4. He considered turning to Christian rap… briefly.
In addition to a landslide of fan mail, Wayne also received a compelling letter from a church, urging him to use his artistry to spread the gospel. And for a moment, Wayne considered it. “I would truly have the power of having pop culture turn to God,” he wrote. “I would have straight killers in church every Sunday.”
But later on, the rapper said he had an epiphany that he was where he was supposed to be in his artistic journey — at least for the moment.
Although, Lil Wayne ultimately decided not to become a Christian rapper, I applaud the church that1.paid enough attention to pop culture to know that Lil Wayne was in jail (0r even who he is) 2. took his salvation seriously enough to reach out him at what probably was his lowest point…And although he may not have turned his life over to God at this point, a seed was obviously planted and God can make it bloom in His own time…
It was a joyous occasion in the A when Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane who had served three years in an Indiana federal penitentiary was released earlier this year…I wonder if any church or any individual Christian thought to reach out to him for Christ when he was locked up…I certainly didn’t…
So wanna know a secret? I’m not big on evangelizing…I’ve been around Christians all of my life, and I became a Christian when I was a teenager but the evangelism piece has always scared me…I remember times when I was a kid I would go along with my father and a group from the church who would knock on doors and tell people about Jesus Christ. I enjoyed that mostly because I liked to see how other people lived, and I enjoy people watching so it was an opportunity to see people up close in their natural habitats so to speak…I think the last time I did that I was in my early 20s….but I would be hard pressed to do that now…I’m not shy about the fact that I’m a Christian but as far as saying the words, “Have you considered giving your life to Jesus Christ?” or something similar doesn’t roll off my tongue so easily…I will give you an example why…
I remember once in my early 20s, I said something like that to a girl who I met in the gym. She was a kind of popular underground singer in Atlanta but she seemed to be going through some things at the time and I told her how the Lord was working in my life. Incidentally, I told her how I would never go to this one concert venue The Tabernacle (Check out a post I wrote about The Tabernacle – Should Beyoncé and Jay Z Have Bought a Converted Church Mansion?) in the A because it used to be a church and how a place that had been dedicated to uplifting the Lord was now being desecrated….Well, the devil is busy because shortly after that conversation, I was given a free ticket to see Jill Scott, one of my favorite artists, at the Tabernacle, and you know I went…Chile, that singer just about the first person I saw up in there…my testimony on behalf of the Lord was literally shot to hell…
All of that to say, I’m not a holy rolly type of Christian…I enjoy much of the secular world, and I enjoy the Christian world too…Thank God my husband is the same way…We kick it on Saturday wherever we find ourselves and we kick it in church on every Sunday too…I remember when I was a little girl telling my parents that if every day would be Sunday in Heaven like that old gospel song “Walk Around Heaven All Day”suggests, I just want to stay here…LOL…They laughed too…I pretty much know I don’t always live up to the ideals I profess although I’m much better than I used to be…and I don’t cloister myself around Christian culture either, but that is another discussion for another day…
But despite my ability to navigate the secular and the saved worlds, every morning, I get on my knees and worship God in prayer because knowing Him is my only salvation. As the old saints say, He is my rock and my shield…And in His word, He says…
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
So even though I can be a hypocrite and I will never be the type of Christian who wants to be in church every day, I’m going to open my mouth (and not just write) and tell somebody (and they don’t have to be famous either) about Jesus sometime soon…
Ten years ago, on March 11 to be exact, Brian Nichols, who was to be tried for rape, savagely escaped the confines of the Fulton County Courthouse jail in Atlanta, Georgia, murdering four people in his path: Judge Rowland W. Barnes Judge, court reporter Julie Ann Brandau, Fulton County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Hoyt Teasley U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent David G. Wilhelm and injuring Fulton County Sheriff’s Deputy Cynthia Hall. His escape, driven in part by his desire to see his newborn son, triggered a frantic manhunt spanning the city that eventually took him to an apartment complex Duluth where he showed up on the doorstep of meth addict and mother Ashley Smith. During the seven hours that he held her hostage, she read to him from “The Purpose Driven Life,” a wildly popular book by Pastor Rick Warren and gave him meth. By that morning, Nichols let her go and she in turn called the police. Miraculously, they apprehended him in the parking lot of the apartment complex without incident. Brian Nichols’ deadly escape and his subsequent encounter with Smith is highlighted in the movie “Captive,” which debuts today.
