Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A "Road To Damascus" Moment

To not have confidence that people can change, one only needs to read about the story of Saul of Tarsus and his transformation to Paul, the Apostle to the gentile world. From a persecutor of Christians, a man that consented to many people's death, this man was made into a great Apostle and was the largest contributor to what is now known as the New Testament.

Meet Mmoja Ajabu. His "Road To Damascus Moment" is well chronicled in this MLK Day article.

Mmoja Ajabu didn't always embrace the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s philosophy that protest should be peaceful.

When he led the Black Panther Militia in Indiana, Ajabu specifically left open the possibility that armed conflict might be the answer to black oppression.

When he wanted to bring attention to his concerns about a black man's impending execution, he burned an American flag on Monument Circle.

When his son was being prosecuted for a triple murder in Carmel, Ajabu was jailed for making threatening comments toward court officials.

Ajabu, a man disillusioned by his tour of duty in Vietnam and bitter about racism he saw upon his return, thought more along the lines of Malcolm X, who asserted that blacks should seek justice "by any means necessary."

He was an angry man.

What follows is the story behind this man's change of heart, attitudes, and actions. While you read it, consider that this man was in the news, a lot. He was angry. He had a radical agenda that was disruptive and potentially volatile, for years. And for 10 years or so, he hasn't made a peep.

Now, I am not comparing him to Paul. Paul was Paul, he had his calling, and this guy has his. But this guy has really implemented a distinct change in his methods and behavior. Like Saul/Paul was converted, so was Ajabu. Now, instead of intimidating, he is persuading. Whether he realizes it or not, his personal experience was very similar to the Apostle's.

How can this be? Can people filled with this kind of anger and hate genuinely change so drastically? I think they can.

But know this, I cannot personally attest as to the true intentions of this man (or anyone else, for that matter). But I can say this with a surety, it's been many years since this man has made front page of the Indianapolis Star (that is, until yesterday).


Mary Ellen said...


Wow, that was a fascinating story, thanks for sharing it.

I agree, people can change. I think in a sense, people are going through a conversion their entire lives. Every event, every new person that you meet can redirect you to take a different path in life. I'm not sure if this is due to intervention from above or something that is in someones heart from the day of their existence.

I guess this kind of goes to the "bad seed" argument. Are people born to be good and turn bad, or can a person be born with some type of anomaly that prevents them from tapping in on that good? Can a person be born without the ability to love and no matter what the circumstances, they always turn to bad?

Personally, I think anyone can change for the better or for the worse. I've seen some who have lived their lives believing in God and doing what they called "God's work", and then a tragedy will happen and they suddenly turn into what seems to be a different person.

Just recently, someone had pointed out a poll that said a majority (can't remember the stats) of Americans say they never doubted the existence of God. I replied that I thought that poll wasn't that accurate. Not that the poll wasn't taken properly, but that many people forget the times in their lives that they had doubts or just don't want to admit they've had doubts because that would mean their faith wasn't as strong as they wanted people to think. I think it's human nature to have doubts, not just about God, but everything. We aren't robots who are fed data and we don't veer from that data. Feelings and emotions play into every part of our lives.

In my Christian view, God gave us free will for a reason. We can't learn and grow without it. Maybe God intervenes from time to time to give us a little shove in the right direction...who knows? Some may need more, like a bolt of lightning that knocks them off a horse, some may just need a whisper. I try to listen to the whispers...I always hated lighting. :-D

Mark said...

Hi LA - long time since commenting but have been checking in. Like the new site...interesting for me as a former believer to weigh in and analyze from my present point of view.

I enjoy conversion stories like this. Personal. To the man. And what a greater impact on those around him this made has made as a peaceful mover for change than a confrontational fist raiser.

I think one of the real problems with christianity and religions in general is the "mass movement/large group influence" that they have. These things are of a personal and individual nature. One's own heart doesn't move along with the congregation. Same goes with raising children into a faith - they don't have personal conversions because it's ingrained that this is idea is right and proper and anything other than toeing the line is punishable.
For this reason I agree with you when you say a streetcorner preacher accomplishes nothing but being annoying.

Anyway...some things.

I appreciate your open-mindedness and enjoy what you have to say.

Mary Ellen said...


I agree with you regarding following a religion as a mass congregation or a movement. This is something I battle with all the time. Although I am a Catholic, I can't tell you how many things about the church laws that I disagree with. I'm always questioning their black and white views on what they consider "right" and "wrong" or sinful and pure. However, I do believe in much of it, including the Sacrament of the Eucharist. So, how does a person like me follow what I think are the teachings of Christ and not be part of the Catholic Church, which is the only church whose main tenet is transubstantiation? This is a dilemma with many in the Catholic Church.

