Real Talk About Race: Lest We Forget: History Defines the Future

Angela Chavischavaf13
Guest Contributor

July 2, 1964 was a proud day for many Americans! With a quick stroke of the pen, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed an unprecedented piece of legislation into history. Pubic Law 88–352, 78 Stat. 241, better known as the Civil Rights Act, opened the flood gates that allowed many people an opportunity to realize the “American dream” for the first time. Continue reading

Why I Am a ?????

Kim Priddypridk11
Guest Contributor

Honestly, the timing of this question could not be anymore serendipitous.  As I finish my third year of divinity school and begin discerning my ordination, the question that I find myself asking is “Who am I?” instead of “Why I am?”  Ashley Cyre, a Wake Divinity School alumnus, described me at a Metho-Bapterian.  When I applied to Wake Divinity, I was working in a Methodist Church. The Methodist tradition is the church in which I spent most of my formative years; it is where I was baptized, confirmed, and felt the call to be a ministry leader.  Not long after being accepted at Wake Divinity I decided after prayerful discernment that I wanted to seek ordination under the care of the Presbyterian tradition and Salem Presbytery.  Continue reading

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Kill Your Laptop!

smash compby Lisa Page
Staff Writer

Wake Div, we have a problem. Our school has accepted a culture of in-class technology use that, in the words of a couple beloved professors, is “Rude!” and “Disrespectful of [the professor] and the material.” I couldn’t agree more. Our professors spend years becoming experts in their field and hours preparing for every lecture. For students, listening and engaging earnestly is a matter of respect. Last week I was part of a group of students presenting in Dr. Shaner’s New Testament class. As I stood at the front I counted no less than 10 students who were completely engrossed in their computers. Some would occasionally look up and nod or smile, but it was clear based on what we were saying and their facial expressions that they had no idea what was going on. I was angry at the way my classmates disregarded our presentation. And I’ll never forget the time I saw a classmate hiding behind her laptop screen to listen to a voicemail! Do you think the professors don’t notice? Do you think they can’t see you staring blankly at your screen? Do you think they don’t see you typing text messages on your phone?

But an utter lack of manners and professionalism isn’t the only problem. Multitasking is a lie. Studies conclude that while multitasking might make us feel effective, we actually aren’t giving anything our full attention and all tasks suffer as a result. And, in case you thought taking notes on your computer was more studious or thorough, new studies indicate that those who take hand written notes do better on exams. Your ability to retain and synthesize information while taking notes on a computer is lower than the ability to do so while taking hand written notes. It is science, people.

Unfortunately, that’s assuming you are taking notes. Many of you aren’t. When you are on Facebook, managing your fantasy football team, reading blogs, buying music, writing a paper for another class, or planning your next vacation you aren’t absorbing the material, which begs these questions:

  • “If you choose to spend all of your class time doing something other than listening to the lecture or engaging in dialogue, why are you in divinity school?
  • Is it just to get your degree?
  • If so, why not an online program (surely that’s cheaper)?
  • And finally, if you want to become a pastor but you just skate through div school, how does that prepare you for THE WORK OF THE LORD?”

Personally, I take divinity school seriously because I want to be a better pastor than I would be without the education. And, honestly, I’d like the reputation of Wake Div to be upheld by others who also take their education seriously and strive to become good ministers.

Technology use in the classroom is also distracting to the rest of us. Studies show that not only do computer users suffer from distractions, but others in class are also distracted and subsequently understand and retain less of the lecture content.

Finally, consider back channel conversations. When you share your observations, complaints, and ideas only with your friends via G-chat, Facebook IM, text, or other communicative mediums during class, you rob the rest of us of your perspective. Class would be a helluva lot more engaging if more people were listening and participating in conversation. Instead, many folks send their friends a note and then withdraw from the material and from the accountability and support of the classroom community.

Professors, please take note; as students, we feel frustrated and discouraged when our attention and hard work results in the same grades as those students who feel free to spend the semester online during class. Perhaps it is time for the Wake Forest School of Divinity to consider the technology policies of other graduate schools at Wake Forest as well as other divinity school and seminaries around the country. In the interim, maybe it’s time for students to kill their laptops.

