Transforming Pain To Power: The C. Mark Ealy Way
TRANSFORMING PAIN TO POWER:
THE C. MARK EALY WAY
By Wyatt O’Brian Evans
“I suppose my writing is different than that of a lot of people because ‘I do not own the words.’ The words come through me, not from me. I only write when I’m inspired by the Holy Spirit. The purpose of all my writing is to help people on their spiritual journey. “
Those rather weighty words provide keen insight into C. Mark Ealy, author of the new book, The Making of a Preacher: Naked in the Pulpit. Largely autobiographical, it’s the saga of a minister (“Larry”) who “bares all in his journey to find truth.”
After overcoming nearly impossible odds—growing up poverty-stricken and hopeless, being trapped in an all-Black ghetto in South Central Los Angeles (L.A.)--Ealy become an ordained Baptist minister. Over the past 27 years, he has held major positions of leadership in the secular and church worlds. Currently, Ealy serves as a consultant for various churches. And, he is the founder of The Institute for Living, an organization whose mission is to assist individuals in their spiritual growth.
Naked in the Pulpit is the story of “Larry,” the youngest of four children, who grew up in abject poverty. “We were evicted from our apartments three times while I was growing up,” Larry says. “Our electricity was cut off several times because we hadn’t paid the bill. One morning as mother was preparing to bake a pan of biscuits—that was the only food left in the house—the man came from the gas company to cut off our gas because the bill was past due. When mother asked if he could wait just 20 minutes so we could have some food, he replied that he had other houses to get to, and therefore couldn’t be concerned about our problems. Needless to say, I sobbed. I went to the refrigerator and scraped up the last one-half teaspoon of mayonnaise—it was the last drop of food in the house. As soon as I ate it, I fell across the bed because I was so weak.”
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Larry states that his father’s decision to quit his post office job threw the family into financial dire straits. His father “had a revelation that God wanted him to leave all these ‘worldly’ pursuits and become a preacher. What we experienced as children was a father who didn’t work. He spent his days going to the barbershop and preaching there all day to anyone who would listen.”
Larry continues, “Periodically, he would leave and go on ‘journeys.’ These were events where he would merely take off from home and go walking out into the wilderness or the desert. He would be gone from one week to a month. Upon his return, he would tell us many stories about his exploits out in the desert or the wilderness.”
Meanwhile, Larry says, his mother worked as a maid for whites. Unable to earn enough for two adults and four children to survive, the family was on welfare for most of his childhood. Consequently, “we were all mad at our poverty-stricken life—and at a father whose life choices had left us in emotional and physical pain.”
Larry adds, “Although I achieved financial success—two Cadillacs in the garage of my suburban home—I was not able to sustain my success, long-term. I suppose the reason was that my internal image didn’t fit the external trappings.”
Regarding his dad, Larry explains, “my relationship with my father is, as best I can tell, the most significant factor in the shaping of my adult behavior. The tremendous emotional abuse that I experienced from my father has negatively impacted all of my adult relationships. He was a father who sent conflicted messages. While verbalizing love and even adoration for his children on the one hand, at the same time he was cold, distant, hostile, and extremely harsh (whatever we did, it was never quite good enough).”
Larry says, “A failed marriage and three children with whom my relationship has been very strained are only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath are tremendous amounts of sexual confusion and bewilderment.” He confesses that one of the major struggles of his life continues to be reconciling his faith and sexual desires.
“Who is God?” is a subject Larry ponders. He states, “The ‘God’ I grew up with was very powerful—all powerful—very mean, very judgmental, standing ready to punish us whenever we disobeyed (which is much of the time). I’m really struggling now to be in relationship with a new God: one who loves me ‘unconditionally.’ “
Larry examines the age-old question, “Is it Wrong to be Gay?” and doesn’t let the church “off the hook.” He asserts, “The church must remember its core mission of rescue and recovery—not judgment and condemnation. In fulfillment of that mission, the church’s role is to help the individual walk in the Spirit.”
