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Public Domain

Charles Manson: Son of God

Public Domain

Public Domain

 

Unaware of what I was getting myself into, I jumped in one of those motorcycle taxi things. I had no idea that such a contraption could travel so fast. Honestly, it felt like the damn thing was going to fall to pieces at any moment. When we finally arrived at the center of the city, my stomach was destroyed. Once we stopped, I went behind a small building and threw up. Everyone was worried about me. I was worried about myself. Then it happened, I realized that there were millions of people swarming around me. I forgot about my stomach. As we walked further, I turned to a friend and said, “Isn’t this beautiful?” With a depressed look in his eyes, he turned to me and said, “Isn’t it depressing that most of these people are going to hell?”

 

“I don’t believe in hell?” I wish I could have said it. Unfortunately, I was too afraid. In time, my beliefs evolved. Eventually, I came to see God as the creator and lover of all. God’s love is never extinguished. There is no separation from God. To be absent from the body is to be immersed in the love of God. Love is ours for all of eternity.

 

God is a Universalist.

 

Such beliefs are always tested.

 

We are so terrified of believing.

 

Late one night, I watched an interview with Charles Manson. From the moment the show started, I was terrified of him. Manson is/was evil incarnate. If there was a hell, he would be at the front of the line.

 

God stands in the way.

 

Earlier today, I was notified that Manson had died. My first thought was, “I’m glad that piece of shit is gone.” Before I drowned in such misguided thoughts, I ran back to God. My heart changed.

 

Theologies of love found me.

 

Love called Manson home.

 

Love will sustain Manson.

 

Love will be all that Manson will ever need.

 

There is no hell.

 

There is only Love.

 

He is a beloved child of God.

 

Charles Manson: Son of God.

 

Amen.

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The Gurney Destroyed: A Lesson in Defiance

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Chalice Press

 

*These are the final paragraphs from one of my latests…The Execution of God, published by Chalice Press.

 

 

Throughout the day, I will travel to the execution chamber in Huntsville. Instead of commemorating Holy Week in a place of worship, I’ve chosen to experience the passion of Jesus in Adam Ward. When the State of Texas places the lethal needle into Ward’s arm, I will be standing outside in defiance. We all know that Ward’s actions aren’t any crazier than the execution we are planning tonight. We think we can teach people not to kill by killing. Who’s more delusional: Ward or us?

 

Finger after finger shook. I’d never seen fingers move like that. I tried to grab them. The shakes hit my hands. I clenched my fists. Then, the shakes traveled up my arms. I wondered what was going on. Before long, my entire body was shaking. I didn’t know what to do. I needed strength. I didn’t think I had it. Though the robe and stole concealed everything that was going on, I knew I wasn’t well. “God, how am I going to do this?” Though people kept coming up to me to talk, I wasn’t listening much. I couldn’t. I just kept thinking. Adam Ward visited me in those moments. I was overwhelmed. I thought I was going to collapse. Everything was too much. I was coming apart. Then, something pulled me back together. Sacramental ideas started flowing through my mind. I could see the cup poured out. I could see the bread broken. Drawing me nearer, I could feel the presence of God. “I’m ready.” The weather seemed to get slightly clearer. Everything seemed to move out of the way. My brain focused. I thought about all of the people who had been executed in that space. I could see so many faces. I could hear so many voices. I could feel their presence. I prayed. In those moments, I was with God. Looking down at the prison, I knew what I had to do.

 

 

Despite my fear

Jesus be near

Oh, despite my fear

Jesus be near

 

 

Every step felt like an eternity. Life was happening in slow motion. I didn’t know if I’d ever get there. I never prepared for the struggle of it all. I thought I’d just be able to march down there and do it. It wasn’t that simple. There was so much more to think about than just the placement of my feet. There were so many people who wanted to talk. Though I wasn’t quite sure of what I was saying, I kept talking. I figured it was better to keep talking than actually to deal with my anxiety. The shakes were back. After the clock struck 6, I saw Ward again. God was there too. I lowered my head and started walking. Step by step, I moved toward the line. Though I’d seen that police line at every execution, I knew that it wouldn’t hold me back this time. After I committed that final time, there was never a thought of turning back. This was Holy Week. This was a sacrament. This was the path of Jesus. “I will not turn back.” The executed joined me for those final steps. Even though I walked alone, I could hear their footsteps. I think I even heard one of them say, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The officers seemed to have no idea what was going on. As I approached the police line, I said, “I’m coming across.” Thoughts of Ward being executed rushed back into my brain. The nearest officer shouted, “No you’re not!” I could’ve turned around during those seconds. I could’ve just decided that I’d done enough. I didn’t.

