Tag Archives: This I Believe

A Personal Prayer of Repentance

Class with Dr. James Cone today awakened something in me that had been dormant for a couple years now.

This is my confession, that in my righteous desire to reject the anti-Christianity of conservative white evangelicalism (and even some “liberalism” that has no sense of urgency for the liberation of Oppressed Peoples), I became arrogant and self-righteous in my demeanor towards my God who instilled in me the only faith that could rescue me from the horrors of heroin and crack addiction.

This faith was the very simple faith that a lowly Nazarene named Jesus loved me enough, and deemed me worthy enough, to sacrifice his life so that I may have life to the full.

Yes, in my justified effort to rid myself of a dead religious tradition, I turned my back on the One who saved me quite literally from spiritual, emotional, psychological, and even physical hell on earth.

It was a deep abiding faith in the power of Jesus’ sacrifice for me, which is rooted in divine love for me, that empowered me to love myself enough to believe in myself enough to surrender my understanding and my will to my God who was the only One who could get me through hell 100x’s stronger than I was before.

It was faith in Jesus’ love for me that kept me from giving up on life as I sat in a sunless jail cell for 18-hours a day during the first three weeks of my five-month stay at the Cook County Jail.

CCDOC ID - Redacted CopyIt was a faith that was given to me, not by any merit of my own, that emboldened me to hope for a better future for myself and for the people I encountered.

It was faith in the cross and the Resurrection of Jesus that gave me a peace that surpasses all understanding, because it made no rational sense for me to have been given the hope that despite being a three-time convicted felon, despite burning every bridge with everyone who had loved me—somehow—my God would make a way out of no way—and somehow—not only would I survive but I would thrive beyond anything I could ever ask or imagine.

I’m here to testify that, even though I can’t explain theologically or rationally how it happened, my God delivered me from hell.

Somewhere down the road, I became unfaithful.

As I achieved many of my dreams such as earning a bachelor’s degree and going to graduate school, I became ensnared and enamored by some of the glitter of a privileged rejection of faith.

Well, it caught up to me, and the conviction hit me hard today that I mustn’t turn my back on the One who’s never let me down.

I think it’s a combination of a few months of really intense activism (to say the least) and a couple of years of wrestling with questions about God, along with the simple truth (which James Cone spoke in class) about a simple faith in the Jesus who identifies with the oppressed, which have brought me to this prayer of repentance.

To be clear, I STILL reject the white Jesus of white western Christianity;

I still have no desire to fully embrace as “Truth,” the Christian creeds which were created by flawed human beings who were influenced by the Roman Emperor Constantine;

I still believe that no one religion is the “chosen” religion of God;

I still believe that divinity is manifested in myriad ways to different people, including through non-theistic, non-“religious” experiences;

I still believe that diversity of religions is actually part of a divine order.

However, as for my personal experience, all I know now is that I need Jesus.

Thanks be to God that divine love, forgiveness, and grace are everlasting.

Amen.

http://www.facebook.com/HolyWeekOfResistance

Related Links:

The Evangelical Ethic and The Spirit of Colorblind Racism

Addicts Need Treatment Not Jail

Towards a Black-Womanist Theology of Mass Incarceration

#FergusonOctober: a glimpse of a movement for real justice

This I believe

As a kid, I remember my mother waking up early every morning, and in twenty below zero Chicago weather, heading out to board the CTA bus for work. This strong woman had been through more than I could ever imagine.

I watched her leave my father because he was involved in drug trafficking. After some time she started dating and her boyfriend moved into our apartment. Jose expressed his affection for my mother by slapping and punching her. One day I jumped between his swinging fists. I begged him to stop…but I was too small to make a difference. Punched to the ground, all I could do was weep beside my mother. Our neighbors never responded to the sound of our cries.

Things are better now and my mom is no longer with Jose. Regrettably, I chose a path of drug addiction and crime. I lived and begged on the street, robbed people at knifepoint, and even stole from the purse of the woman I once tried to protect as a little boy. Eventually, the Cook County Department of Corrections taught me that the fast lane does not run forever.

I was given more than a second chance at life during my six-month incarceration in the Cook County jail. I received the gifts of grace, love, and forgiveness. As I worked through my recovery behind bars, I was humbled by the people who responded to the burdens of their drug-addicted neighbor. However, when a prisoner is released from jail, they are likely to return to a community that is not conducive to rehabilitation. According to the Department of Justice, seven out of ten released prisoners are rearrested within three years.

But by the grace of God, I was literally met at the prison gate by fellow Christians who welcomed me into the church. Life Church in Wheaton, IL chose to do the risky thing and let a convicted criminal into their congregation, into their Bible studies, and even into their homes for dinner and fellowship. They did not judge me, nor did they allow me to be lost in the vicious cycle of arrest and re-arrest that is often the American criminal justice system. These particular Christians knew they did absolutely nothing to earn God’s love, yet he loved them anyway. They knew that sharing God’s love was the true and right response to receiving what had been freely given to them.

As graduation approaches, I am truly overwhelmed by the love that radically changed my life. Because of the love I have received, I have been able to forgive the neighbors who ignored my mother’s cries. Because of the love I received, I am compelled to share that love with others. I have learned that humans are dualistically capable of committing great acts of evil and great acts of love, for I am one of them.

It is no doubt that my experiences as a victim of domestic violence and as a recipient of undeserved forgiveness and love have influenced my passion for social justice. Today, I urge everyone who has received God’s forgiveness and love to realize that they too have done nothing to earn it. Because of this, I believe it is not an option or special calling to share God’s liberating love with others. However, sharing the Gospel is more than just sharing words; it is sharing works as well. The story of the Gospel is one in which God chose to leave the good place of heaven and identify with all of oppressed humanity, by taking on their burdens and liberating them from the bondage and consequences of sin. It is this act that compels me to identify with the struggles of those who are oppressed by unjust systems in the world.

We live in a world with crying neighbors everywhere; where some cries are never heard because injustice is deeply embedded into our nature as fallen human beings from our largest to our smallest institutions. Injustice in the world puts people in bondage, but God desires his people to be free, that they may worship her.

Therefore, I choose not to ignore the muffled cries of the oppressed.  I choose to resist building my life only focused on my own family, and to reject any inclination to seek guilt-absolving ignorance or amnesia about the evils of this world. I seek to live in a way where I identify with the least of these and learn about their burdens as best as I can. I am no longer too small to fight back when injustice is present, nor do I fear the threats of any man who tries to stop me. I believe God’s love for humans grants them a unique value higher than any other part of his creation. My hope is for all humans to seek in the best and most sincere way as possible to eradicate human suffering and to ensure that the spreading of God’s love is not impeded by injustice in the world.