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jeff-hood

Morgan Guyton: An interview with Jeff Hood, author of The Execution of God

jeff-hood

 

Morgan Guyton: An interview with Jeff Hood, author of The Execution of God


MG:
 Hey Jeff, thanks for being willing to talk with me about your new book The Execution of God. It’s a very fascinating theological account of the death penalty. I wanted to start off by asking: how did you get started in your advocacy work against the death penalty?

JH: There in the bondage of killing, I got struck down by a miraculous light.  “Jeff!  Jeff!  Why are you executing me?”  The world has never been the same.  Quite frankly Brother Morgan, I got saved.

MG: Do you have a particular date for your Damascus road encounter? What were you doing when the blinding light struck you?

JH: The further we travel into the mystery of God the more dates disappear.  I remember it was sometime between killing and loving.  Light hits seekers of the mystery.  While it’s tough to remember where or how or even when, one knows when they’ve been changed.  The light never stops.

MG: All right let’s try it this way. When was the first time you went to a death penalty protest?

JH: The devil was down in Georgia.  Night grew darker and darker by the minute.  Hundreds of police blocked the gates of the prison.  I wore a shirt that declared, “I am Troy Davis.”  In those moments before his legal murder, I knew I would never be the same.  I’ve dedicated my life to abolishing the death penalty ever since.

MG: Walk me through what happens liturgically at a death penalty protest vigil.

JH: One arrives.  One prays.  One sees the worship of death.  One seeks the sacrament of life.  One hears the worst.  One knows murder.  One leaves searching for a resurrection.

MG: Have you seen any progress in the years that you’ve been doing this?

JH: Execution is execution.  What’s the difference between one execution and another?  One execution is always too many.  One execution is always going to teach our kids that executions are right.  As long as executions continue, I can’t speak of progress.  Execution is execution.
Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mercynotsacrifice/2017/09/13/interview-jeff-hood-author-execution-god/#Y35zi12bSGvL5GtC.99

 

Buy Book at https://www.amazon.com/Execution-God-Encountering-Death-Penalty/dp/0827208510

Chalice Press

The Execution of God: Excerpts: Condemnation and Hell

Chalice Press

Chalice Press

 

11/12

 

“There will be silence!” “Sit down! Sit down!” “The charge is murder!” Death is natural. Murder is not. Do you recall the execution of God? You were there. So was I. We witnessed it all.

We watched God being led into court. We heard the incriminating testimony. We listened to the damning details about God’s past.

We cringed at the description of the crime. We wanted the demise quicker than the law would allow. The guilty verdict moved us.

The sentence sent us into a pandemonium of elation. “Death!”

In time, we forgot about it. Later, we rediscovered the joy of murder in the days leading up to the execution. We told everyone that death was too lenient. We watched as God was led into the chamber and strapped down. We saw the needle draw blood. We were thirsty for more. We listened to God’s surprising words of forgiveness. We watched the poison flow. We waited to feel better.

We didn’t. We felt empty. The execution of God only made us worse. God was dead. Who would save us now?

 

God died

It wasn’t no suicide

Look, isn’t it plain to see

It could’ve been you or me

 

…………………………………………

 

58/59

 

“Do you actually believe that God commands us to kill people?” I asked.

“Not only do I believe it, I want our nation to practice it,” he responded.

I continued: “So, you’re saying that you believe that the death penalty is a tool of God? What does that have to do with a God of love?”

“Love sometimes means that you have to kill.”

I tried again. “Does God have to kill?”

“God is punishing our sin. In many ways, God is just following our lead on killing.”

“I don’t buy it. None of it makes sense to me. God is love.

That’s what I believe in.”

“You are going to end up loving you some hell.”

I’ve had this conversation a million times. People defend the death penalty by using stories of genocide and other atrocities to turn God into a monster. Let’s turn our eyes to God.

 

Let the heads roll

Wipe them off the scrolls

God won’t stop

Until the bodies drop

Don’t stand in God’s way

 

 

Georgia Public Broadcasting

Scout Schultz: Dying to Live

Georgia Public Broadcasting

Georgia Public Broadcasting

 

I can remember that night. I wanted to take all of the pills. I was done. Repeatedly, I’d looked for help. Repeatedly, I’d come up empty. The room grew smaller and smaller. I had nowhere to go. Sweat poured everywhere. I prayed. That shit didn’t help. God seemed so far away. God was fake. I didn’t care. I needed someone to grasp at. Drifting in and out, I started to lose touch with reality. I never thought about calling the police. The night grew longer and longer. Somehow, I opened my eyes. Looking around, I realized that I’d made it through the night. The war in my mind started all over. I just wanted it to end. They did too.

