Spreading Love Over Hate: Anthony Ray Hinton & John M. Perkins
Anthony Ray Hinton: God showed me that no matter what we are, we can be an inspiration to one another. We can be joy in times of sadness. We can be hope for those who are hopeless. We can be love for those who feel they have hate in their heart. We can be understanding for those who are confused.
Spreading Love Over Hate: Anthony Ray Hinton & John M. Perkins – Episode #308
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. This week we are celebrating Freedom Day, or what is more commonly known as Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
Anthony Ray Hinton is an American activist, writer, and author who was wrongly convicted of the 1985 murders of two fast-food restaurant managers in Birmingham, Alabama. Hinton was sentenced to death and held on the state’s death row for twenty-eight years. During that time, he befriended a member of the Ku Klux Klan and through that friendship, that man moved from a life of hatred to a love for people of all races, and a love for God. Ultimately, Anthony was found to be innocent of his charges and was released from prison.
Dr. John M. Perkins has been a counselor to six presidents, a community development leader, and a civil rights legend. Dr. Perkins grew up in Mississippi and was born during the height of Jim Crow and the Great Depression. The loss of his mother due to malnutrition and his brother, who was killed by police after his return from World War II, shaped Perkins’ life and ultimately inspired him to pursue civil rights issues, particularly around racial violence in the US. Today, at ninety-two years old, Dr. Perkins continues his work by shedding light on injustices and drawing Christians into the work of social justice and civil rights.
Both of these men give us a picture of the trials and tribulations they’ve had to endure in this life—exacerbated by issues of race—and how they’ve dedicated their lives to spreading love over hate and the joy that comes in freedom they’ve found in Christ.
Let’s start with Anthony’s story.
Anthony Ray Hinton: My name is Anthony Ray Hinton, and I was born in Birmingham, Alabama.
I live a somewhat carefree life. I wake up every morning with joy, and I go to bed with joy. The thing that I try every day, I try my best to show someone love. I try my best to show someone understanding. And I always try to be a person of encouragement.
And so I wouldn’t trade who I am and what I am for no amount of money, and I wouldn’t sell myself for no amount of money. I’m just so thankful that my mother brought me up to be blessed, be thankful for what I have, and to love even those who don’t love me, to pray for those who spitefully use me.
“I’m just so thankful that my mother brought me up to be blessed, be thankful for what I have, and to love even those who don’t love me.” – Anthony Ray Hinton
A Wrongful Conviction
I went to trial and got convicted, and was sentenced to death. And at that moment when the judge said, “Anthony Ray Hinton, I sentence you to death,” for a split second, I lost my eyesight. I looked back to see my niece was sitting behind me. I kid you not, I could not see anything but darkness. And when I turned my head back around to face the judge, my sight came back.
When I got to death row, I didn’t say a word for three years because I was so angry. And I kept wondering, Where was this God that I love and praised and thought so highly of? Where was God when I was being lied on? Where was God when I was being falsely accused of murder that He knows and I know that I didn’t commit?
I asked God, “What did I do so bad that You abandoned me in the time when I needed You?” I couldn’t understand the God that I love, the God that I believed, the God who sits high and looks low, why would He allow them to convict me and then the judge to sentence me to death?
I didn’t understand it. But to be honest with you, I should have played my mother’s voice, she would say, “Always wait on God’s plan. Always be patient. God may not give you what you want right then, but I promise you, He’s always on time. There are going to be people who dislike you simply because of the color of your skin.” My mother didn’t say white people were going to dislike me. She didn’t say Black people. She didn’t say Chinese or whatever. She said people. And she was letting me know that even people of your own race would not like you. But she said, “These are the people I want you to learn to love and pray for even more.”
And so I learned how to pray. I learned how to ask God to do whatever needs to be done for that person to bring love into their heart, because I had learned something. It’s not about me. It’s about them.
“I learned how to pray. And I learned how to ask God to do whatever needs to be done for that person to bring love into their heart, because I had learned something. It’s not about me. It’s about them.” – Anthony Ray Hinton
Replacing Hate with Love
Within fifteen years, a man who came to death row who thought he hated me because of the color of my skin would become my best friend.
