Rev. Deborah L. Johnson goes deep in her new book
Rev. Deborah L. Johnson answers the phone with a crackly voice. She apologizes for the froggy throat and explains that she just got sick—right in the middle of some important work in Washington D.C. Johnson, the founder of Inner Light Ministries in Soquel and a powerful speaker and activist, is in the nation’s capitol lobbying for the passage of the Employment Non-discrimination Act and the Local Hate Crimes Act. Both are pieces of legislation that would hopefully thwart how some gays are mistreated.
A minister and a lobbyist? You don’t always see that. Oh, sure, there are the religious leaders like Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell who have bold, loud voices in the media. But a reverend who’s speaking in support of protecting gays? Yes. That’s Rev. Johnson, who is gay, herself. As a black, gay, progressive minister, Johnson may be considered a minority among her religious brothers and sisters. But there are many others like her, or similar to her, whose voices are quieter than those of say, Robertson. That’s why she and 250 other clergy members are in the nation’s capitol rallying for what they believe in.
It’s this part of Johnson—the spiritual and the political—that she shares in her new book, “Your Deepest Intent,” just released by Sounds True publishers. In it, Johnson reveals a series of letters that she claims were given to her from “Spirit,” (a.k.a. God). “Your Deepest Intent” reads like a meditation book, with usually two entries per page. A reader can flip to any part of the book and read a daily inspiration. The topics are broad, but all are spiritual in nature, and some have a political flair to them.
We asked Johnson to explain the inspiration behind the book as well as her “deepest intent.” Read on:
Good Times: You’re a reverend of an omni-faith church. What do you mean by omni-faith and do you personally belong to any one particular faith?
Rev. Deborah L. Johnson: Some groups refer to themselves as interfaith. That usually means a representation of various organized religious traditions. We believe faith is too big to be confined to religion. People who come to Inner Light are from all paths. I was raised a very fundamentalist Christian. I am now what they call a metaphysical or New Thought minister. The New Thought movement is an offshoot of Protestantism and I’d say that the primary difference is that instead of it being a religion about Jesus, we want to be a religion of Jesus. … Whatever it is that he knew and understood, we try to live out those principles. The Bible is my favorite sacred text, but it’s not the only sacred text that we use in the ministry. … We really believe in a global oneness and have respect for other religious groups and traditions so we don’t try to convert people.
GT: Tell me about this idea of “Deepest Intent.” What does that mean and what is it?
DJ: Deepest Intent is the place where we integrate our thoughts, our actions, our speech, our conversation. When people think of intent, they usually think of just some objective they want to manifest, but intent is really more than that. It takes into consideration what you’re going to do and why you’re going to do it and how you think you’re going to do it and what do you think is going to be the result of it. … The premise of the book is that it’s more important that your intent be pure than it is for any part of the goal to be accomplished.
GT: What is your Deepest Intent?
DJ: My Deepest Intent is to live my purpose to its highest. I think that purpose is that I have always been a visionary. I’ve always been noted as a progressive person and especially a bridge builder in moving
people toward oneness, and I really believe that’s why I’m here, to bring about a message of oneness.
GT: What does it mean for someone to find their
DJ: The first thing people need to do is to ask themselves, “What is their Deepest Intent?” For example, I may have a couple that comes to me and tells me they want to get married and I may pose the question to both of them, “What is your Deepest Intent?” And that really makes them have to pause and think about why they are really doing this, and not just what are they going to get out of this relationship, but how are they going to show up in it. … I’d say one of the greatest things it does is flush out expectations. I find that most relationships fail due to unmet expectations; and if we can have that discussion about intent up front, it may help us to see where we are on the same page, or where we’re not.
GT: What was your intention for writing this book and how did the book come to be?
DJ: A God voice speaks … and I have hundreds of these letters. They come complete with grammar even. What you see in the book are transcriptions of the conversation. … It is on the left side of my head. The Spirit voice will start talking, mid-sentence. … I can be anywhere at any time. … For the most part I get them in the morning. I could get four or five in a month, or maybe two in three months.
GT: How long have you been getting these messages?
DJ: I first started getting them in June of ’95.
GT: Did you invite them or did they just start to happen?
DJ: I was in a time, in a dark hour of the soul, in Toronto at a conference and I literally had this kind of out of body death kind of experience in the sauna. It was one of the most profound things that’s ever happened to me. I went in my room, pulled my laptop out and my fingers started flying faster than anything I could imagine.
GT: You’re called a leader of the spiritual progressive movement. What is this movement about and what is its emphasis?
DJ: The spiritual progressive movement is really about bringing the spiritual voice to the progressive movement. There’s a way now that issues of morality and religious values—that language is being ceded to the conservative right, and we’re not trying to silence them. We’re just feeling like they’re getting more airtime, so my presence here on Capitol Hill is to say to legislators that not everyone who is a religious leader is bigoted or prejudiced toward LGBT people. It’s an answer to the conservative right, to give an alternate voice but also to help the liberal, progressive movement to heal their wounds about religion.
GT: Do you believe that we are all spiritual people? What about the atheists among us?
DJ: I think we’re all spiritual people. Not everybody necessarily believes in a deity and I don’t think people need to believe in a deity per se. But I have yet to have met a person who is kind, loving, caring and doesn’t feel connected to something. Whether it’s just life, a sense of purpose or meaning, we characterize it differently and just because somebody doesn’t recognize it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Most people do not understand physics or laws of mathematics, and yet we’re using them all the time, walking through doorways or driving cars.
GT: You talk about this idea of oneness in your book. Can you elaborate on that?
DJ: What the book puts forth is that our society is rooted in a very dualistic paradigm of good and evil, of us and them, where we’re looking at everything as polar opposites. There really aren’t all these opposites. There really isn’t us and them. There is us and different expressions of us. If we look at the world through those eyes of oneness, it completely shifts how we relate to one another, and I think that’s an extremely important part of the message to us as a nation. What is our deepest intention as a nation? Right now we’re not showing any intent to want to respect other cultures or create a world in which all of us are of equal value.
Rev. Deborah L. Johnson will be having a book event and talk from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 28 at the Inner Light Center, 5630 Soquel Dr., Soquel. The book sells for $24.95 at the Inner Light Ministries bookstore and at other local bookstores, as well as online.