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Eugene Delacroix c. 1861

Wrestling With God: Is Divinity School Even Worth It?

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Eugene Delacroix c. 1861by Brian Hayes
Staff Writer

It’s hour 13 of writing that paper I’ve been putting off all semester. I glance out the window of my living room and realize that it’s now dark again. I never even saw the sun today. I’ve been glued to a chair since I woke up. This sedentary lifestyle is killing me. My nose has been stuck in books all day. My eyes feel as if they will be permanently fixed on a computer screen for the entirety of my existence. I can’t remember the last engaging conversation I had with my wife, or with anyone for that matter. I’m utterly exhausted, but sleep is not an option. Why am I doing this, anyway? Is it really worth it?

It’s moments like these I feel like being in divinity school makes me miss out on life. In the seemingly never-ending abyss of work, I often feel a desperate longing to do something real and tangible in the world. Reading, writing, and studying can feel so far removed from things that matter in life. I often find myself yearning for the chance to break out of this and actually practice what I’m learning. Heartbreakingly, the gulf between what I believe and what I do feels ever widening, as academic requirements demand more and more of my time. I just want to live.

As divinity school students, there is a very real sense in which we miss out on life at times. See this week’s top 10 for some examples of sacrifices we all have to make to be devoted to a theological education. While this feeling of detachment from life is uncomfortable and frustrating at times, it is not without purpose. Being forced to prioritize our academic pursuits over other aspects of life is a vital part of our preparation for ministry.

This all-consuming element of our theological education teaches us that ministry is more about being than doing. In divinity school, we are learning to be ministry in the world with all that we are, not just to do ministry with part of ourselves. The vocation we are all striving for (in whatever form) is not just a job, but an all-encompassing identity. By having to commit ourselves so fully to our studies now, we are being equipped to become completely devoted to being “agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion” in the world. Jesus’ vocation cost him his life; ours will too.

However, there is also an important sense in which our academic efforts are real life. What we do here in divinity school not only has matters for some future preparation; it matters now. The work we are doing is grounded in God’s cosmic reality. I like to see our striving as the age-old work of Jacob at Peniel: wrestling with God. Through our studies, we daily evaluate foundational concepts about humanity, ourselves, and the Divine. Many of us weekly change our minds about earth-shattering questions that desolate our long-held worldviews.

What we do here in divinity school is hard work, but it is good work. It’s not safe. In fact, it’s incredibly risky. It can leave us shaken and unstable. The things that have grounded us (and even our very identities themselves) are regularly challenged and transformed in this educational process. Like Jacob, many of us come away limping with a new name.

While our theological reflection sometimes feels isolated from reality, we must remember that it is undeniably real. Through our work here at Wake Div, we are living into the alternate transcendent reality of the Kingdom of God and bringing it down into intersection with this world. Like Jacob, we desire God’s blessing. We want God’s affirmation that we are representing God will in the world. We wrestle with God daily in search of that validation. Despite its intangibility, this wrestling is a very real experience. May the reality and necessity of our work encourage us as we go and keep us faithful to the end.

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If You Ignore the Mosquitoes, Summer Is Pretty Great

photography-tumblr-summer30--lovely-summer-pictures-2trl2l9sBy Elizabeth Corney
Staff Writer

Behind that mountain of papers and past the valley of death that is exam week, there is deliverance. Summer is there waiting for you. The Pinterest Mafia would have you believe that everyone’s favorite season is fall. When else can you legitimately become obsessed with all things pumpkin? Since I am unable follow directions, I probably should not have a Pinterest. I don’t even like chevron (gasp!). Summer is the time not to stress about the details and let the basics be good enough. For people like me, it’s a lifesaver. All the simple, easy to prepare for holidays occur during the warmer months. Every celebration can be taken care of with a grill and some ice cream. Even the dress code is significantly relaxed, as in you don’t have to wear actual pants. Comfortable sandals are in and they go perfectly with cut-off jeans or a cotton dress. The heat makes it ok to take the easy way out and just enjoy the season for what it is. It is acceptable to spend an entire Saturday in a hammock or at the pool. The weather invites us to slow down and relax.