 

Scout Schultz was queer. With a ferocious spirit, Scout damned the binaries of our society. Many tried to convince they of the fruitless nature of their protests, but they were not deterred. In one of the toughest parts of the country, Scout pushed on. There is no doubt that the mental strain they endured was exhausting, but they didn’t quit. They fought on in the struggle for equality. While a campus leader for LGBTQ causes at Georgia Tech, Scout experienced the fullness of the struggle. A few nights ago, the toll of it all climaxed. Scout wrote three final notes. In the moments before the tragedy, Scout said goodbye and called 911. Instructing the operator that there was someone on campus with a knife and a gun, Scout went outside and prepared to commit suicide by cop. When the officers arrived, they flashed a knife (actually it was a utility tool). In the heat of the moment, cops did what cops always do…shoot first and ask questions later. After being shot straight through the heart, Scout collapsed and died shortly there after. When they could have shot they anywhere to demobilize they, the cops couldn’t help themselves. This thirst for blood is not all that unusual in our society. Scout just happened to get the bullet this time. Who will be next?

 

Last night, there was rioting at Georgia Tech. After a peaceful vigil, a group began to express their rage. Every news outlet I’ve read, called the actions “violent.” Isn’t a riot the language of the oppressed? When I saw the police car on fire, I saw a desperate cry for justice. Let’s not forget that Jesus turned the tables over in the temple in a similar fashion. You can’t label these riots violent without naming that riot violent. Would Jesus burn a police car? It seems to me like it’s possible. In the midst of such injustice, I know that Jesus’ level of rage is the same as what we saw last night. There is no doubt that the rioting will continue until police brutality stops. Moses heard the voice of God from the burning bush. I hope we hear the voice of God from the flames of that burning police car, shouting, “Repent!”

 

Amen.

 

 

*Details from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/09/17/knife-wielding-campus-pride-leader-killed-by-police-at-georgia-tech/?utm_term=.04076025c7a8

DallasPride1_sm

Would Jesus March at Dallas Pride? : 2014/2017

DallasPride1_sm

 

 

*Originally posted September 20, 2014. Throughout the morning, I’ve pondered the meaning of these old words.  Meaning is still there.

 

 

The many closet doors will be closed tightly at Dallas Pride.  Behind the smiles and drunken debauchery, there will be terror about what it would mean to leave the new normal that many have developed.  Most of the participants will have told their parents and friends about their sexuality or gender, but few will have come out of the closet of normativity that has developed in a race for a false equality.  We live in a world that bestows privileges on those who fit and shuns those who don’t.  If your skin is not the right color, your bank account lacks the right amount of funds, your performance is considered to be too much or you have shifted from what is considered normal in any number of other variables you will not be welcome.  There on the margins will be the true queers amongst us.  Those who have had the courage to come out of the closet and be exactly the person that God created them to be.

 

For those who seek to follow the way of Jesus, we must ask particular questions about Dallas Pride: What benefit will it be to the hungry?  Will the truly thirsty be given living water?  Will queer strangers be shunned?  Will the naked be welcomed?  How will we invite the sick to participate?  Will those in prison benefit?  Jesus stands with the truly queer amongst us and questions the normative on their behalf:  Will you welcome me?

 

There will be many who think that the questions of Matthew 25 are too much to ask of Dallas Pride.  I don’t think so.  From the beginning, the wider queer movement has championed the uplift and inclusion of all people.  Queers stood with those on the margins and not against them.  Because of the beautiful history of the queer movement, my family and I went to Dallas Pride when we first moved to the Metroplex a few years ago.  We just knew that it would be inspiring for all of us.  It wasn’t.  From the credit card vendors signing drunk people up for cards with exorbitant interest rates to the blatant celebration of companies that oppress people all over the world to the utter disregard for diversity, I realized that this was a place for those who could fit into a new normativity and not for those who desired to stand with Jesus on the margins.

