Ex-offenders confront the for-profit prison industry.
Reflections on the Common Lectionary, Cycle B
Two years ago, Chris Simpson led a white pride march.
Six months ago, he abandoned the white supremacy movement.
On April 15, he was baptized.
Five days later, Simpson sat in the waiting room of a skin and vein clinic, waiting to start the long and painful process of having his tattoos, most replete with Nazi or white pride iconography, removed.
"Hate will blind you to so many things. It will stop you from having so many things," Simpson said. "It consumes you."
God told Noah to build an ark, and God told Horace to build a tree house. That’s pretty much how this story goes.
In the 1990s, Tennessee landscaper Horace Burgess discovered a tall mass of trees near the road, and decided he wanted to turn into the world’s largest tree house. After years of working on his epic project, just as he was running out of steam, he became a Christian and then later a pastor.
Compelled, he says, by the Spirit of God, Burgess finally finished his project in 2004. And, to put it lightly, it’s pretty divine.
Rev. Gerald L. Durley, Pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Gerogia.
Religious conversions are on the rise in American prisons, according to a recent national survey of chaplains by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
A majority of 730 chaplains surveyed say that inmates are switching religions a lot (26 percent) or some (51 percent, and the largest gains are Muslim (51 percent), Protestant (47 percent) and pagan or earth-based religions (34 percent).
But it is difficult to determine prisoners' motivations for converting, according to Cary Funk, senior researcher for the Pew Forum.
“Some of the switching may be short-lived,” Funk said, adding that it is unclear whether the conversions are based on authentic beliefs or access to certain privileges such as special food or religious holidays.
“Marley was dead, to begin with.”
So begins the classic tale of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It is a story that has been told and re-told through various mediums since the novella was published December 19, 1843.
I sat down recently to watch the new Disney version of the tale. It features a CGI rendition of Scrooge with the voice of Jim Carrey.
After 15 minutes I shut it off.
It wasn’t that it was particularly bad. I didn’t give the movie enough of a chance even to figure whether it was worth watching. What I realized is that I wasn’t much interested in hearing the same story again from a secular perspective.
A Christmas Carol, I would argue, is not ultimately about Christmas, but conversion.
Christmas is the stage and the catalyst through which transformation occurs. It is a leading character to be sure. But, it is the radical change that occurs in Ebenezer Scrooge that most compels me.
Scrooge repented, promised to “honor Christmas in his heart” all year long and to never forget the lessons of the three spirits.
He celebrated Christmas day with his nephew, sent the Cratchit family a prize Christmas turkey and then given Bob Cratchit a raise. He became a second father to Tiny Tim, was known as a good man in the city and was remembered for his ability to keep Christmas well.
But, as Dickens pointed out, this didn’t come without some laughter and derision.
Some people who knew Scrooge as a misanthrope before, now saw the old, mean man as a fool. The radical conversion Scrooge underwent caused some to question whether this new Ebenezer was still of sound mind.
This is as it should be.