Giving up summer vacation is probably the worst thing about growing up. Apparently, people with jobs continue working during the warm months. I’m thankful for this. Thankful for work and workers. My appreciation of work does not stop me from missing the slip n slides, the water balloon fights, the lazy days spent inside because of the heat warning.

The best things about summer stick with you. Even though I’m old and grumpy, I still catch fireflies, swim, and apply too little sunscreen. I love the smell of summer: the burgers on the grill, grass, strawberry ice cream. This year, you might catch me blowing off productivity entirely at least for a few days. I realize that the sweltering heat and exponential mosquito population outweigh the benefits for some (or maybe everyone except me). If you are allergic to heat, do not despair. When the sticky haze overwhelms you this year, thank God for air conditioning, eat a Popsicle and remember that it will soon be pumpkin season.

 

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Bikini Bod? Try Speedo Bod: Issues of Masculinity and Body

fatBy Chris Rinker
Guest Contributor

I want to start by saying I don’t claim to speak for all males. What follows is purely my own experience, and while I don’t doubt that many people will find resonance with it, I also don’t pretend that my experience is the same as everyone else’s. Still, I don’t think this is said as often as it should be: men have issues with body image too.

Now, I’m not at all disputing the fact that women have it much worse than men when it comes to body image in our society; I’m just here to share my own story. If you know me, you may never suspect that I have body image issues. I like to work out, and I like to wear muscle shirts. I am not obese, and when I think about it, most people probably don’t consider me to be “fat”. The truth is, though, that I have never felt adequately skinny, fit, or attractive – not since I was told I was getting chubby when I was eight years old. I struggled with my weight all through middle school and my freshman year of high school, not being able to make many friends and getting made fun of by the few friends I did have. I was finally able to lose twenty pounds the summer before my sophomore year. Twenty pounds. Now, I still wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I remember most people saying I looked good, I looked skinny, etc. Only twenty pounds overweight, and somewhere along the way my sense of self-worth got tied into the way I felt about my body; I have had body image issues ever since. I can only imagine what it must be like for people who are more overweight than that.

The thing is, despite all my workouts, all my diets, I have never been able to get rid of all the fat. I have never been able to look like the guys on the covers of magazines with the washboard abs and the swimmer’s V and oh how I have tried so hard because if only I could look like that, I would be attractive. I think this is why I (and many other people) work out and wear tight-fitting clothing – it’s not because I’m trying to show off, it’s because I want to feel attractive.

Of course, I thought this would all go away when I got married. It didn’t. I still have some deep insecurities about my body, believing that if I ever get overweight again my wife will stop being attracted to me. I’m still confused as to why she was attracted to me in the first place and I need near constant affirmation that she still is. This is of course completely my issue and has nothing to do with her – I married an amazing woman, and I’m grateful for her every single day. But what does all this say about the way our society treats bodies, of all genders?

There have been many body image campaigns going around recently, all of them (by my count) about female bodies. These are most certainly needed. But ladies, please know that you are not alone in this struggle. There are many men out there, myself included, who feel insecure about their bodies. I guess the truth is that we all need to be reminded that we are made in the image of God, no matter who we are or what we look like.

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Choosing Not to Fear

fearBy Pia Diggs
Staff Writer

As I enter the last few weeks of the first semester I am confronted once again with something all too familiar, something that has been present to some extent as long as I can remember.  It haunted me as a child when I watched my parents’ marriage crumble.  It was given life again at the age of sixteen when I was forced to process my childhood.  It rematerialized when I was twenty-one and began to have nightmares that would always wake me up in tears.  The eve of my twenty-sixth birthday required me to look it dead in the eye.  Lying in Duke Hospital, I asked, “Am I about to lose my life?”

I was forced to confront FEAR!   It took me years to find the root of all of these fears and finally I reached a new peace.  Fear can simply be defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. In light of this definition, I embraced what the faith community told me as well: Fear is little more that False Evidence Appearing Real.  This was the secret to my new peace!