 

On behalf of our social justice ministry Hope for Peace & Justice, I presently work as a Minister of Social Justice partnering with the Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ.  For a long time, our church existed on the margins of society.  Now, we find our space inhabiting a new normativity of influence.  We have to ask our self in this moment if we will choose to be queer or not?  I think the question for the Cathedral of Hope is not all that different from the question for Dallas Pride:  Will we have the courage to leave the closet and be queer?  After a long discussion, our family has decided to march in Dallas Pride tomorrow with our church.  We will be marching to break down all the closet doors that will be so tightly closed all around us and for the inclusion of all those who continue to be left out.  I think Jesus will be too.

 

 

Amen.

 

 

*Though some has changed…much remains the same.

NASA

Stormy Theology

NASA

NASA

 

Throughout existence, humans have leaned into storms to hear a word from beyond. It doesn’t matter where that beyond is. Beyond is beyond. Though the conclusions are varied, they all come from a lived reality. Theology is found in such realities. Theology is found in the storm.

 

“God was with us.” “God saved us.” “God sent the angels to surround us.” “Without God, we would be dead.” Immediately after the storm, you are bound to hear comments like these over and over again. The more you hear, the curiouser the comments get. One begins to wonder if thought has entered the displayed brains at all. Of course, the reciprocal conclusion of such comments is that God forgot all about or ignored the folks who weren’t spared. Think about what the reciprocal conclusions might sound like. “God wasn’t with us.” “God didn’t save us.” “God’s angels lost.” “With God, we died.” These types of statements would certainly better reflect the existential reality of those journeying through the storm. Maybe we should go even further and declare. “We are with God.” “We saved God.” “We are the angels that have surrounded God.” “Without us, God would be dead.” Such statements might best describe the symbiotic relationship between God and us. In the storm, there is truth. Without us, God doesn’t exist. Without God, we don’t exist. God is with us and we are with God. The storm begins to dishevel theologies. We become disheveled. God becomes closer than we could ever imagine. “God and I.” “Salvation is in us.” “We are the angels.” “We are never dead.” May our theology never clear. The storm is the realist theological principal of them all. The cries of our heart echo in the chaos. God meets us in such cries and cries out too. The cry becomes salvation. There are no words. There are only the shrill cries of the storm. God has never been found in words. God is found in the terrors and longings of the heart. God is. We are. The storm is our home. The storm is our theology. The storm is. The storm. I am.

 

Amen.

Wikimedia

From Beyond to Within: The Fall of Queerness

Wikimedia

Wikimedia

 

 

*Excerpt from my essay “Queering the Fall” in Ellin Jimmerson’s new book Rainbow in the Word

 

 

In the midst of normativity, temptation unleashes the queer. Queerness is what makes us divine. We all have our own unique responses to temptation. If not for temptation we would be just like everybody else. If not for God’s responses to temptation, God would not be God. God knew that we needed that fruit tree. The Fall is what makes us like God.

 

Do you ever think about aliens? Can you imagine what it would be like to find another world? What if we figured out that it was inhabited by intelligent life? What if we were able to go there? Once we made contact, we would lower the spaceship. When we were able to assure the inhabitants that we meant no harm, we would open the door. Slowly descending the stairs, we would look around.

What if we found a pre-fallen world? Temptation never hit the inhabitants. Maybe they were able to resist. Maybe God forgot the tree. Whatever the reason, we cannot believe our eyes. Looking around, it is impossible for us not to see that everyone is exactly the same. There is nothing unique about anyone. We quickly realize that temptation is what makes us queer. The normative beings that inhabit the planet find us to be sinful. The normative always dismisses the queer.

 

Figuring that they have nothing to learn from us, the normative aliens just go back to their normative ways. We thought we found new life and quickly realized that all we had found was death.

 

I have often found myself back in Eden. Temptation has followed me throughout my life. For better or worse, how I’ve responded to temptation has made me who I am. I guess this is true of all of us. Divinity is found in the choosing.

Salvation is an interesting concept. We yearn to be saved and assume that we know the way to get there. The first humans were convinced that salvation was based on staying away from the fruit of a tree. It’s interesting that sometimes what we assume to be salvation is actually death. The totality of God was found in temptation. God was found in rejecting concepts of normativity and embracing queerness. God is found in pushing back against concepts of salvation and embracing the queer.

 

Like many Christians, I grew up in a world full of the temptation of salvation. Every time we gathered, we were asked to come down the aisle. Every time we gathered, we were asked to pray a prayer. Every time we gathered, the temptation of salvation stalked us. We were told that we had to, “Know that we know that we know that we know . . . that we were truly born again.” The problem is that no one realized that salvation was not about knowing. Salvation is about being who God created us to be in the first place. Humanity discovered salvation when they overcame the temptation of salvation. Salvation is about being the queer.

