Shawn was the priest of a warlike religion, Asatru, for 15 years, committing acts of violence in the name of the Norse gods.
But what happens when a priest of Odin and Thor has an encounter with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?
In a word? Transformation.
Ever since he was little, Shawn’s life has been ruled by violence.
“My stepfather used to beat me up a lot,” says Shawn. “Then I found out he was hurting my sister. At fourteen, I attacked him.”
It was an act that got Shawn sent to juvenile prison. But instead of rehabilitation, the years he spent there only confirmed violence was the answer to life’s problems. That belief sent Shawn back to prison time and time again. As an adult, he found a religion to justify his worldview — one that not only accepted violence, but actively encouraged it.
“Prisons are run by gangs. I cliqued up with the Aryan Brotherhood, the Skinheads, basically the white supremacists, most of whom are Asatru. I became a priest of a religion that shouldn’t even be called a religion, really. It’s more of a license to hurt people. It teaches that everyone else is the enemy, the only people who matter are your own and to take what you want through violence. It’s horribly self-serving.”
That all came to an end when an encounter with God brought this priest to his knees.
“I have a daughter and when I got out of prison the last time, in 2017, I found out she was pregnant. Being a grandfather made me want to change but, instead, I went back to drugs. That sent me to Valley Hospital where they gave me a list of the halfway houses and recovery programs in Phoenix.”
Scanning the list, one in particular caught his eye.
“It was Phoenix Rescue Mission. My mother is Christian. When I read that they offered a year-long, Christian-based recovery program, I thought that would be the best way to reconnect with my family.”