At the conclusion of my first semester of divinity school, fear seemed to have been given life yet again.  I heard the fear, I heard the anxiety, and I heard the uncertainty in the voices of my classmates, my friends, and my family.  How did we all arrive at this place at the same time?

I visited a student of mine over the weekend.  They were watching the movie After Earth.  I can’t tell you much of the storyline since I only saw about 30 minutes of the movie but I heard the Will Smith’s character utter these powerful words that challenged me once again to be confronted by fear.  He said, “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.”

Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts concerning the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present—and may not ever—exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.

The semester officially ends in approximately one week. How much fear will we carry with us and do we really have a choice?

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Sexual Assault and Purity Culture

saam1By Jessica Place
Staff Writer

Throughout my teen years, I was totally immersed in abstinence culture. I took a True Love Waits pledge, wore a purity ring, and thought Jaci Velasquez’s abstinence ballad was the most romantic song ever.

During this time, I heard the words “purity” and “virtue” and “temptation” about a million times. But in almost 6 years of exposure to abstinence education and abstinence bible studies, I never once heard the word consent.

Consent isn’t just invisible in purity culture. Consent is irrelevant. Purity culture frames all sex outside of heterosexual marriage as bad, and all sex inside heterosexual marriage as good. This increases the harm done by sexual assault in three major ways:

First of all, the problem of marital rape is not acknowledged. The very idea that a woman can be raped by her husband does not fit into this framework, since marriage is seen as an agreement to be unconditionally sexually available to your spouse, and all sex that takes place within marriage is seen as intrinsically moral. So people who are sexually assaulted by their spouses are silenced, with no one to turn to for help.

Secondly, people who are sexually assaulted outside of marriage are seen as being as “guilty” as those who have consensual sex outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage = bad, so even if you didn’t consent to sex, you are tainted by sexual sin. So people who are sexually assaulted outside of marriage are shamed and often even blamed for the violence that has been committed against them. Samantha Field has written an excellent series of articles exposing the way Pensacola Christian College, along with other Christian schools like Bob Jones University and Patrick Henry College, enact policies that re-victimize survivors of sexual assault and side with their attackers. You can read her first exposé here. (Trigger warning for accounts of sexual violence.)

Lastly, and most troublingly, purity culture does not do an effective job of teaching young men why sexual assault is wrong. A common rhetorical question I heard asked to young men during abstinence education was “How would you feel if you knew that someone is having sex with your future wife?” The idea of another man “taking” what is “yours” was depicted as emasculating – again, consent did not come into the picture at all. Framing women’s bodies as men’s property contributes to behavior that treats women’s bodies as objects to be controlled by men. I am not claiming that all teenage boys who grow up in purity culture become rapists; this is clearly not the case. However, the irrelevance of consent in the purity framework contributes to the harm done to the souls of young men who live in a culture that is already replete with misogynistic ideals. They need better education – like the guidance provided by the great organization Men Can Stop Rape – in order to be able to understand the meaning and importance of consent.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it should serve as a reminder to us that as religious leaders, we have incredible power to impact the sexual ethics of our communities. We can help bring consent to the center of the discussion. We can build environments that provide safety and care to survivors of sexual assault. We can help raise young men who reject misogyny and violence in all forms. Whatever small part we do, we have to do something. From the expulsion of sexual assault victims at Pensecola to the abuse of children by Catholic priests to the hush-hush politics around sexual assault at Sovereign Grace Ministries, it is sadly but undeniably clear that sexual assault isn’t just a problem that’s out there in “the world,” it’s a Christian problem. Purity culture doesn’t work. It’s time for Christianity to become a culture of consent.

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Embracing Doubt, Affirming Our Calls

pigeon_forge_chapel2This article was written by three members of the pastoral care committee. In the article, we tell of a time we have faced significant doubt of belonging, and how that doubt impacted our sense of calling. We’d love for you to read our stories and find words of encouragement, but if you read nothing else, please read the last two paragraphs!