 

God has never been about certainty. The temptation of certainty diminishes our lives. God created life to be about seeking. God is found in our seeking. How can we blame the humans in the Garden for seeking greater knowledge of God? Our certainties about the Fall are incredibly harmful. Humanity was trying to seek God. What could be more queer or divine than that?

 

Throughout my life, the temptation of certainty seems to always be close by. There was the time that I read the entire Bible to make sure I believed it all. When I made it through, I was no closer to certainty than I was when I started. There is something queer about reading the Bible as a mystery. I repeated prayers to be certain of my right standing with God. The prayers never helped. There is something queer about learning to pray with our being. Certainty isn’t real . . . God is.

 

*Read the rest of this essay and a variety of other essays from LGBTQ voices by acquiring Rainbow in the Word at https://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Word-Christians-Biblical-Memoirs/dp/1532632088/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504501377&sr=8-1&keywords=rainbow+in+the+word .

Photo by Filip Bunkens

A Recent Email to Our Children’s Teachers

Photo by Filip Bunkens

Photo by Filip Bunkens

 
Teachers.

 


I wanted to make sure that I sent this message to both of you.

 

 

As a matter of conscience, I am writing to request that our children stand outside the classroom and not participate in the pledge of allegiance/national anthem to the US (or Texas/not sure if y’all do that or not).  As followers of Jesus and social activists, we are deeply convicted that we live in a nation that constantly perpetuates a variety of injustices and we work hard to teach our children to resist such evil.  We thank you in advance for your cooperation in protecting/upholding the civil liberties of our children/family.

Jeff 

 

Since I didn’t get to watch television at home as a young child, I was mesmerized by the television in my classroom. In fact, I was so mesmerized by the television that I never noticed some of my classmates stepping out of the room before the daily red, white and blue explosion. I just faced the front and watched the cheesy patriotic video that illustrated every sentence of the national anthem. One day, I wasn’t feeling so good. Turning green, I laid my head down and looked toward the door. Right before the anthem played, I saw a few of my classmates walk out the door. I was so curious about my classmates that I forgot about the nausea. When I garnered up the courage to ask my substitute teacher about my classmates, she replied, “Their religion teaches them to rebel against patriotism.”

 

I’ve thought about her words for many years. Shouldn’t anyone who follows Jesus rebel against patriotism? How could a follower of Jesus ever pledge allegiance to a nation as corrupted as ours? How could a follower of Jesus ever pledge allegiance to a nation at all? Make no mistake: God is not a patriot. God doesn’t pledge allegiance. God would step out of the classroom.

 

I was a little hesitant to send the email. I knew nothing about our kid’s teachers. I didn’t want them to be marked so early into their first year. Then I remembered, there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18). Immediately, love pushed send.

 

When I arose from my chair, I remembered the words of my substitute teacher, “Their religion teaches them to rebel against patriotism.” May it always be said of us.

 

Amen.

Photo by Darren Coleshill

Nashville and Harvey…and The End: Tales of Ignorant Responses

Photo by Darren Coleshill

Photo by Darren Coleshill

 

 

The Nashville Statement and the Irrelevance of Progressive Christianity

 

 

“Progressives only know how to do one thing…respond.” I was sitting in a classroom at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary when I uttered those words. The topic was, “The Changing Landscape of Religion in the United States.” There are few truths that have remained with me from my journey through fundamentalism and liberalism and progressivism to something far more progressive. This is one.

 

“They will never define me.” The young woman was proud of her progressive identity. At Emory University, there were many just like her. Repeatedly, I heard people talk about progressivism as if it existed in a vacuum. The same woman who said she would never be defined turned into someone who was always being defined. In one of my classes, she brought up the conservative position on everything. Her assertions forced everyone in the classroom to funnel their thoughts through what conservatives thought. Slowly, I watched people’s progressivism become imprisoned by their desire to respond to conservatism.

 

“Their hate won’t define us!” Repeatedly, I read post after post that used different language to purvey the same message…we categorically reject and abhor the Nashville Statement. Interestingly enough, I had absolutely no idea what the Nashville Statement was until I read the posts of disgust that filled social media. Interestingly enough, I doubt I would have ever heard about the statement if it weren’t for the response of progressives. The signers of the Nashville Statement are becoming increasingly inconsequential. I mourn that the responses of progressives have made their voice more consequential. Even I felt the need to sign one of the response statements. I wanted all of my friends to know that I stand with them. After signing, I realized that the construction and signing of such statements was a tactical error. In the midst of it all, a truth was revealed. Progressivism is still defined by conservatism.