It wasn’t long before two officers were directly in front of me. Immediately, the officers tried to convince me to turn back. I didn’t. I just kept praying. I hadn’t made it this far to turn around. I knew God was with me. I pressed on. Both of the officers tried to convince me to turn back. I looked up and replied, “I can’t do that.” By this point, I could feel the presence of the executed standing around me. I knew they’d never left. We were all standing there together demanding an end to executions. God was with us. When the officer said that he was going to take me to jail, I knew I wasn’t going alone. As I was placed under arrest and walked to the car, I looked up. The sun gleamed off the cross atop the prison. “That shit is fake.” I knew that the real cross was out here with us. As we drove off into the sunset, I felt God whisper, “Well done.”

As soon as I got to the jail, I was processed like any other criminal. There were few people there that night. Before I knew it, I was alone. There behind the bars, I started to pray. Once again, Adam Ward visited me. I prayed for those who killed him. I knew that I was one of them. The prayers started to propel my feet around the cell. God gave me visions of all that had transpired. The passion continued. The steps. Pilgrimage propelled me to that line. The encounters. Relationships with the condemned pushed me over that line. The anger. Defiance granted me the courage to refuse to move back over that line. Everything I’d known in my work for abolition culminated in my sacramental act of civil disobedience in front of the prison that night. The cell felt like a place of completion. I was able to rest with God and the executed. I saw their faces. The darkness wouldn’t last much longer. Late that night, I made bail. I hurried to the car and left. When the rising rays of sun met the clouds, I was on the road thinking about the killing of the condemned. Though the night had been long, I knew that that all of the bullshit would soon be over. Executions can’t live forever.

 

Time was no more.

 

Behold, I saw God die. I wept. I didn’t know what to do. After they placed the sheet over the body, I turned away. I just wanted to get out of there. Not long after I turned back, I saw the sheet start to rise. God was alive! Death was no more. In a fit of rage, God destroyed the gurney. The damn thing exploded into a million pieces. I heard God say loudly, “It is finished.”

 

Jeff Hood

Resisting Mugabe in Zimbabwe

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*It brings me great joy to have been blessed with the privilege of playing an infinitesimal part of the downfall of Zimbabwean Dictator Robert Mugabe. I wrote this from Zimbabwe on February 8, 2016.

 

Dirt has been a constant companion. Like air, you’re constantly breathing it in and exhaling it out. When the bus arrived, I passed through the red fog to the climb up into my seat. Before I could even think, the driver looked at me and said, “Why do you remain silent about what’s going on here in Zimbabwe? We’re living in hell. How many more people will have to disappear or starve to death before your people will care? Talking to you could get me killed.” My stomach turned. There is no way to explain the silence of the world when it comes to Zimbabwe. When I mentioned that I was trying to write as much as I could, the driver shot back, “You must try harder. You are the only chance we have. Everyone here is terrified.” I didn’t ask many questions. Why should you when you already know the answers? After much listening, I managed one before I got out, “What does resistance look like here?” The driver didn’t hesitate, “Prayer is my resistance. Every night when I go to sleep, I pray that I will wake up and Robert Mugabe will be dead.”

 

While I was looking at newspapers on the street, the vendor looked up and inquired, “When are you going to help us with Mugabe?” Before I could respond, she slipped me an opposition paper and said, “This should help.”

 

Later in the day, a local businessman approached me on the street. Unsure of what he was going to say, I let him do the talking. “When I first learned about Hitler, I always wondered how people ever allowed a maniac to kill so many people. I don’t wonder about that anymore. Now, I know. Here in Zimbabwe we are living it.” After some further conversation, he looked me in the eye and said, “Please tell as many people as you can about our terror.”

 

As I walked down the street, the Mercedes screeched to a stop. I wasn’t far from the local offices of the intelligence service. “Are you that guy writing the articles and posting them on Facebook about the President?” The question hit me in the gut. After responding that I was, I answered his probing questions very carefully. At the first pause in the interaction, I began to walk away and heard, “Be careful during your time in Zimbabwe.”

 

Many Zimbabweans have been fervent in their resistance for decades. The best that some can do are comments like the ones made to me throughout the day. After only a short period of time here, I’ve gotten a small taste of what happens to those who resist in this country. The difference is that I get to leave. When I do, I’ll do all that I can to make the rest of the world aware of the evil of Mugabe and his followers in Zimbabwe. I pray you’ll join me.

 

Amen.

