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A Prophet Greater than Elijah

In a CT magazine testimony, Damon Richardson shares why he left the Nation of Islam to follow Christ:

The year I was born, my father was in prison. During his incarceration, he officially became a member of the Nation of Islam, joining a growing number of African American men for whom the nation signified community, identity, reform, and dignity.

The element of my upbringing that left the deepest impression was the constant indoctrination. We were drilled extensively in the nation’s core doctrines. Our understanding of God originated with Fard Muhammad’s book The Supreme Wisdom Lessons. I distinctly remember chanting, “God is a man, not a spirit or a spook; never has God been a spirit or a spook; God is a man; God is a man!”

This chant had a clear purpose: to instill certainty that God (Allah) had come to earth in the person of Fard Muhammad, whom we knew by the exalted title of Savior of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in North America. However, even as a child, I remember thinking often about why my conception of God didn’t align with the nation’s teaching. Why was I so convinced that God really did have a spiritual nature?

One day, I had an epiphany. My sisters and I were playing hide-and-seek around our house. While remaining hidden, I was gripped with a thought. I said to myself, “My sisters don’t know where I am. But Allah does, because he knows everything, so he must be on both the inside and the outside of this closet.” This meant that he couldn’t be a mere human being, like me or my sisters. Somehow, even at an early age, I was developing a notion of God’s omniscience and omnipresence that contradicted the nation’s insistence that he was neither “spirit” nor “spook.”

At the time, I had no idea that God was working behind the scenes, sovereignly steering us away from the Nation of Islam. After marital discord caused my parents to separate, my mother moved us to Florida, where we encountered a Southern Baptist children’s evangelist. Mr. Brown was sowing the seeds of the gospel in our hearts. Mr. Brown gave us our first copy of the Bible, which we read in secret. He kept inviting us to Sunday school until our mother finally relented—but cautioned against being proselytized. We were instructed to go only for the sake of being with friends and afterward to come straight home.

For a while after my father died, our family maintained a lukewarm connection to the Nation of Islam doctrine. That began changing when the boyfriend of my second oldest sister invited her to church with his family. Soon thereafter, she accepted Christ, and we would often get into debates about salvation, Jesus, the Trinity, and the afterlife. I hadn’t lost my youthful interest in matters of theology.

Eventually, I started visiting this church to see for myself what was being taught. The more I visited, the more I was drawn to what I heard, almost as if the Holy Spirit was confirming that this was what I was searching for all those years ago, when doubts about Fard Muhammad’s teachings first arose.

After a period of deliberation, I realized I couldn’t sit through another sermon without declaring that I trusted in Jesus for salvation. At age 16 I was born again, and one year later I was already preaching the gospel.

Looking back, I can see that … I really was lost. I was living in a wilderness—it was inside my own heart. And it wasn’t Fard or Elijah Muhammad who came to find and rescue me—it was Jesus. Our “Savior” had indeed arrived … but he was both an eternal spirit and a man—God’s own Son, who came not to exalt one particular race but to gather a “chosen people” of sinners like me (1 Pet. 2:9)

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