How Ken Hutcherson Hated

Born Into A World Of Enemies

Ken Hutcherson was born eight days after his mother’s fifteenth birthday in Anniston, Alabama. The year was 1952. His grandmother, who Ken called “Big Mom,” was the true mother figure in his life. Ken says his biological mother was more like a sister to him. His father lived on the “right side of the tracks” and wasn’t involved in Ken’s life. He was an illegitimate black child in a world that looked down on blacks. And even other blacks looked down on illegitimate blacks.

Ken’s Role Model (Not The Role Model You Were Expecting)

With his grandmother as his only source of stability, one of Ken’s role models was the person who lived next door. This person ran the “local liquor house.” This role model was distinguished by a long scar that ran across the right side of the neck. This person didn’t take any flack from the liquor store patrons or from anybody else. According to Ken Hutcherson this person was the toughest person he ever knew.

This person was Ken’s Aunt Mae.

The cause of the scar was a woman named Essie Mae who lived across the street. Aunt Mae was having an affair with Essie Mae’s husband. And typical of Aunt Mae, she didn’t care who knew about it. Naturally Essie Mae objected and she said some disparaging things about Aunt Mae around the neighborhood. But when Aunt Mae heard about Essie Mae’s comments she wasn’t inclined to put up with it. Aunt Mae downed a shot of whiskey and marched across the street to confront her. Essie Mae answered the door with a straight razor in her hand. They had words. Essie Mae told Aunt Mae to leave or she’d cut her. Aunt Mae held her ground. So Essie Mae followed through on her promise and cut Aunt Mae from behind her right ear to the front of her neck. The wound was gaping. There was blood everywhere. But wounded though she was, Aunt Mae beat Essie Mae. Then she ordered Essie Mae’s husband to pack his bags and to leave his wife and come home with her. And he did.

When they arrived home, Aunt Mae downed another drink, went into the back yard and poured kerosene on her gaping wound. Then she sewed herself up with a needle and black thread.

Hutcherson says he learned how to make people show respect from his Aunt Mae. He said to himself, “If Aunt Mae could be tough and get respect, then I could be tough and get respect.”

Hutcherson’s Alabama

When Ken Hutcherson was growing up in Alabama the presence of prejudice was still strong. Ken’s grandfather worked hard all week, putting up with abuse from his white bosses. But every weekend he got drunk and stayed drunk, and took out his frustrations by beating Ken’s grandmother, “Big Mom.”

During that time all policemen were white. All judges were white. A black person was supposed to look down at the ground in the presence of a white person. A black person couldn’t eat in the same room as the white people in a restaurant. There were three bathrooms in most businesses in those days: Mens, Womens, and “Coloreds.” Nearly everyone featured on television and in magazines, was white. The world was about whites, and against blacks. Hutcherson took this to mean the world was against him, personally.

The Klan was active too, in those days. They sometimes stopped in front of Ken Hutcherson’s house to tell them that one day, they would catch one of them alone somewhere, and hang them.

His “Big Mom’s” Death And How He Hated (Even Martin Luther King)

When Ken was eight, his “Big Mom” died. “She worried (herself) to death,” he said. “My grandfather, with all the fighting, with all the drinking, never having enough money: it got to the point where she had a massive stroke.”

His grandmother’s passing was too much for Ken. She was the only Christian person in his life, and Ken believed she was the only one who loved him. It was at this point, at the age of eight, that he says he divorced himself from society. And it was at this point that hate really began to fuel his drive.

Hutcherson said, he vowed to himself that he was not going to be poor and that, “As soon as I could get power and money, I’m going to kill me some white people.”

He decided he was going to make himself better than any man, black or white. So, he says, “I read and studied, and read and studied, and read and studied.”

Everything fueled by hate.

In the course of his studies and from listening to the radio he learned about Martin Luther King. But he didn’t respond to King the way you might expect: “I hated Martin Luther King. I mean, hated him with a passion. He came up with this nonviolent way. That reminded me of what I saw in my grandfather, what I saw in my uncle, what I saw in the men around me, when they wouldn’t stand up to white people. Stokely Carmichael was my man. Eldridge Cleaver, burn those suckers up. Burn baby burn.”