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In Naked in the Pulpit, Ealy paints an affecting, vivid portrait of pain, heartbreak, disillusionment, and sexual confusion. His writing style is immediate. It flows exceptionally well, and is quite accessible. It draws you in and keeps you there. The reader feels that he is actually sitting across the table and having a “heart-to-heart” with “Larry.”
Naked is not a “pity party.” Far from it. It’s a story full of hope, and the burning desire and courage to understand one’s self—and therefore, to beat the odds. This tome teaches without being “preachy,” and is a “heapin’ helpin’” of common sense.
Ealy revealed, “I will say that I entered adulthood with severe emotional scars because of my childhood. The essence of the book is about transforming pain into power.”
While growing up in the greater Watts community, Ealy certainly had his share of pain, as well as despair and helplessness. He experienced first hand the explosive, large-scale Watts Riots, which began on August 11, 1965 and lasted for six days. As a result, of the 34 people officially reported killed, 28 were African-American. Also according to “official” records, 1,032 people were injured and 4,000 people arrested. Six hundred buildings were either damaged or destroyed, and an estimated $35 million (nearly $220 million in 2006 dollars) in damage was caused.
“My sister actually saw the event that triggered the riots,” Ealy claims. “A lady who was 8-9 months pregnant was getting out of her car at a shopping center in the Watts area. She had parked her car. Apparently there was some altercation between her and a white lady over the parking space. The police went into the passenger seat of the car and got her husband out and handcuffed him—although he was doing absolutely nothing! They then proceeded to beat the black lady who was pregnant.”
He added, “My neighborhood became a military zone. We had an apartment on Pacific Coast Highway (one of the busiest streets in Southern California). It was incredible to me to look out the window and see no cars riding up and down the street. Instead, U.S. Marshals were posted on each corner with their rifles drawn!”
The author had strong words on the role of the church in people’s lives. “My passion is simply to bring the church as corporate body back to the core value of its CEO—Jesus, the Christ—who articulated the core principles in Luke 4:18. The church has a capacity to care for people at the soul level. No other institution public or private, profit or non-profit, social service or commerce—can do the church’s work in human lives. If the church doesn’t do it, it goes lacking, and people suffer. And people are suffering. People are wandering without clarity and without purpose because the church doesn’t really care.”
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Ealy’s Institute for Living embodies his “passion for building new infrastructures of rescue and recovery until everyone is safe in the harbor.” He explained, “I have had what we call material success, but now I have a passion to focus away from success and towards real ministry. So in order to pursue my ministry appropriately, I have to find new indicators of success, such as: How have I helped reduce the number of deacons molesting young boys? How can I create a culture where men from the pulpit to the door can be honest about their same-sex attraction? Can I create a safe place for young boys who feel a same-sex attraction to come and express their feelings and receive appropriate guidance?”
Ealy believes that the Black church does indeed practice and promote homophobia. “There is almost nothing worse that one can declare than to declare that he/she is homosexual in the Black church,” he stated.
Same-sex attraction, he continued, “is a highly-charged issue around which people are deeply polarized. Therefore, it represents a template for us to construct a new infrastructure that gets people interacting in new ways. God is love. That is the essence of what church is.”
According to Ealy, “Naked in the Pulpit is the toughest of all my books (he’s currently writing eight others) because it is the closest to me personally. In it I model what I am teaching: the necessity of getting naked with one’s self, with others and with God in order to be whole.” (You can visit Mr. Ealy at http://www.theinstituteforliving.com/.)
Wyatt O’Brian Evans is a journalist and author whose bylines have appeared in print publications including the Washington Post, the Washington (Gay) Blade, and American Politics magazine. He also writes for the on-line infotainment sites qbliss.net and imperiousent.com. As well, Mr. Evans created and penned a popular African-American/gay/erotic serial, the “Black and the Beautiful.” His upcoming novel is entitled “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart.”