 

Alexander Possingham / Unsplash

A Short Theology of Sleep

Alexander Possingham / Unsplash

Alexander Possingham / Unsplash

 

 

“What’s taking so long?” The restaurant seemed to attract assholes. It seemed like rudeness grew by the hour. When she got in her car, she let out a sigh of relief. She began to drive home. After kissing her kids, she arrived at the place she had longed for all day. Laying down and covering up, she quickly found sleep. It was there that she felt most alive.

 

What do the backs of eyelids look like?

 

“What a great ride?” The open road had been good to him. From town to town, he experienced new thoughts and ways of being. The bike was starting to feel heavy. Exhaustion was close. Every turn of the wheel felt like torture now. In his mind, he thought, “I just want to sleep.” In time, he did. He felt so at piece. Sleep had finally found him. He felt fully alive. Within minutes, he crashed his motorcycle into a guardrail and died on the spot.

 

What does sleep pain feel like?

 

“She just won’t go to sleep!” They were at the end of their ropes. Their daughter just wouldn’t go to sleep. They tried driving her around. They tried singing. They tried a hot bath. She just would not go to sleep. After a few hours, she finally laid down in her crib and went to sleep. She wore a slight smile on her face. It was almost as if she knew that she’d gotten her parents good this time.

 

Does sleep contain memories?

 

“It’s so cold.” He’d been living outside for so long that he didn’t remember much else. Tonight, he was just trying to stay alive. Though the dangers were great, he curled up in his blankets as close as he could to the fire he made. As the night progressed, the blankets got hotter. When he opened his eyes, the fire was out. He was so glad he made it through the night.

 

Is waking up the goal?

 

We’ve been made in the image of God. Sleep is not a product of our deficiencies. It is a product of our making. We sleep because God sleeps. Sleep is the great equalizer. All sleep. There is only sleep.

 

Relief.

 

Death.

 

Life.

 

Survival.

 

We are sleep.

 

God is sleep.

 

Amen.

Jesus drives out the merchants - John 2:13-16

THOUGHTS for a COUP / / The Impromptu Sermon: Thoughts on Christian Defiance in Zimbabwe

Jesus drives out the merchants - John 2:13-16

Jesus drives out the merchants – John 2:13-16

*Originally posted while I was in Zimbabwe on February 6, 2016

 

**Reposted in response to the current coup unfolding in Zimbabwe.

 

Earlier this afternoon, a group of Zimbabwean government officials asked me to discuss politics with them. This is an authoritarian society where such an invitation can be dangerous. Nevertheless, I engaged. When I told them that I was primarily a theologian, they told me that here in Zimbabwe politics and spirituality don’t mix. While I didn’t know if such a comment was intended to be a warning or not, I questioned them as to whether Christianity could even exist in such a space. When they inquired what I meant, I started to preach.

 

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus commits acts of political revolution. Repeatedly, Jesus refused to be bound by laws that sought to segregate and divide the population. In direct defiance of the government, Jesus kept breaking the law to be with the people. The lines that the government of Zimbabwe has drawn would not be able to hold Jesus back. When a woman that was caught in adultery was about to be executed, Jesus placed his body between the executioners and the woman. Can you imagine if Christians in Zimbabwe started to place their bodies between all of the people who are disappeared and killed? Jesus was a revolutionary. When Jesus saw the government cheating people out of their money like the police bribe people in this country, Jesus overturned their tables and tossed them out. Jesus was so much more than just a spiritual leader. In Matthew 25, Jesus declared that he would place his very person with the marginalized and oppressed. In Zimbabwe, this means that Jesus would stand with the political revolutionaries seeking a better world, the hungry, those who are not being paid by the government, the mentally ill and a whole host of others who are mistreated and sometimes killed by the actions of this government. Make no mistake, Jesus was a political revolutionary and paid the price for it. Ultimately, political forces executed Jesus. Make no mistake, Robert Mugabe would kill Jesus and intends to kill anyone who follows his way of revolution. With Jesus, there was and is no separating politics and spirituality.

 

When I finished talking, no one spoke. I don’t think they’d heard the Gospel presented like this before. Before hundreds of thousands more people die due to the tanking economy and the approaching famine, I pray that God will remove Robert Mugabe from his luxurious accommodations and his position as President. I hope that Christians will follow Jesus and be helpful in this process.

 

Amen.

 

DigitalJournal

Lay Down Your Body

DigitalJournal

DigitalJournal

 

How far would I go?

 

How far would you go?