Ken Hutcherson was fueled by hate. He hated Martin Luther King. He hated the people in his family. And he especially hated whites. And he craved the opportunity to use violence against them.

Ken’s Savior (Not The Savior You Were Expecting)

Ken Hutcherson was a child prodigy baseball player. By the time he was thirteen he was playing with the adult men on a black professional baseball team. People paid to see the thirteen year old kid who could hit and play any position on the field. When he was fifteen he was invited to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals.

But even though baseball was by far his best sport, Ken chose to focus on football. Because around this time schools in Alabama were just beginning to integrate, and Ken was able to attend a white high school near his home. Which meant that on the football field he could hurt a white kid, and instead of going to jail, coaches would pat him on the back.

“I liked playing football. So I gave up baseball, for the simple reason, it was the only way I could hurt white people legally and get away with it.”

He even made a sign for his locker that said, “Break up one white boy a day.” He said he did that because he had learned from Aunt Mae, if you want a reputation, you’ve got to be the baddest thing in the jungle. (His coach eventually made him change the sign.)

Football, Hutcherson says, was his savior.

On the football field everyone was equal regardless of color. And on the football field, he could be as mean as he wanted to be.

More Opposition

A twenty-something I know from Mississippi once said to a mutual friend that we Northerners don’t care what station in life a black person attains, as long as they don’t live near us. And Southerners don’t care if black people live nearby, as long as they don’t attain too high a station in life. Of course that’s a stereotype in itself and obviously there are many exceptions. But when Ken was in high school for many white people in Alabama, the second part of that statement was true. And Ken Hutcherson was succeeding both academically and athletically. And a large group of white people didn’t like it. White parents complained. The Klu Klux Klan made threats. But his enemies didn’t quite know what to do with him. Ken Hutcherson had continued his pattern of reading and studying and was one of the top students in the school, so they couldn’t flunk him out. They didn’t know what to do.

So they resorted to violence. The night before his junior year homecoming football game, three white teammates waited for Ken along the road he took to walk home. Ken didn’t have a problem with that, he was ready to take on all three. But what he didn’t know was there were twenty more hiding, waiting for the right moment to move in.

As Ken turned to talk to two black friends who were walking away (the only two black people nearby) someone hit him in the back with a brick. It knocked the wind out of him and he went down. Suddenly twenty three white young men were kicking him, and breaking bones in the process. Somehow Ken managed to get up and run. And as he did, he said he could hear rocks whizzing past his head. He ran and yelled to his two black friends to run too.

The crowd of white young men pursued. Someone yelled, “We’re gonna kill you nigger!” They pursued but they pursued a little too far. When they came to the edge of the black community the local pool hall emptied. Suddenly the tables were turned. Now a crowd of black men was chasing the crowd of whites.

So Ken escaped that night but the beating resulted in three fractured ribs. He could hardly breathe but the next day he played in the game anyway–for revenge, he said. And he had one of his best games ever. He hurt a number of white players on the other team too.

But afterwards he was coughing up blood. They took him to the ER where xrays showed his coaches what he already knew: his ribs were fractured.

The Car Wreck (Not The Outcome You Were Expecting)

In his junior year, while riding as a passenger on a motorcycle, Ken was struck by a car driven by a drunk white young man. His left leg required five hours of surgery and the doctor told him he’d never play football again. And here’s the part where we’re supposed to learn how the car wreck took Ken’s savior (football) away, and that’s how God finally got his attention. But that’s not what happened.

What happened was Ken couldn’t stand the thought of a white doctor telling him what he couldn’t do. So he worked and he worked and he worked until he was finally able to play his senior year. And although he had to wear some special equipment to protect his left leg, he played great. Ken was back. All the way back.

