CONVERSION: IT IS POSSIBLE!
I attended a lecture by Joseph Pearce. He began by singing the first verse of "Amazing Grace." "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved as wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see."
At the age of 15, Joseph Pearce joined the British National Front, a far-right political party opposed to multi-racial and multi-cultural England. At the age of 16, he set-up the BULLDOG, the paper of the organization. His parents never went to church and never prayed. He attended a school whose motto above the door was: "To your own self be true." These words are from Shakespeare's HAMLET, Act 1, Scene 3, spoken by Polonius to his son, Laertes. Joseph said this motto described his life. He spoke of his brief stint as a singer in a punk rock band. He spoke of a song he sang with the band which included the words: "White power! Smash, smash! Yanks, go home!"
He was imprisoned twice. His conversion occurred during his second imprisonment. He was given a book written by C.K. Chesterton. It changed his life. He then read C.S. Lewis, followed by reading John Newton's conversion story. All the books pointed to the "Amazing grace of God!" Of Chesterton, Joseph spoke of his humor and humility. Joseph quoted Chesterton: "Anything that's worth doing, is worth doing badly." He coupled this with Chesterton's allusion to the value of standing on your head and seeing the world differently. Joseph liked Chesterton's comment about conversation: "We always argued, but never quarrelled."
Through these writings, Christ came to "make sense" to Joseph. It led him to what he describes as a "rational faith." His book is titled, RACE WITH THE DEVIL: MY JOURNEY FROM RACIAL HATRED TO RATIONAL FAITH." Faith in Christ led him to conclude that racism is overcome through love, all through the amazing grace of God. The alternative, life without Christ, without God, leads only to the "Three G's: Guillotine, Gulag, and Genocide", referring to the French Revolution, Communism, and the Third Reich. Joseph is now the Director of the Center for Faith and Culture at Aquinas College in Nashville.
The relevance of Joseph's story for today is exemplified in the conflicts between Blacks-Hispanics-Asians-Whites-Native Americans-Muslims-Christians-Sunnis-Shiites-Russians-Chinese-Republicans-Democrats-Fundamentalists-Mainlines-Gays-Straights-Ferguson and.... The list is seemingly endless. Dealing with diversity and differences present the greatest challenges to peace and justice.
Hatred is easy. Love takes work. The Apostle Paul is insightful: "The evil I do not want to do, that I do. The good I want to do, that I do not do." I take heart in God's words in Revelation 21:5: "See, I am make all things new!" This is "amazing grace." It is by grace that our hearts are changed and our actions focused to justice, peace, and reconciliation. Grace causes conversion. It is possible!