Jamie Nash is a retired United States Air Force Officer who flew combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. He is currently working on his Masters Divinity at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University. He is the father of two sons with autism. His wife Tonya is the founder of the Autism Faith Network non-profit organization. He is serving as an Ernest C. Hynds Jr. intern for the fall 2021 semester.
1. What story, verse or passage from your faith tradition’s sacred texts has significantly influenced / shaped your life?
One moment from the Bible that comes to mind is the story of the prodigal son. This is a captivating situation about a son who lives an unstinted life. The premise from the story is not to live a life full of lavishness but rather a balanced life.
The part that always grabs at my inner being is the actions of his father. Luke 15:20 (New Living Translation) says, “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”
The son was “still a long way off.” The son wasn’t where he was supposed to be yet. The son hadn’t made it home; he was still recovering from the life he lived. But the father didn’t wait till he was “where he should have been”; he ran to him where he was with sincere love and humanity.
I am humbly reminded that regardless of what condition we are in or where we are in life that we should gracefully love others where they are not where we think they should be.
2. Who are three people (other than your family) who have shaped your life and worldview? And why?
My worldview was shaped by experiences and opportunities I was blessed to have.
When I was a teenager, I lived in Germany and visited all over Europe for three years. I got there right when the Berlin Wall came down. There were many different cultures I got to experience as a teen and that changed how I saw other countries.
My second experience was leaving home and going to basic training. It was my first time away from home, living with a decision I made. It was a coming of age moment for me. I learned that in 1998 there were college students who never interacted with African Americans until they were at basic training. I realized that my country still had a long way to go in terms of race relations.
My final worldview experience was 9/11. I was a brand-new Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. I was horrified at what I saw on television. I knew we were attacked and watched our world change. The security we all took for granted dissipated that day. I was grateful that I was serving when it happened. I knew I would have my chance to do something about it. I felt a resolve that day. I felt my decision to join was the best decision I had made up to that point in my life.
3. List three of your “desert island” books, movies or TV shows.
I am a geek at heart so my interest is in science fiction. My desert island books would be the Dune series by Frank Herbert.
These books are amazingly written; they involve science, religion, politics, humanity and so much more. The first six books are worth your time. Clearly, the Dune series is one of my favorite literature series of all time. I could read them over and over again.
Books make you smarter, so I’d be good with just the books. I’m used to going with very little in terms of entertainment.
4. What is one of the most critical issues people are facing today?
In my humble unapologetic opinion, the most critical issue we are facing is the COVID-19 pandemic.
The second issue is that we have been divided in the United States for a long time and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
The third issue is that we have been living with fear and anxiety for almost two years. If you look at politics, religion, business, etc, it feels like everything we are doing as a country is being driven by fear and anxiety. We could use some hope and unity right now.
5. What are a few of your hobbies?
My first love is running, followed by biking and swimming. I want to do my first triathlon in 2022. I also love practicing Jiu Jitsu and drawing.
These are things that help me to find that quiet space. I do some of my greatest thinking while I am hammering out a few miles on the open road. Exercising is one of the best self-care gifts you can give yourself daily.
6. If you could freeze your life into an already-lived 10 seconds, what would they be?
With all my heart, I wouldn’t freeze any part of my life that I’ve already lived. I am a firm believer in living in the now. I’ve got so many mistakes and failures behind me that I don’t want to pause or go back.
While I say that, I would also like to add: I’ve lived an amazing, adventurous life thus far, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it. The journey is filled with failures, mistakes and successes.
I tell my students to embrace your mistakes and failures. Own them, learn from them and move forward. Don’t let your past hinder you, let it help you to be the person you want to be right now. The beauty of the past is that it is behind you.
I feel that spending an excessive amount of time thinking about the future can lead to immense anxiety. Living a balanced life in the present and enjoying where you are now is the way to go.
7. Our tagline at Good Faith Media is, “There’s more to tell.” What’s your “more to tell”?
I have two wonderful sons who are both autistic. The most challenging thing I had to do was learn how to be the best Dad I could be to them. It is a challenge every day, and it has been my privilege and honor watching them grow up.
I am not perfect, but I make it a point every day to do my best. I am so blessed to have my wonderful boys in my life. I wouldn’t trade them for anyone or anything.
My wife and I had our eyes opened to the challenges of taking our children to church. It became extremely difficult to go because most churches we visited were not equipped to work with children with special needs. This experience motivated us to help churches become more accessible to people with disabilities.
My wife started The Autism Faith Network to take on that challenge. Through our non-profit, we have reached 30+ churches spanning 3,000 people, sharing ways for ministries to be inclusive and mindful of families dealing with disabilities.
Reflection and resources at the intersection of faith and culture through an inclusive Christian lens.