But this is what he said about that time in his life, “Everyone was patting me on the back. Things were going great. And I am so miserable. Something is so missing. White people I hate. Black people I hate. It’s me I hate. I want to be the king of the jungle, but I don’t even like me. You’ve got success. You’re back. Colleges are saying they’re watching you. But you’re miserable. What’s wrong with you?”

It was at this time Ken says he realized that he was no longer controlling his hatred, but his hatred was controlling him. And he was becoming more vicious than ever.

Around that time he was sitting in an assembly at school in the midst of about 2,000 other students listening to a speaker. Ken said, something the speaker said, was like a knife in his heart. And what he said brought God to Ken’s mind. Ken remembered how his grandmother, his “Big Mom” was a Christian, and how through all the trouble and all the pain her God was always there for her. He remembered some words about God spoken on television by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans when their young daughter died unexpectedly.

These thoughts were suddenly flooding Ken’s mind when he says he heard God say,

“You can’t run from Me.”

(Not an audible voice, Ken says. No vision. God didn’t come in a halo. Just a quiet voice.)

Then Ken spoke to God and said, “God, if You’re real, You said, through Roy and Dale, that I might have to accept You one of these days. I don’t know anything about You but I’m going to give You a shot at me. And if I am a Christian–I think that’s what they call it–I’m going to be the best. You have become my coach. I understand I’m supposed to know the coach’s play book. And I’m supposed to run the play the way You wrote it. So, if I can make it out of this place without my heart stopping, I’m going to go home and find a Bible.”

“I got a new Savior.

“And in a quiet still voice, he said,

“‘Don’t you ever think you can hate anybody who I died for.'”

NOTES:

  • After he came to Christ Ken learned that there were two white male classmates who, like most other white classmates, were terrified of him. But they had been praying for God to bring Ken to Christ for three years before his conversion.
  • After becoming a Christian black people started hating Ken because after they noticed his love for whites, they perceived him as an Uncle Tom. White people still hated Ken because of his history of hatred and violence toward them.
  • Before his last high school game the Klu Klux Klan threatened his life. They said they would have snipers at the game and they would kill him. To see how that turned out, watch the video at the top of this post.
  • Ken went on to star in college and he played in the NFL for five years.
  • After he was in the NFL, Ken sought out his biological father. He took him for a walk in the woods. He says, “We walked into the woods as father and son. We walked out of the woods brothers in Christ. I led my dad to the Lord.”
  • At an auction selling one of the descendants of Trigger, Ken found Roy Rogers and told him that one of the reasons the Lord took his daughter was to save Ken’s soul. Roy Rogers wept.
  • Ken Hutcherson married a white woman of German descent. They had four children.
  • From 1985 until 2013 Ken served as the senior Pastor of the multicultural Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, Washington. Sixty-five percent of his congregation was white.
  • Ken Hutcherson battled prostate and bone cancer for 13 years before passing away in 2013. Before he died he said, “Cancer is one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. There’s nothing that can touch me that’s not filtered through the hands of God. What cancer has done is given me an absolute focus on Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.” (Wikipedia)

References and Resources:

Ken Hutcherson – In the Red Chair Series on Youtube, produced by Coldwater Media

I am Second – Ken Hutcherson on Youtube

Ken Hutcherson bio, Wikipedia

HT to my friend Fred Saada of the Rogue Valley Chaplains Association who turned me on to Ken’s story.

How We Forget God’s Name While We Suffer (and Why That Makes It So Much Worse)

Christian Suffering Pain Depression

Continuing our series on suffering, in this post we’ll look at how forgetting God’s name contributes to suffering and a crushed spirit.

Forgetting God’s Name

I’m just going to be frank here. Many times you and I as believers suffer in a way that’s not necessary simply because we forget God’s name. Oh sure, we believe in the redemptive work Jesus Christ did 2,000 years ago on the cross to pay for our sins. And we believe somewhere down the road we’re headed for heaven, ultimately. But there’s a huge truth missing that dramatically affects us as we suffer, and even when we don’t.