Erica Walecka

We use this quote a lot by Frederick Buechner in Lutheran circles: “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” My first year at Wake, I hated that quote. I didn’t come to Wake because of a “deep gladness” – I came because it was the only place that felt safe after experiencing the dark side of church work. I was miserable that year not only because I didn’t feel like I belonged here (as I struggled to find any kind of passion) but also because I didn’t have any idea what my deep gladness was. It wasn’t doubt in my call- doubt at least entertains possibility. I was certain that I had made a huge wrong turn and should just try and find a job. I decided that if I didn’t feel different by the end of my second semester, I was going to drop out. On one of my first visits in the hospital during CPE, a woman was desperately searching for God, so we prayed – hard – not just for her, but for me, too. In supporting her, I found God’s arms wrapped so tightly around me I could hardly breathe; God made me for something important, and I am enough just as I am. It has taken these last two years to finally allow God to convince me of that fact – that I am enough – and I finally feel like I know what my deep gladness is, and can see the many ways that my passion can meet some of the deep hungering in the world. I know I will continue to grow and learn about where God has called me, but at least for now, I can rest in the certainty of being passionate, called, and “enough.”

Kristin Fulton

Sometime during the first few weeks of my first semester in Divinity school, I remember looking at all of the new faces around me and thinking, “This is surreal. I’m here, at Wake Forest, pursuing my call. How did I end up here?”

As the weeks progressed and the novelty of this place wore off, my questioning changed from, “how did I get here,” to “why do I stay here?” I found myself feeling like the wind was being knocked out of me as my theological foundations were being ripped out from underneath my feet. Everything I had once held so dear had come into question. And yet, even while I was catching my breath, I realized I desperately needed these beautiful and challenging questions. By questioning I have found I’m no longer satisfied by other people’s answers. Now the answers that I will hold as truths are the ones that I have gained through the struggle of questioning. They are the answers that have risen from the depths of my heart and soul, oftentimes through tears. It’s through my questioning of faith, religion, and even God that I have begun to solidify my beliefs.

There have been times during this first year that the questioning has taken over, leaving me with feelings of doubt, frustration, and sorrow. I find myself leaving first year not standing on firm theological ground anymore, asking the same questions of belonging. And, yet, even while standing on this shaky ground I catch glimpses, reminders, of a call. I find glimpses in one-on-one conversations, encouraging words, a professor’s prayer before class, or through a warm embrace. It’s in these moments that I remember that before I came to Wake Forest, I was called. God called me in a very personal and intimate way. In the end, when it’s all said and done, answering my call is all that really matters.

Patrick Cardwell

At the beginning of this semester, I had my share of doubts about continuing my education at Wake Forest. I felt that my voice was being drowned out and wasn’t quite as convinced that this was the place for me. As a result of this doubt of belonging, I began to doubt other things as well, including my call to ministry. This doubt of belonging and call created stress and fear in my life of what it may look like to relocate or possibly be forced to rediscover what I would do with my life. Thankfully, after many conversations with friends and faculty, I decided to stay. I’m looking forward to the next two years here at WakeDiv, but the decision to stay has not come without doubt of place and self.

Looking ahead

For some of us, doubt allows us to question the deepest foundations of our faith, pushing us to rediscover why we do what we do. Sometimes this rediscovery and process of questioning takes us a different route than we initially anticipated, and we experience judgment and shame because of it. Doubt may allow us to more clearly hear the voice of God calling us elsewhere on our journey to self-discovery, but that doesn’t mean that shame should follow us. God has called each of us in one way or another. For some, like us, this call continues here at Wake Forest; for others, the call continues elsewhere. Both calls are equally valid and beautiful. Each of us, whether returning in the fall or beginning a new journey, has a responsibility to God and to ourselves to remember who we are and who it is that has called us. To those of you who we will see next year, we look forward to sharing the journey at WakeDiv with you. To those of you who will be going elsewhere, know that we as a community have been blessed by your presence, and we are grateful for your time here. We simply want to offer a word of affirmation of your call, wherever that is: we have seen your gifts and been blessed by your God-given goodness. Wherever you go, whatever you do, know that you carry our blessing and gratefulness with you.