“Captive” is based on the book “Unlikely Angel” by Ashley Smith with Stacy Mattingly. Smith is portrayed by Kate Mara and Nichols is portrayed by David Oyelowo. Below is my interview with him. If you would rather listen to the audio, please go to the end of the interview.
I’m not sure if you know that I am a blogger in Atlanta where the Brian Nichols’ shootings happened. When I posted about the movie on my blog earlier this summer, I got lots of emotional feedback from people who think Brian Nichols was simply an animal and that Ashley Smith was just a meth addict. What do you think having made this movie?
When you watch the headlines, when you see the press coverage on that day, I think anyone and everyone, and understandably so, and I would say, quite rightly so, especially when it comes to Brian Nichols, you know you can’t get away from the fact that he killed four people and he bludgeoned Cynthia Hall, the prison warden. She has never regained her faculties fully again since that day. What he did was monstrous! And he is serving multiple life sentences for that reason. Ashley Smith, by her own admission, was a meth addict, who lost custody of her own daughter and had made several bad choices with her life. Now that’s the surface. That’s the headline.
Why we wanted to make the movie is something happened in those seven hours in that apartment that led to a situation whereby Ashley Smith didn’t become Brian Nichols’ fifth victim, where Brian Nichols didn’t end up committing suicide by cop. He had three guns in that apartment. He could have gone out blazing knowing that he could have gone down shooting, maybe taking one more cop with him. What ended up happening is that he let her go, gave himself up. She never touched that drug again. She got her life back together. And her story has brought healing to thousands of people because she was able to step into forgiving herself, step into the grace of God to accept her second chance which she didn’t think she was worthy of when Brian Nichols turned up on her door. She felt that this was God’s way of saying, ‘You’ve messed up too much. It’s time for you to die.’ So you know, it’s not like these are two people who we are celebrating what they did. We are just talking about the fact that somehow God’s grace intervened in the lives of two people who were undeniably on a downward spiral, and that in and of itself is miraculous.
Something that I found very interesting about the film is how you have the power of good and the power of evil as it relates to religious faith juxtaposed throughout the movie. For instance, Brian Nichols talked about his father going to church every Sunday but he was mean drunk and then he said, ‘I got a demon in me.’ And on the other hand, you have ‘The Purpose Driven Life,’ that book being read. So you have these two things going on talking about being a person of faith, but they are coming from opposite ends. Was that interesting to you?
You know, it’s just the truth. In looking into Brian Nichols’ life, he had been brought up in the church, but he had developed very negative thoughts and feelings about the church. He felt that a girlfriend of his had been stolen from him by one of the church’s pastors. He felt like he had been wronged in several different ways, wrongly or rightly. As Christians, we all know and must admit that the Church isn’t perfect, God is. And you know, in him saying, ‘I have a demon in me,’ which he did say that on night. Also, the Bible says, ‘Teach a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it when he is older.’ I believe when you are brought up with the truth of who God is, no matter where you go or what you do, there is residue of that teaching, there is residue of that truth, and I think that is partly what helped Brian realize that he had evil within him that needed purging. But it doesn’t take away from the reality that his church experience was, for whatever reason, was a negative one. I think that, again, one of the things we tried to do with the film is not make everything be black and white or coloring with perfect lines. Life isn’t perfect. The Christian life is not perfect. You only have to look at the Bible to see that. We wanted to make a film that really reflected the truth of the challenges of earth life and spiritual life.
In preparing to portray Brian Nichols, did you meet with him or his family? Did you meet with the families of those he killed? How did you prepare as far as making it authentic?