Often times you’re a lot like Continue reading

Thankful

Thankful

Father,

I am so thankful for You and for Your presence in my life. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. You are beautiful beyond measure. My wife Kathy is beautiful too, and so are my two sons Gabe and Nathaniel, and my two daughters, Charise and Anastasia, and my grandson Andrew, and my nephews and parents and all my family. I’m so thankful for You and for the family You blessed me with. (Psalm 16:6)

And I’m thankful for my church family: A peculiar church, in a peculiar, remote and beautiful place, full of thousands of peculiar people. I give thanks You have allowed me to be a part of that church. (1 Peter 2:9)

And I give thanks for the place on the space-time continuum where You allow me to live, it is also full of beauty. I give thanks for the place where I can share Jesus Christ and His words with people from all over the world.

And I give thanks for those who take the time to read this blog. I give thanks for those who believe in You, I give thanks for their desire to draw closer to You. I pray they will never stop pursuing You. I give thanks for the ones who are seeking answers. I’m so thankful for their desire for truth. I pray they don’t stop until they find You. I’m so thankful You provided a place where I can connect with them. I’m so thankful for the brothers and sisters in You, too many to name.

There is not room enough or time enough to account for all the blessings You pour out upon me. You pour them out in such great measure: they overwhelm me.

I am so thankful for You and for Your presence in my life. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. (Psalm 16:6)

Father,

Thank You.

Atheist Professor Becomes Christian

kurt bennett:

Dr. Holly Ordway, an atheist professor of literature, describes herself, in her own words: “At thirty-one years old, I was an atheist college professor–and I delighted in thinking of myself that way. I got a kick out of being an unbeliever; it was fun to consider myself superior to the unenlightened, superstitious masses, and to make snide comments about Christians.” (p.15-16) Her story is fascinating to me.

Originally posted on Thomistic Bent:

Dr. Holly Ordway has published a book titled Not God’s Type, telling her personal story. She begins “I had never in my life said a prayer, never been to a church service. Christmas meant presents and Easter meant chocolate bunnies–nothing more.” But her views get hardened: “In college, I absorbed the idea that Christianity was historical curiosity, or a blemish on modern civilization, or perhaps both. My college science classes presented Christians as illiterate anti-intellectuals who, because they didn’t embrace Darwinism, threatened the advancement of knowledge. My history classes omitted or downplayed references to historical figures’ faith.” Still later, “At thirty-one years old, I was an atheist college professor–and I delighted in thinking of myself that way. I got a kick out of being an unbeliever; it was fun to consider myself superior to the unenlightened, superstitious masses, and to make snide comments about Christians.” (p.15-16)

Ordway was a…

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The One Thing We Can Know About Why God Allows Suffering (A blog post for the man of sorrows I met at Starbucks)

Why Did God

Return of the Prodigal by E. Murillo

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:3)

I Met A Man Of Sorrows At Starbucks This Morning

I had an amazing conversation with a thirty-something named Tom at Starbucks this morning. Tom is intelligent, friendly, and he has experienced serious suffering in his life. His soul mate, the woman he is certain he was meant to marry and spend his life with, she betrayed him, she left him, so they never married. Since that time her life has taken a downturn. After a series of relationships with different guys she’s divorced now. Also, a Christian leader Tom looked up to cut him out of his life without explanation. Later I learned Tom was also abused by his father and other family members. And then there’s his addiction: like millions of other men, Tom is addicted to porn. Yes, Tom has suffered, and he continues to suffer. About that, there can be no doubt.

And with many of his tribulations, when he prayed for intervention, no discernable intervention came.

Tom, this blog post is written with you in mind.

Why Did They Betray Me?

First I want to talk about the people who betrayed you. Before I was married I was betrayed by someone I loved too. I’ve never swallowed a burning balled up gas soaked rag, but if I ever did, I’m sure my gut would feel a lot like it did when I was betrayed–except the fire in the rag would extinguish much quicker. Tom you were betrayed by the one you were meant to be with forever, and that has to be painful, and confusing. And then there are the other betrayals in your life. Why would a loving God allow these things to happen? Continue reading

The Consequences Of Ignoring God: God’s Way, Your Way, And Your Crushed Spirit

depression Christian

Guilt, Fear, And A Crushed Spirit

Continuing our series on suffering, today we’ll look at how ignoring God can crush your spirit.

