On the U.S. Prison System and the Church

You tell me Jesus forgives me, how come your church never does?

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.

Matthew 25

[This is the 3rd post in a series highlighting portions of The Truth About 13th.]

Throughout the hour-long discussion, the LRJ panel reflects on the experience of people who are in prison and their families. In the clip above, Rev. Blake tells a story about a friend who was formerly incarcerated asking him: “You tell me Jesus forgives me. How come your church never does?”

It’s a startling question. What would it mean for us, as a church, to express forgiveness of people who have been in prison? I’ve not thought of it much until seeing this, but surely it would involve actively welcoming them into the life of our congregations and seeking the well-being of their families.

Chaplain Schwarz advises that, “you don’t just incarcerate an individual, you incarcerate a family.” (I’m not sure it’s mentioned in the video, but in the live chat several people recommended supporting Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree ministry as a tangible way to love families with a parent who is incarcerated.)

Later, Rev. Lattimore reflects on the difference between punitive justice and restorative justice. Our criminal justice system is focused on punishment but as Christians our life’s work is to seek restoration.

I have not specifically highlighted a section where Jacq Wilson speaks, but hearing him tell about his brother’s time in prison and the feeling of helplessness in the face of the criminal justice system is powerful. He calls it dehumanizing. He talks about the risk of becoming hopeless. He testifies to the power of faith in Christ to keep hope alive even in that overwhelming circumstance.

Please take time to watch part or all of this discussion. It is worth your time.