This time for my One Faith Many Paths Project, I interview one of my newest Facebook Friends, Mike Bezalel.
1. You’ve told me that your father was a member of the KKK. Can you tell me what that was like?
Growing up with that mentality hanging over me was terrible, to be flatly honest with you. I was led to believe that simply because of my race that I was superior to all others. He refferred to anyone who was not white always in reprehensible racist terms. I was punished for associating with htem, beaten. My parents were both just terrible human beings.
2. How did your Maw-maw help you unlearn what your father was trying to pass on to you?
Well she resucued me. Saved my life in very real terms. I was taken away from my parents at around 13 because of the physical and mental abuse I had suffered. My maw-maw, my paternal grandmother, helped me to overcome all of the refuse I had been forcefully inundated with over the years. I never felt like I was worth anything. A person spends years being told they are worthless…it kind of stays with you, you know? I still battle with that sometimes. It was the gift to me that still seems to be giving back, I guess.
Maw-maw gave me the space that I needed to grow as well. Perhaps a little too much I was very angry after I escaped from the hell of my early life and I went wild. Drugs, partying, drinking…and even worse at times. I was even angry with God and dabbled in Satanism at one point of my teenage years. I fled from that after about a year, though, and never allowed myself to return to that point.
3. You have epilepsy. When did this first manifest?
The doctors seem to think it stemmed from a steries of head injuries over a 3 year period. A fall down a flight of stairs that resulted in a severe concussion, another concusion about 8 months later and then the big one, a motorcycle injury that resulted in a TBI so severe that I was in a coma for about 2 weeks. The seizures first began when I was in a coma. That was 26 years ago this September.
Unfortunately, I have what has been deemed as an intractable case of epilepsy.. I have been on at least two dozen different medications over the years and none of them stop the seizures completely. MMJ comes the closest, but it is not covered by insurance, and being medically disabled, I cannot afford it. Seems to be my luck…lol.
4. How did you become a Christian?
My maternal grandfather, who I called Pap-paw, was a devout Methodist minister. I grew up in his church every Sunday for much of my childhood. He instilled i nme a love for God and the pursuit of life, love, and light. He was the best man I have ever known and I could never stray away from what he taught me. He was also the very reason I didn’t believe th garbage my mom and dad tried to brainwash me with I know they hid their beliefs from my grandparents for a reason, after all.
Anyway, later as a teenager, when I went through that period where I was mad at God and messed around with devil worship, I even knew then that I was wrong. I was just very, very angry and was lashing out. I had a dream with my Pap-paw in it, and he was just staring at me with disappointed eyes. When I woke, I began weeping and asked God to forgive me.
A few days later, my friend Steve and I were at a Perkin’s restaurant at around 3 AM. he and I both were longhaired metalhead kids. I looked at him and commented, “Man you kind of look like Jesus this morning.” He really did at that moment–scruffy beard, dark hair. Kind eyes…a little glazed from weed, but it was true. He began to witness to me. It didn’t take much coaxing or convincing to help me find my way. We went to a parak just about a mile away and I prayed the acceptance prayer. Right before I prayed, I implored to God, “I want to believe in You, God, but so much evil has happened to me. I need You to show me a sign. Please God, if You are there, please show me. I know I shouldn’t ask You…but if you exist, You know my heart. I need this.”
When I closed my eyes and prayed the prayer, I felt peace like I had not felt for so long. That would have been enough, but God is good. I opened my eyes and saw the night sky in all its glory. Then the single brightest shooting star I have ever seen flew across my line of sight, exploding right in the center of the sky, and then vanished. I broke down in tears. I have never doubted for an instance since that day.
5. What is your favortie biblical passage and why?
Galatians 2:19-21 (NIV) “For through the law I died so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in Me The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”
It really speaks to me about the grace of God and the love that He showed us through Christ giving His all just so that we all could be saved.
6. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus and why?
This is a very hard question. Perhaps Noah. His obedience and patience. His commitment to following the will of God His tiresome, faithful work despite all of the adversity he came against. A good and faithful servant.
7. What would be your rebuttal if someone asked you for proof that God exists, especially since you came from such a hateful background?
For some people, no matter of proof will convince them of things they have already prejudiced themselves against. My own life is my best testimony to the reality of God. Despite all of what has happened in my life, I am still here. He has helped me overcome hate, bigotry, physical disabilites (not overcome, but persevere in spite of them) and even coatastrophes (lost a home due to a hurricane and later to a fire). God is my life and my strength. This is the only proof I have and all I ever need.
8. You’ve told me you have a wife who is African-American. How did you met? Was this a decision to further rebel against your parents?
Tina is my rock. I met her 20 years ago after I moved back to Florida. I had lived in Chicago doing inner city missionary work for a few years and had decided to come back to the Sunshine State. I had been single for a long time and frankly fiven up on the prospect of a relationship. I had trouble trusting anyone as a result of a failed marriage and didn’t expect that to change.
I found a rooming house in a poor section of town that was rather inexpensive. On the day I moved in, I met her. She lived in one of the studio apartments just down the hall. We became fast friends. I guess we had known each other for about 3-4 months or so before the friendship became so much more. We were married a year later. This October, we will be celebrating our 19th anniversary.
As for the second part of your question, I never even thought about that aspect of it. She was simply the woman I fell in love with. My soulmate. Their opinions on the subject have no bearing on me whatsoever. I just think it was God giving me a wink and a grin and showing me His sense of humor.
9. How did her family react to the marriage?
I was immediately accepted by all of them. Her mother and I were very close; I love them all.
10. What is your opinion on how the KKK has perverted Christianity to justify their bigotry not just of Africans, but also Jews and Catholics?
The KKK is anti-Christ. As you said, they have perverted and defiled Christianity with their hate-filled filth. They have twisted Scripture and have brainwashed so many people that it sickens me. I feel that if those involved in that despicable cult do not flee from their ways, they will be held accountable for every evil thing that said cult have been a party to. I would not want to be them on that day of their own judgement. God gives us free will. That means we can either do righteous, holy things or we can go the polar opposite way. God allows us to make the choice and we are accountable for the choices we make.
11. Which denomination of Christianity are you? How did you decide to follow that one?
Probably Methodist, I guess. I will be honest with you, I do not regularly attend church services. Th elast few churches I have gone to have left me feeling ostracized in different ways, mostly it has been sociopolitical. Even straight politically offensive. I always hear Christ in my head speaking about whitewashed tombs in those instances. I have chosen to spend time in the Word every dayand I listen to the audio tapes of my Pap-paw’s sermons regularly. I chose Methodist because of my grandfather and the impact he had upon me.
12. Anything else you want to add?
Never allow yourself to be defeated. God will never give up on you, so there is no reason to that to yourself. Do not allow hate to seep into your soul. There is so much in this world to be horrified by, but that is no reason to allow yourself to succumb to it and give up the sweet work of Love. Don’t listen to the voices of those who would vilify other human beings They have an agenda that is anathema to mankind. Do not allow bigotry into your soul. It is natural for us to have prejudices against something or someone. It is intelligent, noble and upright to overcome them. Trust in God and do the best you can. That’s pretty much all God asks from us: to do the best we can.