Proverbs 28:1 says,

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.

Why is that do you think? Why do the wicked flee when no one is pursuing?

The proverb is a reference to Leviticus chapter 26 where the Lord tells the Israelites what will happen when (when, not if) they don’t obey His commandments. He says: “…I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall. They will therefore stumble over each other as if running from the sword, although no one is pursuing…” (Leviticus 26:36-37)

What we see here is what happens when you live in a way God doesn’t want you to live. When you’re living in a way your Father in heaven doesn’t want you to, something happens inside you, something happens in your spirit. And your spirit can be crushed, because not only do you feel guilty about what you know you’re doing wrong, but you react to criticisms that point to wrong, even when it doesn’t apply to you. You generalize your guilt. That’s one of the things sin does to people.

When we do something we know is outside of God’s will, it chases us. Like Dickens’s Scrooge, or Shakespeare’s Macbeth the knowledge of our own sin can produce ghosts or shadows that haunt us, and we flee, even when no one is pursuing.

What Happened When Israel Ignored God

In Isaiah chapter 30 God tells the Israelites, “One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one…” (Isaiah 30:17) And He gives the reason for it in verse 1 of the same chapter. In verse 1 He says, “Woe to the rebellious children who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit…”

You see, the nation of Israel was in a jam. The Assyrians were about to invade and these Assyrians, they had a terrifying reputation. So the leaders of Israel schemed, and plotted, and planned. And they came up with their own solution, they formed an alliance with Egypt. But they did it all apart from God. They didn’t include Him in the process. The whole problem with the hearts, minds, and souls of the Israelites, the reason they were wracked by guilt and fear, the reason one thousand fled at the rebuke of one, was because they didn’t seek God’s counsel. They ignored the One waiting to connect with them: their God.

What Happens When You Ignore God Continue reading

Steve Mays’ Life Of Suffering (And how God healed him)

Steve Mays Life of Suffering

We’ve been exploring what the Bible has to say about suffering and right in the middle of this series of blog posts, God did something for Steve Mays, the pastor of Calvary Chapel South Bay, that I just have to share.

An Improbable Life Of Suffering

Steve’s life was often heavy with suffering. He battled drug addiction as a teenager which led to a series of strange and destructive events while he was still living at home with his father and mother. One time when Steve’s parents came home, as they opened their front door, water gushed out. Steve turned their house into a swimming pool by stuffing towels under the exterior doors and filling the place up with water. They found him in the living room smoking a pencil. He was completely oblivious. Instead of acknowledging the damage he’d done, he talked to them about the show he was watching on TV–but the TV was turned off.

Another time Steve’s parents arrived home to find him fixing a meal for a friend who lived inside the clock hanging on the kitchen wall.

Another time he terrorized his parents by angrily pacing around the house while swinging a machete.

The bewildering thing about Steve’s behavior was that he was a normal kid until junior high school. His parents didn’t know it but during that time in junior high he was Continue reading

How Can I Trust In God When I’m Seriously Sick Or Injured?

pain and suffering Christian

Oresto, 4, with his father in the special unit for pediatric surgery run by the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) outside Port-au-Prince’s general hospital. He had his hand amputated the night before.

What A Man Suffering From Disease Once Said

I wish I was never born.

I’ve lost all my strength, and my disease has reduced me to skin and bones. I’m estranged from my friends and relatives. My breath is offensive to my wife. Loathsome, that’s what I am. People find me loathsome.

My cries pour out like water. I shout for help, but there is no answer. God has uprooted my hope like a tree. He has kindled His anger against me and considered me as His enemy.