May this summer be a time of blessed reflection, renewal and listening – that you may rediscover your passions and the things that brought you to Wake. May your next steps be filled with continued discernment and hope, that God may use your uniquely crafted selves to spread love, seek justice, and bring peace. May your calling into ministry awaken in you a passion that feeds your soul and brings joy to your heart. May you know that there is no one else in the world who can do what you are called to do!

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Racism Is Alive and, Well, It’s Getting Old

jazz-clippers-basketballBy John-Mark Brown
Staff Writer

As I have previously reported for this journal, today’s professional sports carry the burden of racialization. This reality is apparent when different members of the media ascribe heavy-handed, pejorative terms to describe athletes, who choose to “trash talk” or step outside the prescribed norm of the day. However, the issue of racism becomes center court when an 80-year-old NBA owner makes private comments that become public knowledge. Similar to the leaked video that led to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign implosion, TMZ (in all its journalistic integrity) released a sound clip over the weekend that will rattle the both the National Basketball Association and the professional sports world for days to come.

Donald T. Sterling, a former attorney and current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, finds himself caught in a web of words he can’t unsay and a milieu of cultural stigmas he can’t unlearn. TMZ leaked a jam-packed nine-minute audio clip of Sterling conversing with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano. Throughout the clip, Sterling bashes his girlfriend for posting Instagram pictures with athletes, such as Magic Johnson (Hall of Fame basketball player and current partial owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers) and Matt Kemp (star center fielder for the Dodgers). Sterling steers the conversation, over and over again, to the issue of Stiviano’s Instagram account, where the photos first appeared. He emphasizes the importance of loving minorities “privately.” He utterly loses his shit when he considers the public implications of his girlfriend’s photos. Sterling, so incensed with racial hatred, continues to blather about doing anything with minorities, just as long as it is not on Instagram.

Specifically, Sterling berates Stiviano for publicly embracing minorities. Stiviano, identifying herself as both black and Mexican, boldly stands against Sterling’s flurries of racist. In the midst of the argument, he attempts to calm his own xenophobia by stating, “You’re supposed to be a delicate white or a delicate Latina girl.” Just this snippet alone floods the eardrums with a revolting amount of personal prowess and corrupt relational expectations. In a mere sentence, Sterling tosses away any agency for Stiviano and her identity. He confines her to his own vile palate. He violently denies her ability to define herself. To him, she can be reduced to a “delicate white girl.”

Understanding the rich implications of Sterling’s comments, Stiviano reminds him that he currently employs a number of minorities. The Clippers, as every other team in the NBA, has a number of black players. Shockingly enough, a fourth decade owner of an NBA team sees himself as a Mr. Drummond of sorts. He relatively gloats about giving players and coaches money for different uses. In this section of the conversation, one can intricately see Sterling’s superiority complex. He interprets his material wealth and position as owner of the Clippers as an indicator that he is, for all intents and purposes, above being publicly seen with his employees. Sterling stands above his girlfriend, his players, and his coaches.

So, what is most disturbing about this outburst? Is it that we, as inhabitants of the 21st century, are still dealing with systemic racism? That a white man attempts to nullify his girlfriend’s individual experience? That a young woman apologizes for the color of her skin and online pictures? That a man sees associates and employees as “others,” who must be kept at a distance? That hateful people still cast a critical gaze on the black body, on minorities, on the woman who is “…supposed to be a delicate white girl?” That hate, propelled by fear, still cripples people into hiding behind cultural stigmas and hurtful language?

As long as Donald Sterling remains the owner of the Clippers, the NBA passively condones his hateful ideologies. As long as V. Stiviano is relegated to the description of a porcelain doll, she cannot fully live into her human experience. As long as individuals spew abhorrent language about black persons, we fail to create a place where all are welcomed and all voices are wanted.