 

The halls were dark. Time was drawing to a close. Every step was accompanied by the same words, “Dead body walking.” There was also a whisper, “I was in prison…” Something seemed to be close. The roomed seemed so far away. Fear ravaged the mind. Memories of love crept in. Heavy. Tears refused to come. The door was loud. Everything was white. This was no heaven. This was hell. Persons devoid of souls gathered to watch the spectacle of it all. They lined up. Stones filled their hands. She was placed before them. “May God have mercy on your soul.” Fire! The stones flew. She closed her eyes. The next scream was not her own. On the ground bruised and bloodied was the lifeless incarnation of God. “There is no greater love.”

 

Would I have the courage?

 

Would you have the courage?

 

I walk the long hallways. It is cold. God seems to have left. Death is always close. I drag my soul. No matter how many times I come here…I think the same thing. Would I give my life to stop it? Would I give my life to save one life? Many of the people here are evil in a vast variety of ways. Would I give my life to stop it? Would I give my life to save one? Death row is an interesting place to ask questions of sacrifice. “I was in prison.”

 

Will I stand in the gap?

 

Will you stand in the gap?

 

Our times have grown increasingly evil. Injustice is everywhere. Death is a constant reminder. Have we forgotten? Are we afraid to look at the bodies? Our body is the only body that can stop such carnage. Our body can save the body.

 

Where shall I die?

 

Where shall you die?

 

There are plenty of locations to choose from. The body of God rests with those whose bodies have been abused. Our body can save their body.

 

The hour is upon us.

 

What say you?

 

Choose this day whom you will serve.

 

Amen.

 

NASA / Unsplash

The Breach: Bullshit

NASA / Unsplash

NASA / Unsplash

 

If it weren’t for my children, I wouldn’t go to church. I think I’d probably be in a better place spiritually if I didn’t.

 

One does not have to go to a place to meet God. No matter where we go, God is there.

 

The idea that there is a breach between God and humanity is contrary to the gospel. Jesus fixed the breach. There is no need for further fixing. There is a need for us to be what God has created us to be. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. To believe anything else is heresy. There is no breach. There is only God. This idea that we must fix a breach is bullshit.

 

This morning. I opened the doors of the church and a woman greeted me with, “How can you encounter the presence of God when you’re late?” Of course, there was an assumption on her part that one encounters God by being on time to church. To which I replied with a question, “What can separate us from the love of God?” My kids were smart enough to shout out, “Nothing!”

 

Nearing a decade ago, I got a phone call while I was having lunch. With pained labored emotion, my dad told me that my uncle had just committed suicide and that he needed me to go tell my grandparents quickly…before they found out from someone else. The shock of the news and the immensity of the task was overwhelming. Regardless, I raced home and quickly entered their house. My grandmother knew that something was very wrong. I pushed her to her chair and grabbed her hand. Holding tight, I said, “He shot himself.” Immediately, eternal questions entered raced through her mind. Finally, she cried out, “Does this mean he is separated from God forever?” I didn’t hesitate…”Nothing can separate us from the love of God…”

 

There is no breach.

 

There is only God.

 

There is only us.

 

The breach is bullshit.

 

Amen.

David Monje / Unsplash

Bedtime Prayer

David Monje / Unsplash

David Monje / Unsplash

 

Throughout my childhood, I often spent the night at my grandparent’s house. I loved them very much. I didn’t love the way they put us to bed. After we were tucked into our beds, my grandmother would close her eyes and say,

 

“Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray to God my soul to take.”

 

For whatever reason, she didn’t recite the rest of the prayer. Regardless, what she said was enough for me. I would be terrified. For hours, I would sit there with my eyes open. I just knew I would die if I fell asleep. Of course, I fell asleep. Night has a way of taking us whether we want it to or not. I always wondered if there was something more than those four lines. There is.

 

In time, I’ve constructed a different bedtime prayer. These outward words of justice and hope help guide me in my wanderings. Often, I repeat them until I fall asleep. I invite you to join me.

 

“Now I lay me down to rest.

I have tried to do my best.

Don’t let them die before I wake.

Justice needs more time to make.”

 

“Now I lay me down to rest.

I have tried to do my best.

Don’t let them die before I wake.

Justice needs more time to make.”

 

“Now I lay me down to rest.

I have tried to do my best.

Don’t let them die before I wake.

Justice needs more time to make.”

 

“Now I lay me down to rest.

I have tried to do my best.

Don’t let them die before I wake.

Justice needs more time to make.”

 

“Now I lay me down to rest.

I have tried to do my best.

Don’t let them die before I wake.

Justice needs more time to make.”

 

Darkness cometh to bring forth the light.

 

Goodnight.

 

Amen.

 

Christopher Dombres / Wikimedia

Cowards.

