(#16 in a series of people who changed the course of my life)
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity,
but of power and love and discipline.”
–from a letter to Timothy
There’s this guy.
I love him to death.
He annoys the crap out of me sometimes.
And I know I annoy the crap out of him. A lot. (And that makes me smile.)
When Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood and I started working together, neither of us was particularly much of a fan of the other. He thought me vapid; I thought him a trouble-maker. And while I do have my shallow moments and he his share of stirring up trouble, each of us has become a better person because of the other. Well, I have.
You see, I think I’ve always had the faint heartbeat of a radical inside of me. If our mentor Jim nurtured this heartbeat, this sensitivity, then Jeff ramped it up–challenging my sense of privilege around social justice issues and the straightforward implementation of the Gospel, taking me to task for what I was (and was not) doing about it.
Jeff also made me uncomfortable in some way just about every time we interacted as he, time and again, extolled his queer theology and progressive, practical teachings. He persisted until I began to understand what it meant to “put my body” into the movement–and then started doing it.
Power. And love–so much of it. And discipline.
The antithesis of timidity, Jeff is our own modern-day John the Baptist. (He even has the sandals to prove it.) For me, personally, he has prepared the way of my heart—my conscience, even—to invest fully in the very real work of liberation for all. I have seen Jeff, who does not identify as gay—but queer—and who is white and very educated, put his body into causes of the marginalized—including gays and lesbians, transgender people, African Americans, immigrants, and those facing execution. The man does not relent. He doesn’t just speak queer theology—he lives it. The man has a piece of the border fence for crying outloud! And he is a prolific writer having published several books and has a blog following I aspire to have! I don’t know where it all comes from but the man minces no words; the word of truth is strong in him.
Jeff has taught me that my faith cannot remain “safe” or become stagnant. When I say that I have gone to places that I would not have otherwise gone, it is in many times because of Jeff’s prodding or his example of putting his own self out there
And one of the best things about Jeff is his ardent wife Emily, who supports him and I suspect is a large part of why he is strong enough to do what he does.
Hood—you have changed my life. You have advised me, made me laugh, aggravated me, taken me to task, and filled me with confidence in the path that lies ahead. Thank you for your lack of timidity and powerful presence in a world that is looking desperately for the Way and among people who desperately need to be challenged.