Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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I recently spoke to Oshea Israel about his experience on the receiving end of Mary Johnson’s extraordinary act of forgiveness, as well as his participation in the I Forgive You program which airs tomorrow night (9/18) @ 9:00 PM, 10:00 PM and 11:00 PM with repeat showing on Wednesday (Thanksgiving Eve) @ 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM. All times mentioned are ET. Here are some of the highlights of our chat:

JWK: Please tell me, from your perspective, what that meeting with Mary years after the shooting was like?

OSHEA ISRAEL: I wasn’t in a place where I was getting ready to do that…But, meeting with her, I came to the conclusion that it would be best to allow her the closure that she needed because, had the same thing happened to myself, I would hope that the person…would at least give me the sense of closure that she needed.

JWK: What’s really amazing is that you two are actually friends now.

OI: Yeah, we actually live next door to each other. I talk to her often. Actually, she checked in with me a few minutes ago.

JWK:  So, you two go around and tell your story of forgiveness to others.
OI: Yeah, we tell our stories in prisons, colleges, church — you name it…Anyone that wants to hear our story, we’re pretty much open to share it.
JWK: You were only 16 when the shooting happened.
OI: Yes, sir, I was 16.
JWK: And Mary has helped you starting over.
OI: Mary’s been very instrumental. You know, making sure that some of the needs that I have are met to keep me from recidivating.
JWK: What do you hope people get out of  your story?
OI:  The one thing that I really hope people (get out of this) is that, even before forgiveness, be cognitive of your actions and the things that lead you awry in life, that can lead you down the wrong path…We make mistakes in life. Sometimes, the things that we do aren’t there to define who we are but they’re mistakes that we made and we can grow from them. Everyone wants to be forgiven for something (but) it’s so hard for other people to forgive.  How can you hold that expectation if you yourself won’t give that same gift.  Forgiveness can be so liberating . (Because of) the fact that I was forgiven, I’m able to be free to do what I feel like I need to do without feeling as guilty and without trying to self-sabotage. A lot of times, if we’re not forgiven, we walk around feeling angry, hurt or upset and we will self-sabotage. We won’t be successful. We feel like we don’t deserve it. We will self-sabotage and the next thing you know, we may hurt someone or what have you. We may continue to hurt ourselves and get back in that same situation. With forgiveness comes love and, with that love, you feel love and you want to give love.  It kinda gives a different balance, a different perspective.
JWK: Mary is a Christian. Do you consider yourself a Christian?
OI: No. I don’t hold onto religious titles. I do believe in a Creator, the Higher Power. I don’t too much get involved with religious titles.
JWK: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
OI: Just that if people could tune in Sunday night…Just look at the show, not just for my story but for all of the stories (and) kinda understand that, in order for the world to change, we have to change. We have to change…the way that we look at things.  Michael Jackson did a song year and years and years ago called Man in the Mirror. That’s where it starts. So, if we can look within ourselves and forgive ourselves for the wounds that we’ve done and then learn how to forgive other people we can bring about a world of change…We have to see things in order to know how to do them. And with this show I think people will really get to understand what forgiveness is.
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Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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