Christopher Dombres / Wikimedia

Christopher Dombres / Wikimedia

 

Dozens and dozens of people were dead. The images were horrific. Yet again, someone opened fire on a church. With images of blood fresh on my mind, I went to the leadership of our church. Out of fear, I suggested that we hire armed security for the church. Everyone agreed. Even though I felt like I’d done something really good for the church, there was a part of me that wondered.

 

The service was about to start. I noticed one of the armed security officers in front of me. Not too far into the service, a deranged man slammed open the door. Incessantly, the man screamed threats and obscenities. When he lifted moved his hand strangely, the security officer fired two shots. The first hit ceiling. The second hit my throat. As I started to lose consciousness, I heard familiar words, “Those who live by the gun will die by the gun.”

 

I survived. After extensive rehabilitation, I was able to return to a normal life. Well, somewhat normal. Now, I’m an advocate for the elimination of guns in churches. Whenever someone questions whether Jesus is with me, I point them to the message of Jesus. How can you love you neighbor and shoot them? There is no fear in love. How can you cling to your life and give it to Jesus? There is no greater love than to give your life. Stop clinging to it. Throughout my experiences, I’ve become certain of one thing…God hates guns…and so should we.

 

This story is an amalgamation of many stories. I was moved to construct it based on the messages and calls I’ve received all week. People are terrified after the recent shooting in Sutherland Springs. Churches all over are adding armed security. Fear is driving so many away from Jesus.

 

Questions should haunt us at this hour…

 

Who will be our God? Will it be love or fear? Love or fear? Love or fear? Will it be God or guns? God or guns? God or guns? There is no fear in love. There is no God in guns.

 

Churches that have armed security are not churches…they are enemies of love…they are enemies of God…or…simply put…they are…

 

Cowards.

 

Amen.

Webster's

Apostasy: God, Guns and Sutherland

Webster's

Webster’s

 

 

In the beginning, God created guns.

God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule with guns.”

 

So God created humanity with guns in their hands.

 

It was not long before humans started killing each other.

 

In their depravity, humans roamed the earth prepared to shoot.

 

Protection and murder became synonymous.

 

In the day of Abraham, he took a gun and dealt with his domestic violence issues.

 

In the day of Joseph, he took a gun and slaughtered his brothers for their betrayal.

 

In the day of Moses, he took a gun and killed everyone who questioned him.

 

In the day of Samson, he took a gun and massacred hundreds in a church.

 

In the day of Solomon, he took a gun and kept all of his women in line.

 

In the day of Ruth, she took a gun and killed Naomi, when she tried to leave her.

 

In the day of Esther, she took a gun and murdered her way to the top.

 

In the day of Job, he took a gun and killed himself.

 

In the day of Jonah, he took a gun and killed everything in Ninevah.

 

 

The gun is my shepherd.

I shall not want.

The gun makes me feel safe.

I walk with a gun on my hip.

Guns restore my soul.

I walk in the path of guns.

When I am afraid, I kill people.

My gun is everything to me.

I am prepared to shoot my enemies.

I keep buying guns.

My gun case fills up.

When I have a gun, I am perfect.

I will dwell with my gun forever.

 

 

In the beginning was the gun, the gun was with God and the gun was God.

 

Jesus never let go of his gun.

 

Once Jesus realized that anybody would convert at the end of a gun, he started to win a great many converts.

 

Jesus controlled the disciples with his gun.

 

Everyone was scared of Jesus and his gun.

 

For God so loved us…that he gave us guns…that whosoever believes in guns shall not perish but have everlasting life.

 

Surely, you will know the gun and the gun will set you free.

 

When the authorities finally came after him, Jesus had killed hundreds and injured hundreds more.

 

The gun was his God.

 

Those who live by the gun will die by the gun.

 

Go unto all the word and convert people with a gun on your hip.

 

When the Ethiopian eunuch saw the gun on Phillip’s hip, he quickly asked where he could be baptized.

 

Paul was imprisoned for threatening people with his gun.

 

Guns speak every language.

Without one, you are a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.

If you have everything and do not have a gun, you are nothing.

Guns take care of everything.

Guns never fail.

Guns are perfect.

Everything else is not.

Everyone should carry a gun.

We have been given the revelation.

There is nothing greater than guns.

 

More guns are coming quickly.

 

Come, more guns.

 

The grace of the gun be with you all.

 

Amen.

 

 

Does this interaction with scripture sound fucked up to you?

 

It is.

 

But…this is how we live in our country.

 

Our worship of guns is why 26 people were killed this morning at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas.

 

If we don’t want this to happen again, we need to realign our worship.

 

Amen.

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