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Third Year Spotlight Turns to Martin Lawson

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By Brandon Hubbard-Heitz
Editor-in-Chief

Not everyone at Wake Divinity runs a dorm, sustains a marriage, rears children (and grandchildren!), and publishes a book while working towards their Master of Divinity. Then again, not everyone is Martin Lawson. Here’s his story:

Let’s start with the book. What is it about and how on earth did you have the time to write it?

My Brother’s Keeper is a testimony. God was calling me and working in me, but I was reluctant to let go. I was holding onto this lifestyle that was bad for me, but it was what I knew.

As a non-traditional student, it all comes down to time management. I’m a Graduate Hall Director, I’ve been married for 15 years to my wife Meko, I have a 25-year-old daughter, a 20-year-old daughter, and a 14-year-old son, and 3 grandchildren in Atlanta.

What were you doing before you came to Wake Div?

I was born in Chicago, raised in Seattle, and spent time in New York City and Atlanta. I got caught up in the drug world of Seattle for 10 years. Even though I was saved in 1988, I still struggled. I rededicated my life to Christ in 1998 and came out of the streets and into church. I became a deacon, was head of security at the church, while also working in children’s and street outreach ministries. At some point I became disillusioned, because I felt like there was more.

In 2006, I realized in prayer, I have to be 100% committed to my ministry. I believe God saved me from what he brought me out of and it wasn’t just so I could exist. I was brought out of the pit so I can reach back in and pull someone out of it.

At the same time, I didn’t feel like I was being sent to preach. What came to me was Paul’s message in 2 Timothy 2:15—“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.” I went to Bible college and got an A.A. and a B.A., but it wasn’t accredited, so I went back to Seattle University with a scholarship. I spent two years there and got my B.A. in theology and religious studies and graduated with departmental honors and magna cum laude.

Why did you come to Wake Div?

My wife wanted to live in the South, so I applied to Vanderbilt, Emory, and Wake Forest. When I came for the Wait Fellowship interview, I felt a sense of peace on campus.

What about your experiences at Wake Div have challenged you?

Most of us come here with our own understandings of Christianity. And then we get in this setting and we begin to have conversations with people who have different life experiences. Although I may not agree with everyone, these experiences have challenged me to become more clear in my viewpoints and to better articulate what it is that I believe.

It’s like a debate team in which you have to be able to argue both sides and approach the issue from either angle. It’s challenged me to first and foremost seek a better understanding of what I believe and why I believe that way. And I’ve had to tear some things away.

Wake Div has also challenged me to be more open and understanding towards those who have different views and to see how Christ is in all of it. It’s not my role to judge anyone or to enforce any theology or doctrine. I believe God has called me to be a light expressing the love of Christ. Once people meet Christ, God will help them figure out what they should believe or do.

What professors and classes have changed you? How?

They all have. My first semester I took Christian Theology with Frank Tupper. Tupper said Jesus didn’t throw himself off the temple because he knew he couldn’t fly. I actually dropped his class and I said I have to get into this later.

Dr. Hicks too. A lot of African American spiritualities touched home and helped me with my struggles with western Christianity and Christians who participated in the slave trade.

I can’t forget Dr. Walls and his class on Egypt. I went with him to Israel and got to pray at the Western Wall on the Sabbath. Words can’t describe how it felt. I have never felt the presence of God like that. And that experience challenged me on what it means to seek and serve God. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists. What does God say? It was there among all of the Jews that I felt God most.

And then there are Drs. Leonard, Miles, O’Day and Jung!

Where do you feel God guiding you vocationally once you graduate?

What I would love to do is a sports chaplaincy at the professional or college level. I’ve also done a lot of work with at risk youth and men coming out of addiction. I think my book will come to play in my ministry. And I’m open to youth ministry. I have some brands in the fire. At some point I intend to pursue my doctorate.

Any advice you wish someone had given you when you started Wake Div?

Two things. You may leave here with more questions than you had when you got here and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It should be your life’s goal to continue to seek those answers.

Be open and be willing to be challenged because God is so massive. I would be fearful of the individual who says they have all of the answers.

Martin Lawson’s book, My Brother’s Keeper is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He also has copies if you would like to purchase the book directly from him.