Regarding the teaching of children a particular faith, I don't think I can agree with that. If you are making the case (I'm not sure if you are) that children can't have their own personal conversions because of what and how they are taught. That doesn't make any sense to me because many children who are taught in a particular faith will leave it for a completely different faith. I've know Catholics who have left the church to follow Buddhism or to later become atheists (like my husband). Also, how is a conversion a one time thing? Isn't it an ongoing learning process in many cases? It doesn't always have to be a bolt of lightening that will convert someone or even a tragedy. Sometimes it's just a feeling for a need for something more, something bigger. No?

Mary Ellen said...


Ok...this is off topic. I was checking out your profile to see if you were a different Mark and I noticed you are from or live in Nevada? I have a lot of family there, are you standing on Mount Charleston by any chance? Just curious. :-)

Mary Ellen said...

ooops... mark,

I should have looked at that last comment closer. Of course, I meant are you standing on Mount Charleston in the picture...not now. :-D

A.C. McCloud said...

I agree, people can change. I think in a sense, people are going through a conversion their entire lives. Every event, every new person that you meet can redirect you to take a different path in life.

I've often wondered about the lifelong conversion concept, since I feel like that's been my story so far. What of those who don't live long enough to reach such a point? The thought that God takes sides or gives some more than others has always been perplexing. Maybe it'll be crystal clear one day.

nanc said...

you will know them by their fruit. really simple enough.

succinct, yet profound.

Mark said...

Hi Mary Ellen,

Yes, I live in northern Nevada and no, that's not Mt. Charleston. I guess I haven't lived here long enough to know where Mt. Charleston is. I spend a lot of time on Mt. Rose riding the board though. The picture is from Snowmass in Colorado.

As far as the children in the faith thing - Because the decision is such a personal one I feel raising children in a black or white wrong or right sense in that particular faith is silly. I know parents do what they think is right. No problem with that. But they should understand that their children are not themselves...or something like that. Most children raised strictly in a fairly strict religion end up leaving it anyway. It seems more likely if the parent left it open and let them explore and question many things the child would first respect their parents more (I would have) and therefore would more likely choose the route their parents had chosen. That'd make mom and pops happy.

Sometimes it's just a feeling for a need for something more, something bigger. No?

Yep. I generally put those feelings under the heading of "fear of death" and what happens after...that's just me. I've decided that I'll be worm food - and it has really made my life much more enjoyable because I don't want to waste it.

Mary Ellen said...


Well, it's obvious that you love the snow, so maybe you won't be worm food, but frozen in a block of ice later to be put on display in a museum. :-D

I understand what you mean about children who are raised in a very strict religious atmosphere. My kids were/are being raised by me (Catholic) and my husband (atheist) so my kids never felt that kind of pressure to conform to a certain faith. The agreement my husband and I had was that the kids could be raised Catholic and go for religious education. The reason for that is I felt they needed to know what it is they are rejecting. I wanted them to make an educated decision, not one based on being too lazy to go to church. If they choose at the time of their Confirmation (16 years old) not to follow through with the faith, no problem. In fact, if they had decided earlier on, say 10 years old, that they weren't interested, that was fine. There was never any pressure. I never had to argue or force my kids to attend classes or go to church.

Out of four children, two are practicing Catholics and two aren't. None of them have rejected the idea of God, but those who are not practicing any faith just don't believe in an organized religion. Again...that's fine with me, I think they have to find their own way.

I do have my arguments against organized religion, but I try not to get too caught up in the little details and look at the whole picture instead. This doesn't always go over well with those in the church who are extreme fundamentalists, but they aren't my concern. I think that some people throw out all common sense when it comes to religion, which is a shame, they are missing so much when they do that, IMHO.

I'm lucky, though. I have a husband who doesn't have the same belief's as me, but is very respectful of my own views. In fact, he has gone out of his way before to make it easier for me to get to church and he always attends the kids baptisms, First Communion, Confirmations, etc. I have a lot more respect for him than I do for those who call themselves Christians and are busy condemning everyone who differs from their narrow views.

Mark said...

Mary Ellen,

Thumbs up to you for how you've raised your kids. Sounds like a good job to me. And to your husband. Sounds a good man.

LASunsett said...


Thanks for stopping by, sir.

Hang on, when this thing gets rolling more, it's really going to roll. Many years of history to cover, won't come easy. But, we will try to put it all into some kind of reasonable perspective.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew, though. ;)

Mark said...

Hi LA,

Lots and lots to cover.. depending upon how deep you go. What makes it great is the perspective of your readers. I'm six years on from rejecting my faith and am still surprised at the diversity of reasons/explanations/excuses I hear from all walks of people.

I really find it some of the most intriguing discourse - that is the conversations between believers and non and half-so's and maybes. Please keep it up if you have the time.

I'd also like to say congrats to the Colts - since you're from the area and I've got some family through sister in-laws there. They're crazy. Go Peyton, hope he gets the monkey off in two weeks.

nanc said...

when are you going to put a new post up?

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