I couldn’t get to Brian Nichols because the nature of his sentence means he’s not afforded the privilege of seeing anyone other than his parent. He’s been in solitary confinement pretty much the entire time since he went to prison. So I couldn’t do that. But I did spend a lot of time with Ashley Smith whom he took hostage that day. And she was, of course, a huge source of information. I also met Candy Wilhelm, who is the wife of the customs officer who was murdered that day. And of course, there was a lot of footage, a lot of articles were written about Brian and then the ensuing trial which also had a lot of footage of him. I had to cobble him together in ways that were imperfect. Of course, meeting him would have been perfect, but that was a luxury I couldn’t be afforded.
It was said in the movie that he never thought he committed a rape, do you know if he thinks that today, the whole crime that led to all of this?
I don’t. But he maintained throughout the trial that he did not rape his girlfriend. In his mind, that was partly why he felt the need to break out of the court jail because he was looking at a potential sentence of 25 years, that combined with hearing that he had a newborn son, he felt caged and wrongly so as far as he was concerned and that was the impetus for breaking out. But the fact remains that he then went on to murder four people. You question someone who was able to do that, and engaging them in the fact they didn’t believe they raped someone was very, very difficult. At the end of the day, he even said, because I have now spent time spent with Brian Nichols’ mother, Brian Nichols himself feels like he is where he is supposed to be.
Now did he leave that message on the phone for his son as he was getting ready to turn himself in?
In terms of his relationship with Christopher. Well, his real son isn’t Christopher. We wanted to protect his son because, of course, you know that’s a young man who you don’t want to have what his father did be something hanging around his neck because of a movie. There are things in the film where you have to conflate, if you like, what it is that happened. So what you have there is what he expressed to Ashley Smith during the night. There were conversations that went on for a long, hours long. And so we wanted the audience to see how he felt about his son. That’s why we made it a telephone message that may or may not get through to Christopher, but we wanted you to see what he was saying in relation to his son.
I also thought it was amazing that Ashley chose not to do drugs on that night even though she had up until that night. Was that true?
That’s true. That’s absolutely true. He held her at gunpoint and asked three different times to take meth with her. And the way Ashley says it, is that she felt Jesus literally took over Brian Nichols’ body at that point and said, ‘Are you going to choose life or are you going to choose death?’ And that was the choice before her. She also said that if she was going to die, then she would rather die with her system clean than it filled with that drug anymore. And I think that part of the miracle of the story is that for all the deadly things that Brian did that day, his life and I guess the demon that was residing in him was a mirror to Ashley of where darkness can take you, where a downward spiral can take you, where bad choices can take you. And it literally, like the Bible says, ‘In your weakness, I am strong.’ I think she accepted and could see that she hit rock bottom when confronted by her weakness, and God was able to take over.
I think of you mostly associated with “good” characters in films where it be in “Selma” or the nice pastor in “The Help” or even though you weren’t the nicest of sons in “The Butler,” you still weren’t a murderer. So what attracted you to this particular “bad” role?
Ashley Smith. She’s given her story in its entirety. Anyone that has read the Bible, that is an R-rated book. That is a book full of murder, rape and pillage and darkness, but the overriding theme of the Bible is that the light always overwhelms the darkness and God’s grace, when it is allowed to infiltrate, will turn things around. And so you know, for me, I don’t discriminate about the nature of the role as long as what is ultimately being said through the story in its entirety is not glamorizing the darkness or glorifying the darkness but showing it to be the way not to go. And then to me, there is not much difference in terms of why I would want to do “Selma” or want to do “Captive” because both films are about how light can overwhelm the darkness. And as an actor, I am committed to that. I want to be part of telling stories that do that. And the nature of the role as long as it is interesting and complex, but ultimately doesn’t glamorize those negative things, then I enjoy mixing it up.
Speaking of “Selma,” you said earlier this year at the ecumenical service at Ebenezer Baptist Church that God told you that you would portray Dr. King in a movie seven years before the movie came out. I’m curious as to how you actually heard the voice of God. What was that like?