 

Relevance is derived from constructing your own future…not allowing those who are irrelevant to construct your future for you.

 

Amen.

 

 

The Fucked Up Nature of Singular Responses

 

 

Everybody saw the devastation. Everybody rushed to help. Did nobody see the devastation before? People getting shot. People too poor to eat. People without jobs. People without hope. People in deep desperation. Where was the shelter before? In such communities…devastation isn’t a singular event. Natural disasters do one thing well…they illustrate the fucked up nature of singular responses.

 

Amen.

 

 

The End

 

 

People spend their entire lives responding just to get by. Remember, the goal is to respond so strongly that you never have to respond again.  To strive to do anything else is ignorant.

 

Amen.

Marko Blažević

God is Underwater

Marko Blažević

Marko Blažević

 

I remember it all very clearly. I was very conservative. Sitting in my girlfriend’s dorm room, we watched the horrific images of people begging for help from their roofs. We’d all just witnessed one of the worst natural disasters ever. In the midst of it all, we were glued to the television. Eventually, we struck up a conversation about the theological ramifications of it all. She offered a quick observation, “Despite their sin, God is in New Orleans.” I didn’t buy it and forcefully replied, “God left a long time ago. That’s why they’re underwater.”

 

There is nothing more human than to ask, “Why?” Desperate for comfort, people rush to an answer. The problem is that such answers aren’t real. The question is the only thing concrete.

 

The tornado was devastating. Dozens and dozens of people died. Places that I’d sat many times were destroyed. People roamed the destruction. Bodies were still being pulled from the rubble. It seemed that all of the answers had blown away. In the distance, I saw people gathered around a cross. Wondering what was going on, I walked toward it all. The preacher kept shouting, “God loves us all.” I knew differently. God was dead. Love was gone. The wind had taken it all.

 

Disbelief is belief. Pain is real. God is not. There is reality in denial. There is no belief. Maybe God is not God. Maybe God is a myth. Maybe God is a dream. Maybe not. Maybe.

 

The water overwhelmed the van. They were just trying to evacuate. Within seconds, they were completely submerged. Yanking at door handles. Kicking windows. Screaming louder and louder. Doors leaking. Windows failing. Tears falling. Prayers lifting. Water filled their lungs. Eyes began to close. The end came quickly. God drowned.

 

God is in the question.

 

God is underwater.

 

Amen.

Peace? / Quora

Clergy and the Violence of Peace

Peace? / Quora

Peace? / Quora

 

It’s a long way from Dallas to Ferguson…but I had to go. I knew you couldn’t follow God and sit on your ass.

 

The air went out. Fire was all I knew. Sweat poured down my face. God met me there.

 

When I arrived, I was introduced to the clergy group. One of the other clergy leaned over and said, “Our job is to keep the peace.” I was terribly uncomfortable with such words.

 

Clergy walked together. The diverse clerical attire made us look like a walking rainbow. The authorities kept expressing gratitude that we were there. I was terribly uncomfortable with such expressions.

 

In time, I realized that clergy wasn’t there to keep the peace…clergy was there to stifle protest…the very voice of God. After that first night, I promised myself I would never participate in such foolishness again…my job was to stoke the rage of God in the people of God. Justice is always ushered in by rage.

 

Recently, the sins of Ferguson found me in Dallas.

 

Just the other night, I attended a large protest against confederate symbolism. Toward the end of the gathering, I saw a group of largely white clergy walking swiftly. They were racing toward a rumored site of violence. I imagine that someone in local government asked them to go. I’m not all that interested in responding so swiftly to government. Regardless, this group of clergy believed that it was their duty to keep the peace. They were wrong.

 

Looking around, I noticed that very few black ministers were going. One of my buddies standing next to me put it simply, “it is not my job to keep the peace…it is my job to keep the justice and then we can talk about peace.” In response, another friend declared, “I can’t turn my back when oppressed people need me. If they didn’t have me…then where would they be?” The patriarchy within his statement was beyond clear. Unable to see the error of his ways, the brother ran off to join the foolishness. After he left, I looked to my friend and said, “Our job is not to facilitate peace…our job is to facilitate rage.”

 

You shout peace…peace…and there is no peace.

 

Amen.

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