Category Archives: Articles

The Benefit of Doubt

Which would you find more morally offensive: someone who committed a murder avoids conviction because of a prosecutorial error, or someone innocent of murder is sent to prison for it because of a prosecutorial error?

Expressing a sentiment commonly shared among the so-called “Founding Fathers” of the United States, Benjamin Franklin proclaimed, “it is better a hundred guilty persons should escape than one innocent person should suffer.”  I wonder if the leading voices in our society would say the same today.

It is not uncommon to hear of people being exonerated after spending decades of their life in prison. This is due, in no small part, to Continue reading

Doubt – Introduction

After an extended hiatus, it might seem strange to begin the monthly newsletter again with a planned four-part series on Doubt. I imagine many people might think that sounds like a particularly bad idea for writings intended to provide encouragement to a community of inmates and ministry volunteers. The inmates especially, we might think, would not benefit from reading an introduction to doubt. Indeed, many have been introduced to doubt in an all too familiar way. Continue reading

Embodying the Presence Yet to Come

The following comes from the July 2011 Newsletter, a copy of which can be found here

 

I have had the privilege of accompanying several outside guests when they worship together with inmates at Angola for the first time. Upon their departure, these people often report that they  have had a powerful, even life changing, experience. Many express a reluctance to leave, to which my normal jocular response is “well, I know plenty of men who would love to trade places with you.”  To be sure, I mean no offence by the jest. My intention is simply to communicate the perspective of someone who sees the inside of the prison when the church call-outs are over. The truth of the matter is that the appearance of things at Angola changes during those worship services. By no means, however, does that mean that what happens during the services in which guests report having a profound experience of God’s presence is not real.

Continue reading

Letting Go

The following comes from the June 2011 Newsletter, a copy of which can be found here

 

“We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it”

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Followers of Christ should be well versed in the practice of letting go. It is something we are told to do throughout the gospel narratives.  Jesus informs those that come to him “whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Not only must be we be willing to let go of our material possessions, we must be willing to let go of friends, family and indeed even our own lives to follow Christ. For that reason, many of the early church fathers taught that we should strive to eliminate all of our worldly attachments. Yet the “detachment” taught by the church fathers is not a stoic indifference to the world, such that we are unaffected and unmoved by events that would normally produce joy or grief. That would imply that we be uncaring, which Jesus never suggests. Rather, we are to love the world as God loves the world. So, then, we might ask, how can we be expected to so easily let go of what we love? Continue reading

Finding Forgiveness

The following comes from the May 2011 Newsletter, a copy of which can be found here

 

Because many inmates’ family members cannot afford the cost of collect calls (or they use a cellular phone incapable of receiving them), one of the things I do as a chaplain is facilitate calls home for inmates in emergency situations.   One morning, upon arriving at my office, the Chaplain’s Department clerk informed me that I had someone waiting for me. This man had learned the previous night that his sister had been brutally murdered. He wanted to call home. Continue reading