Who would have thought that this man would introduce me to his father, who was the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan? Who would have thought his son would say, “Daddy, this is my friend Ray.” Who would have thought it?
I believe if I had to pick anything out, why God allowed me to go to death row, I really believe that God wanted me to meet Henry Francis Hayes. He wanted Henry Francis Hayes to experience unconditional love. And he wanted Henry Francis Hayes to see that love can come from anybody, regardless of the color. But he wanted Henry to see it come from a Black man.
And in fifteen years, Henry stopped using the N-word and started saying, “My brother, Ray. My friend, Ray.” Then on the night of his execution, [I’ve] never stood and been more proud of a human being than I was [of] Henry. Henry said, “All my life, I was taught to hate. All my life, my mother, my father, my community taught me nothing but to hate. And the people they taught me to hate, for the last fifteen years, are the people who showed me nothing but love. And tonight, as I leave this world, I leave this world now knowing what love feels like.”
Isn’t God amazing?
Forgiveness is a Sign of Strength
I went to Birmingham for a court hearing. One of the lawyers was walking away and he turned around and said, “Mr. Hinton, You need to call Mr. Stevenson.”
Somehow they hooked it up where I could get to him. And he told me, “So, Ray, you’re not going to believe this, but you’re going home.”
I had not allowed myself to think about home for thirty years. I didn’t want to think about [it] and make it worse than what it already was. When Mr. Stevenson told me I was really going home, I just began to cry. And I began to thank God.
He told me the procedure, that Monday morning I was going to walk out—I think it was [Monday]. And he said, “I’m in New York, but I will be there.”
And at that moment, I went from being happy to being sad. The sad was I knew that my mother would not be there to see me. I just knew in all of those years, my mom had prayed. My mom had kept hope. And for whatever reason, I needed her. But I knew that my mother lives inside of me every day. And I was determined to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice. I have to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.
“I was determined to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice. I have to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.” – Anthony Ray Hinton
I love the fact that every night I go to sleep, my hands are clean. I love the fact that He gave me a forgiving heart. Because I forgave those men who got together and lied about me, had me convicted, had every intention of killing me for a crime they knew that I didn’t commit. I want people to realize that forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, but forgiveness is a sign of strength.
Narrator: You can find Anthony Ray Hinton’s book, The Sun Does Shine, everywhere books are sold.
Stay tuned to Dr. John M. Perkins’ story after a brief message.
When life is overwhelming, Jesus Listens
No matter what happens, God is always there, ready to hear your prayers. That’s why Sarah Young wrote the new book, Jesus Listens.
Jesus Listens is a 365-day prayer devotional with short, heartfelt prayers based on scripture, written to deepen your relationship with God and change your heart. Click here to learn more about Jesus Listens and download a free sample!
Narrator: Our next guest is Dr. John M. Perkins, counselor to six presidents, community development leader, and civil rights legend. Dr. Perkins’ work centers around the notion that God created one human race to reflect His love and His compassion in the world. Dr. Perkins wants to further the central message of the Gospel—which is about loving every one of every race while being reconciled to God and to each other.
Dr. John M. Perkins: My name is John Perkins. I’m a Bible teacher. I didn’t grow up in a religious community. I grew up not believing that separate could be equal.
My mother died of a disease, they call it Pellagra. It had to do with nutrition deficiency and without a doctor, without medical care, without the food she needed for her society, she died when I was seven months old.
My parents didn’t have a milk cow, but some lady down the street saw my mother in poverty and saw me as a little baby in poverty, and brought a quart of milk during that time that helped me. But my mother died, and I lived.
My brother went to the military and came back from the military during World War II, in ’45, ’46, he was at a theater with his girlfriend, excited going upstairs to a separate place, and the police would come along and hit them on the head, do something, to tell him to be quiet. And my brother just had [gotten out of] the military, so [when] somebody hit him on the back, he spun around and went to catch the gun, and the guy stepped back and shot him two times and he was killed.
Can you see why young Blacks can get so angry when they examine the history of killing the young Blacks? I don’t blame them. We shouldn’t be doing each other like that. We ultimately are trying to love each other, be kind and loving, we would do justice, would love mercy, and we’d walk humbly.