I wish He would just crush me. I wish He would cut me off from the land of the living. I wish I were dead. (Job paraphrased. See Job 3:11, Job chapter 19Job 3:24Job 6:8-9)

Illness And A Crushed Spirit

Before his illness Job was intimate with God and his life reflected that relationship. He was the kind of guy who smiled often. He had the kind of face that lit up a room. He was the kind of guy who loved to help the underdog: orphans, widows, the lame, the blind, and the poor. He liked to rescue the weak from wicked people who would take advantage of their weakness: the Bible says he “broke the jaws” of such wicked men. Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. And people loved him for it. He was dynamic, he was charismatic, he was popular. And his words were wise, and beautiful, and encouraging: people waited for his words like people waited for the spring rain. He held the honor and respect of the people in his community. And he was rich. (Job 1:1-5, Job 29)

Then, along with other tragedies, his disease came. It was a disease that isolated him from his family and friends. It was a disease that caused him to become emaciated. It was a disease that covered him with painful boils from head to toe.

It was a disease that made him loathsome to the same people who used to love him.

And his countenance changed. This great man of God didn’t smile like he used to. His face didn’t shine like it used to. And his words changed. He said Continue reading

A Mighty Expenditure Of Amazing Energy And What Happened Next (And what causes a crushed spirit)

Depression Christian

A Mighty Expenditure Of Amazing Energy

Elijah was coming off three amazing and miraculous events in his life. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit Elijah just “won” a showdown with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah. “…you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God,” Elijah said to the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and to the crowd of Israelites assembled there near the sacrificial altar.

The other prophets did everything imaginable including cutting themselves with swords and lances until blood gushed from them. But it was all to no avail. There was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention.

Then Elijah poured water onto his sacrifice, twice. Then he prayed for God to let it be known that He is God in Israel. Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and even the dust around it. And when they saw it all the people fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” And after that the prophets of Baal and Asherah were slain.

Then Elijah prayed for rain, because there had been a great drought in Israel up until that time. He prayed with fervency and intensity. He prayed seven times. And the rain came.

Then the Bible says, “…the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.” And Ahab was in a chariot at the time.

Good things are happening to Elijah. God is doing amazing things through Elijah. Through him the Lord is turning the people away from false religions and turning their hearts back toward the true and living God. Through Elijah God is providing rain to a people plagued by drought. (1 Kings Chapter 18)

But look what happens next. Continue reading

Suffering (And How Paul Never Prayed For The Persecution To Go Away)

Pain Suffering Christian

It’s What’s Inside

San Francisco Giants Pitcher Dave Dravecky

Dave Dravecky pitched for the San Francisco Giants until a cancerous desmoid tumor in his pitching arm required surgery. They removed half of his deltoid muscle and froze his humerus bone to try to kill all the cancer cells. On August 10 in 1989, after a long and grueling period of rehab, he came back to the majors and pitched eight innings against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched brilliantly and he won 4 to 3. After the game he told the media, “It’s a miracle.” But just five days later, in the sixth inning against Montreal, during his first pitch to Tim Raines, his humerus bone snapped in two. The sound of it was so loud it could be heard throughout the stadium.

The cancer was back. And he not only lost his career as a baseball player but he lost his arm. When he was interviewed about it he said this:

“Nobody ever promised that life is going to be fair. Everybody’s going to have adversity. The only way to handle it is to take our eyes off ourselves and put them on the Lord.”

After all that pain and toil and work and sweat and grief, after all that Dravecky failed. Yet look how he responded. How is that possible? How could anyone respond to that kind of adversity that way?

What’s Inside

The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14)

A wounded spirit, as I understand it in the Bible, occurs when a person’s passion for life is squashed (the English Standard Version actually uses the word crushed). A depressed person could be an example of this. A suicidal person would be at the extreme end of this spectrum. And here in Proverbs 18 we see one of many places in the Bible where God’s perspective on suffering is different than the typical understanding of most Americans and many others throughout the world. We think our happiness is mostly dependent on our circumstances. If I have the right job, if I have the right woman, if I get the promotion, if I’m healthy, if I can make enough money, then… I’ll be happy.

But God says, Continue reading