One thing we know: God sends messages through natural disasters to certain groups who defy him and peddle evil. How else could we explain what’s happening?

Mark 4 tells us that Jesus controls the wind. And it is the wind, in large part, that has caused the fire to spread. Perhaps we should heed the warning of Jesus in Luke 13 and repent or else face the reality of perishing like them.

Is it possible that groups such as Compassion International and Bibles for the World have secretly condoned certain sins that will, in the end, keep people out of the kingdom of God? What message is God sending to groups like HCJB Global and Biblica?

This fire seems to be warning to them, and everyone to repent. They need to step up and reaffirm the Evangelical tradition. They must turn back from distorting whatever it is they have distorted about God’s character.

Does this sound ridiculous?

Health Care and Judgment Day (Part 2)

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government does hold the constitutional power to mandate that most American's purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. This power is maintained in Congress’s ability to levy taxes.

The justices also ruled that the federal government does hold the constitutional power to expand Medicaid, making more people eligible to receive the benefit, but, like the original Medicaid law of 1965, states can opt out of the expansion if they so choose.

What does this mean? And what does this mean for Jesus followers?

The Affordable Care Act: Without a Vision, the People Perish

Image by Konstantin Sutyagin / shutterstock.

Image by Konstantin Sutyagin / shutterstock.

Where there is no vision, the people perish. ~ Proverbs 29:18

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act was remarkable in a number of ways. The vast majority of articles, blogs, and analyses focus on the political ramifications of the decision.

Is this a win for the Obama administration or fuel for the Romney campaign? Pundits have looked at nearly every political angle, from the upcoming presidential election to its effects on local politics.

While I appreciate the political analysis and the importance of political processes to the wellbeing of the United States, I believe that a majority of coverage has missed one of the most remarkable points of the ACA: It changes the vision of our national community.

Life in Translation

The author (center middle sans corduroy Sunday suit) circa 1980. Photo courtesy

The author (center front, sans corduroy Sunday suit) with Hudgins family members circa 1976. Photo courtesy of Tripp Hudgins.

I have been thinking about the church of my youth. I have been remembering, if you will, as a guy who has read too much Updike (I'll never forgive him for the Rabbit books) might remember his youth.

There is a melding of nostalgia for what was as well as what might have been. It's a mess, to be honest, a kind of lie that draws me in no matter how often I tell myself it is a lie. Sometimes these lies of memory are the heart's truth.
 

Michelle Obama Addresses Leaders at the African Methodist Episcopal Church Conference

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Michelle Obama, Win McNamee/Getty Images

Today, as President Obama followed the monumental decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act, his wife, Michelle Obama addresses an assembly of 30,000 leaders and laity at the African Methodist Episcopal Church Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. We're still waiting for the video to come, but meanwhile, browse through the transcript of her speech on faith, families, and what's next.

How the Wild Goose Cured My Heebie-Jeebies

A few weeks ago I (an ordained minster who has gone to church my whole life) walked away from church — for three months. It is what I've decided to do with my sabbatical. You can read about my initial thoughts on my blog or on The Huffington Post. As the journey unfolds, I will be blogging about it in this series entitled, “Church No More.” I hope you will not only follow along, but add your voice to the reflection by commenting or joining the discussion on my FB page.

It might be that the thing which concerned me the most about leaving the church was losing my spiritual community. It's not that I thought the spiritual-but-not-religious folk were helplessly lonely people wandering around seeking a spiritual community. Not at all. I  just assumed that it might be immensely difficult to find and plug into a community like that in the course of three months. I also couldn't help but think it would be just a bit — well, fake to seek out a community for the sake of observing them and then leaving a few months latter.  Not just fake but somewhat mean spirited and completely missing the point of community.

Here's the thing, I am a minister. I understand myself to be a person who ministers by following the lead and teachings of Jesus. (I also happen to follow the teachings of many other spiritual and/or thought leaders from Buddha to Neil deGrasse Tyson, but that's for another post some other time). Because of that, the idea of life without a spiritual community gives me the heebie-jeebies. (I apologize for using such a technical term, but a duck is a duck is a duck).

With God Some Things Never Change

The Rev. Dr. William Barber II. Photo via the author's website.

The Rev. Dr. William Barber II. Photo via the author's website.

The better way says, if we follow God’s religious values we can use global technology, green economy, and targeted economic and infrastructure investment, total access to education, and creative job creation strategies to address the ugly realities of poverty. If we follow the enduring ethic of love we can beat our swords of racism into the plows that will till the new soil of brotherhood and sisterhood

If we see the poor as our neighbors, if we remember we are our brother’s keeper, then we shall put the poor, rather than the wealthy, at the center of our agenda.

If we hold on to God’s values, the sick shall have good health care. The environment shall be protected. The injustices of our judicial systems shall be made just. We shall respect the dignity of all people. We can love all people. We can see all people as God’s creations.

We can use our resources to develop our minds and economy, rather than build bombs, missiles, and weapons of human destruction.

Do we want to keep pressing toward God’s vision?  Values are once again the question of our times.

Do we want a just, wholesome society, or do we want to go backwards? This is the question before us. And I believe that at this festival there is still somebody who wants what God wants. Somebody who understands there are some things with God that never change

There are still some prophetic people that have not bowed, who as a matter of faith know that Love is better than hate. Hope is better than despair. Community is better than division.

Peace is better than war. Good of the whole is better than whims of a few. God wants everybody — red, yellow, black, brown and white taken care of. God wants true community, more togetherness … not more separateness. God wants justice, always has, always will.

Because with God some things never change.

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