I grew up in that, so it seeded down in me was a rebellious spirit toward an unjust society.
Extending Love to All God’s Children
After I was beaten in jail, my main doctor was a white Catholic young lady who wanted to be a missionary, and she was going to be a doctor missionary. She was there to serve me or rescue me. At the same time, I didn’t want to see no white folk, but they were there loving me too.
Oh, Lord, have mercy. It didn’t start with me. It started with her loving me. She became an extension of that redemptive mission. That’s the mission of the church. That’s the mission of Christianity. And we have made the mission almost the saving of ourselves. Oh, God has to help us. We are broken sinners. We can’t save ourselves, for by God’s love and grace are we saved. And that’s through faith. Believe in Him. It’s not about ourselves. It’s a gift of God, not of our own effort.
I came to know Christ and to want to worship Him by having an encounter with my own son when he was about three years old, going to a Good News Club. And I asked him what was he learning, and he sang me a song: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red, brown and yellow, Black and white, they are all precious in his sight, God loved to love the children of the world.” Now I’m twenty-five, twenty-six years old, now with my own son, [who is] about three or four years old. And for the first time in my life, I heard the central message of the gospel. The central message is about loving each other and being reconciled to God and to each other. And the essence of human language is love one another.
God created one human race in His image to reflect His love and His compassion in the world. When we see the needs of each other and God gives us the passion to reach out after those who are broken, that’s why He came. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
“God created one human race in His image to reflect His love and His compassion in the world.” – Dr. John M. Perkins
That’s the message we need today. Black folks need that message. White folks need that. Minorities need that message. We need Jesus. Prayer is really attempting to love God with all your heart and all your soul, and prayer is listening. Prayer is listening. And that’s what prayer was meant to be. Prayer was meant for us coming to God, knowing that we are broken, knowing that we are sinners and crying out to Him, “Lord, forgive me. Redeem me.” And I believe that I hear that. I believe that you hear that. I believe that you have already heard that. And when I see these books that you are writing here, Jesus Calling and those things, what you’ve been doing is listening.
“Jesus Paid It All”
You know the scholar Henri Nouwen, who died a few years ago, I became a friend, somewhat, of Henri Nouwen, and I’ve learned so much. I love his little devotional Mornings with Henry.
I love your devotional here, Jesus Calling.
[Jesus Calling, September 23rd]
Walk with Me in the freedom of forgiveness. The path we follow together is sometimes steep and slippery. If you carry a burden of guilt on your back, you are more likely to stumble and fall. At your request, I will remove the heavy load from you and bury it at the foot of the cross. When I unburden you, you are undeniably free! Stand up straight and tall in My Presence so that no one can place more burdens on your back. Look into My Face and feel the warmth of My Love-Light shining upon you. It is this unconditional Love that frees you from both fears and sins. Spend time basking in the Light of My Presence. As you come to know Me more and more intimately, you grow increasingly free.
Prayer is something like the first Psalm. How do we meditate upon God day and night? Didn’t He say, “If we can do that, we would be like a tree planted by the river, the water that brings forth fruit in its season. Its leaves do not wither, those leaves of healing. It would be a healing tree there for every month in the year. The leaves heal us.”
Jesus paid it all. All to Him we owe. So our redemption is not of ourselves, our redemption is a gift of God is a gift of God. That’s why we should love one another. Love is eternal. Isn’t that beautiful?
Narrator: To learn more about Dr. John Perkins and his work, visit johnmperkins.com.
If you’d like to hear more stories about the freedom we can find in our relationship with Christ, check out our interview with Sadie Robertson Huff.
Next Week: Janine Urbaniak Reid
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we hear from author Janine Urbaniak Reid, whose son was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor at only ten years old. Suffering from PTSD, it took Janine a while to come to terms with the diagnosis. She’ll share some things she’s learned about how we can survive the tension that comes with uncertainty, and how God will be sitting in it with us always.
Janine Urbaniak Reid: You don’t need to judge yourself so harshly, and there is no perfect. There is no perfect here, but an open-hearted, loving you, showing up with all your humanness and all your flaws and all of your love and all your joy. That’s the point. The point was never to be a perfect mom. The point was always to just be a human mom and love these people through it all.