By Ann-Marie Adams, Ph.D. | @annmarieadams
Life is full of turning points, moments when certain aspects of the human dimension hinges on a single crucial choice. April 4, 2014 was a turning point for me as a Christian.
That’s because the Hartford Police Department interrupted my relationship with God, while I was attending a Catholic church and exploring other faith-based organizations in the Greater Hartford area. Those officers and others disrupted my learning about the ritual of making the sign of the cross, praying, saying penance and singing to God. This disruption was disturbing and can be seen as an act of religious persecution. Out of that kind of interruption by the police, several providential acts occurred, and this, too, can also be considered a continuation of my spiritual journey that began in 2001.
Since 2001, I have visited several other churches in the Greater Hartford area to find a church home that inspires me. I visited ones that seemingly met the criteria: Pentecostal, Protestant, Anglican and Catholic churches after I left my first home church: The African Methodist Episcopal Church, where I learned about liberation theology. It emphasizes social concern for the poor and political liberation for the oppressed. This notion is akin to Portuguese educator Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed. When teaching, I strive to adopt this approach to reach my students.
Of course, that pedagogy and liberation theology in America hinges on the Civil Rights Movement that sees the Bible, particularly the exodus from Egyptian slavery, as a parable of the struggle for black freedom. To me, black liberation is also a spiritual journey and is fit for almost every African American who desire true freedom.
So as a history professor and a journalist, I was interested in tracing and parsing the power of agape love, the kind of love for God, country, and family that propelled me to a comfortable place in life. So I was not restless—just looking for a church to not only worship God but to learn more about God’s second coming and his principles.
Since visiting different churches as a child, I found many pastors don’t often preach about the Holy Spirit. After much thought, I had questions: how will we know when God comes? The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5 verse 2 that God will come “like a thief in the night.” But those who are evil and want to persecute Christians can come just like a thief in the night, right?
This was the case in 2014. Several thieves attacked me in my home just like that. I reported the incident to the Avon and Hartford police departments. And there was no resolution. Instead, there was a series of denials and covert retributions, including media suppression. And those sequence of events led me on a spiritual journey toward being fully aware of the dangers of sharing publicly the joys of being a Christian.
The painful fact is that we live in a time when religious persecution, the systematic mistreatment of an individual or a group is rampant. These persecutions will not be televised. So how do we arm ourselves against such treachery that invades our lives while at home?
On my journey toward edification, I arrived in Hartford. That’s because I wasn’t able to find a church elswhere that dealt directly with the daily battle for souls. I didn’t find a church that comforted me in a time of spiritual warfare instigated by outside forces, wrestling with high principalities during presidential election seasons. I believe some pastors lack sufficient knowledge about the Holy Spirit and therefore fail to impart fully the essence of the Trinity: God, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
As a historian, I was forced to trace this disconnect between these pastors and the biblical events happening in these times: spiritual warfare, diseases, heathens persecuting Christians at night by disrupting prayer time, interfering with reading the Bible, interrupting church attendance, theft and destruction of property, beatings, torture, incitement of hate and other forms of harassment.
I don’t know much about theology, meaning the study of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But I know this much is true: I experienced the joy of being in the moment with God on earth—a magnificent bright and white light ferociously tethered to the heart, soul and body. Pastor John McHugh authenticated that experience for me, and the uncertainty of the existence of God disappeared, especially after McHugh confirmed the encounter. And of course, I thank God for showing me his Mighty presence. That’s because my faith was strong. But I needed proof that there is a God . And God came to awaken me to his wondrous blessings.
And after that encounter with the Mighty God in 2015, I went to Good Friday service and kissed the cross. The cross shook in its wooden cradle. During the veneration of that cross, I discovered that God’s love is indeed fierce. It was a extraordinary and powerful moment. And like a tidal wave, rushing into me, God love was really fierce and forceful. And for the first time, I felt deeply what it meant to be dating Jesus. I’m at a new church now. Let’s see what God has in store for me.
Dr. Ann-Marie Adams is an award-winning journalist and historian. She has worked for the Hartford Courant, the Washington Post, People magazine, Fox News and NBC 4 New York. She received a Ph.D. from Howard University and teaches U.S. History. @annmarieadams
Photo Courtesy of Fairmount Christians.org.