Well, God speaks to everyone differently. To me, in a way I can describe it, it was a knowing in my spirit. It’s the same voice I heard for the first time when I was 16, and it was the reason why I became a born again Christian, the same voice that spoke to me about marrying my wife, about the names of my kids before they were even conceived. It’s often a voice that also crosses my will. It’s one thing to hear God saying, ‘You’re going to have a Porsche’ when that’s something you’ve wanted for years and years. It’s another thing when it’s something that is not on your mind at all is being told to you. Seven years ago, eight years ago, there was no way I’m thinking of myself as Dr. King, but I know that voice, and it was very clear.
I wanted to find out from you, as I’m a big fan of ‘Americanah,’ what’s going on with that right now?
The script is being written as we speak so yeah, it’s in the works.
Any date as to when it’s going to come out?
No. Until there is a script that everyone is happy with, there is no point in dating anything. The writer is working and hopefully, he will deliver.
Have you missed me? I hope so…I haven’t been posting as much. I usually post on Sundays and Wednesdays but due to a pending deadline this month, I will only be posting on Sundays…So I hope my Sunday posts are worth waiting for :)…
Just because I’ve been focused on meeting my deadline doesn’t mean I’m unaware of all of the shocking news stories that have been unearthed in the Christian world…These stories are ugly…And I’ve come across some new stories that may not cause shock waves in the Christian community but are bad nevertheless…And thankfully, I’ve come across some good news that take a bit of the sting way from the ugly and bad stories that tarnish the testimony of the Christian faith…
So let’s get the ugly out of the way…
Montgomery Pastor Admits to Having AIDS, Sleeping With Church Members...This, by far, has got to the be the ugliest news story in the Christian world that I have seen in 2014….Apparently, he had sex with several of the female congregants knowing he has AIDS, was using drugs and mismanaged church funds…I really don’t know how no one in the church confronted him about any of these three sins (Whatever happened to female intuition or the prompting of the Holy Spirit?) and likely way before he confessed all that mess to his church and removed from his post…
Enugu Pastor Impregnates His Church Member, Forces Her to Abort Pregnancy…But former Pastor Juan Demetrius McFarland ain’t the only pastor acting up…Instead of a praying for a young girl in his church, allegedly Pastor Friday Onuh of Nigeria preyed on the young girl church, got her pregnant and “took her to a patent medicine dealer” (Are they talking about a witch doctor?) in order for their child to be aborted…Whew…I cannot imagine….
7th Heaven’s Stephen Collins Reportedly Admits to Molesting Underage Girl, Fallout Reaches Hollywood…As ugly as this story is, at least this story is about a fake pastor…Collins portrayed Rev. Camden, pastor of the Glen Oak Community Church on the TV series “7th Heaven,” is “longest-running series on The WB.” Although I am shocked and saddened by this story, Collins only portrayed a pastor on TV (If your pastor is a fake pastor on television, you need more than Jesus) …that point needs to be emphasized….
‘Homeless’ Pastor Rick Cole Goes Home to Capital Christian Church…In spite of the shenanigans and crimes committed by a few “pastors,” I do believe the overwhelming majority of pastors have good intentions and are committed to serving God and their people…This pastor left his home, “living on Sacramento streets for two weeks to raise money for the area’s winter shelter program.” (Praise God for this pastor…)
Columbus Churches Come Together for Prayer Walk…Under the leadership of Pastor Christopher Smith, Word of Truth Ministries partnered with other churches in the community to walk through its neighborhoods and pray for the people that live there…(Prayer is so powerful…)
The Beauty of Small Church…Don’t get me wrong, megachurches are great, but bigger is not always better (#smallchurchestandup) and Rev. Hope Lee, lead pastor of Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, agrees with me…She wrote a sweet tribute to the small church in which she was raised…As a daughter of a pastor who leads a small church, I’ve had similar experiences…