A community in love

A few days ago (CBC Radio Metamorphosis) I heard a story of a transformation. Arno Michaels, a former neo-Nazi skin-head, and something of a major figure within the white supremacist clan, said that in order to sustain the motivation for his frequent episodes of violence he needed to constantly feed his hatred. In time, building hatred was too much a burden, and he grew tired.

MLAHfront-ebookHis transformation wasn’t a road to Damascus experience. Giving up the load of hate along with his beliefs and behaviour came through simple association with moderate people. His revelation was that regular folk, despite our fits of jealousy and petty hatred, are more often than not caring and loving. In keeping company with ordinary people he came to believe that at the core of a person there is compassion. And because belief informs behaviour, his razor-wire wall came down. Arno now spends his time promoting peace, kindness and tolerance.

Well, perhaps ordinary looks saintly from the murky distance of enmity. Then again, maybe it’s true that at the core we are compassionate, and have a profound desire to love and be loved. Maybe my natural inclination is toward you, you toward me.

Maybe if we reached within, used our bodies to feel ourselves into being, we would joy-jump at the dawning revelation that all we want is to be a community of love—a community in love, innately reflecting a transcendent wisdom, a great Sophia.

Maybe Arno Michaels, through the inevitably flawed attempt to arrive at a pure hatred, cut through the weaker layers of envy and resentment, and through an innocent moment of human engagement, discovered, paradoxically, his own natural desire: to be the cause of joy in another. A still latent desire that languishes within us all.


  1. Prophetic words, read just before the news of the hateful and horrific mass shooting in Aurora, CO. Lord have mercy. May we all find life after hate.

  2. Fascinating story, Steve. You raise, of course, one of the oldest theological and psychological issues – who are we as humans? The (very) short Christian answer is paradoxical – created in the image of God, and fallen, thus, fallen image bearers. Solzhenitzen (sp?) said that the line between good and evil doesn’t lie between “us” and “them” but runs through the hearts of each of us. The story of Arno Michaels is fascinating because of how he atttributes the source of his change – ordinary people. So hopeful.

  3. “Who are we as humans” asks Sam. Stephen, the story you just posted about the Holocaust survivor is what I hope is representative of the human race, but I fear not. Mr. Michaels appears to promise hope that inherently, we all have good inside of us. The media wants us to believe otherwise as it thrives on telling the stories of horror, hatred, and lives gone bad. Chris Hedges has just written a very depressing piece: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/23-0

    But I still believe otherwise, that humans are better than this, that we simply don’t hear frequently enough the stories of good and hope and love. Too mundane are these stories. But tell them we must.

  4. As Diane has stated, “the media wants us to believe otherwise as it thrives on telling the stories of horror, hatred…,” – perhaps we should turn from media, like Arno did from hatred and the company he kept. Turn the tide against the negative, the media that thrives on the words of the song ‘Dirty Laundry,’ and sing our own positive lyrics to those around us. Influence your small circle – family, coworkers, neighbors…

  5. Thanks Steve! I also appreciate Sam’s comments about the paradoxical nature of humans as fallen image bearers. The incarnation also provides us with the reality that God shows up in ordinary places, spaces and faces. Peace, Graham

  6. Thank you Graham. The Incarnation is a critical addition to the discussion. In the sophia of God, matter matters; even small mundane human greetings (like the sharing of these stories) are already signs of the sacredness of humanity and human unity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *