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Is Jesus a solution or an excuse?
November 25, 2005 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Faith based prisons... Can Gov. Jeb Bush's new drive to introduce God to the inmates make a difference, or was Jesus 'dying for our sins' not enough already? Is Jesus a solution or an excuse?

"Night has fallen. He has died now. A fly crawls over the still flesh. Of what use is it to me that this man suffered, If I am suffering now?" - Jorge Luis Borges
posted by 0bvious (36 comments total)

 



batshitinsane



posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:38 PM on November 25, 2005


I'm baffled by the spin the poster has put on this, considering the information contained in the article. There is worthwhile discussion in how much this sort of experiment is just Jeb Bush catering to his religious right constituency, and how appropriate it is for specific religious ideologies to be promulgated in the prison system.

Given the statements in the article that inmate participation in these facilities is voluntary, that specific religious content is provided by volunteers, and that the education available to inmates covers material from a variety of religions, as well as non-religious options, what is the issue? I don't know if providing individuals with moral instruction is likely to reduce recidivism, but considering the shameful lack of any attempt at true rehabilitation in most of the "correctional" system, I'm disinclined to condemn these institutions sight unseen. I don't see why they don't deserve the opportunity to exist and be examined for efficacy.
posted by nanojath at 7:52 PM on November 25, 2005


That's why I posted this, for debate from all angles.

It is not just christianity I comment on here, but religion at large. Can it help? Is it not better to find ways to rehabilitate without a religious slant? Where does the separation between Church and state come in here?

(by the way, apologies for the extra paragraph at the end of the post)
posted by 0bvious at 7:56 PM on November 25, 2005


Is it not better to find ways to rehabilitate without a religious slant?
Perhaps. But is it not better to find ways to rehabilitate, period?
posted by Slothrup at 8:04 PM on November 25, 2005


FYI, if anyone is curious, that Borges quote is from the poem Cristo en la cruz.
posted by dwordle at 8:05 PM on November 25, 2005


0bvious

It is not just christianity I comment on here, but religion at large. Can it help? Is it not better to find ways to rehabilitate without a religious slant?

Christianity is the only thing that CAN help. Asking for alternative answers is as futile as asking for alternative answers for '2+2'

John 14.6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me."

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. ~ Philip Dick
posted by bevets at 9:00 PM on November 25, 2005


bevets

If I 'stop believing' in your God he may not go away for you, but in never believing in any God in my life this has so far never been relevant for me.

Applying religious salvation to the rehabilitation of criminals might be all fine and dandy for Jeb on the increasingly Christianised mainland, but what support do the accused terrorists have in Guantanamo Bay? Stories of Qu'rans flushed down the toilet may be exaggerated, but they show that at base it is only the politically strong Christian reality which is unquestionably never going away.

Implying that ANY faith can 'cure' criminality is misleading and dangerous. The human being, and faith itself, are far more complicated than that
posted by 0bvious at 9:15 PM on November 25, 2005


Incidentally, I don't mean to criticize the post per se. This was not something I knew of and it is interesting to me, I intend to research if further so for me this is an example of an excellent post.

I admit a prejudice in the matter: I certainly received (and receive) moral and religious instruction; and I regard it as significant in guiding how I behave and how I wish and therefor strive to behave. I think it has made me a better member of society, including from a purely secular perspective.

I'd say, in response to the question "is it not better to find ways to rehabilitate without a religious slant?" that the system described appears to admit this, in the availability of non-religious instruction. What I think is very interesting is the idea of guiding individuals' rehabilitation in the context of the development of moral character. As I say, I think that it deserves its experiment and some careful watching.

The article states that there is a bias towards Christianity in the institution - a fact worth scrutiny. Then again, given the compostion of religious beliefs in the U.S., this may be the context that is most familiar for a majority of convicts who elect this option. Given that the instruction is provided by volunteers, I must say that the onus of providing alternatives to Christianity rests with the proponents of such viewpoints. Personally I think it would be a very fine thing for, say, organized atheism to seek a presence, dedicated to the underlying goal of helping individuals develop positive moral character, in such institutional settings.
posted by nanojath at 9:33 PM on November 25, 2005


Christianity is the only thing that CAN help. Asking for alternative answers is as futile as asking for alternative answers for '2+2'

5 - 1
24 - 20
2 squared
-2 squared
4 is even an answer.
To the simple minded.

What I find interesting is this crazy link between economic conditions and crime, that even conservative Christians will admit. Almost as if there might be other reasons for crime besides lack of faith. Maybe the "equation for crime" might even have more variables... something like "X + Y * 26Z + ... = crime" Substitute in unemployment rate, divorce rate, home ownership, all kinds of complex variables, and maybe you might get something.

Or we could just do grade school addition.
posted by formless at 9:41 PM on November 25, 2005


Implying that ANY faith can 'cure' criminality is misleading and dangerous.

Perhaps, but that's a pretty broad statement. But the question of whether an individual's personal, voluntary, faith-based program of moral development can affect their rehabilitation seems an open and valid one to me. If Christians are willing to volunteer the time and money to assist individuals in pursuing this course, then I think it is perfectly appropriate for them to do so and for the state to facilitate it - provided that a specific bias is avoided in what prisoners have access to - and who has access to prisoners. I would be interested to know more about the proccess by which specific groups are allowed to participate in these facilities.
posted by nanojath at 9:47 PM on November 25, 2005


I ask you, why do so many find Jesus in prison? Is he slumming? Perhaps.

While some inmates grasp at religion as a way to influence parole boards, others are simply clutching at whatever belief will get them through these difficult and extremely stressful periods. At this point in their lives, many prisoners are in a perfect state for brainwashing. Many, seeking better conditions at these 'faith-based' institutions, will instead find themselves drawn into beliefs they might otherwise not consider.

It's called marketing, people. Fresh converts from convicts ready to soldier on in the Army Of God(TM).
posted by IronLizard at 10:24 PM on November 25, 2005


GrammarFilter: Insert missing comma, as needed.
posted by IronLizard at 10:25 PM on November 25, 2005


I ask you, why do so many find Jesus in prison? Is he slumming?

that's what the pharisees thought ... he was never very interested in hanging out with the people who "knew" they were good
posted by pyramid termite at 10:38 PM on November 25, 2005


It's interesting that people always talk about Christianity 'brainwashing people when they're hurting.' I can understand that coming from someone who believes that Christianity is a scam... But it seems that the same could be said of charity, psychology, etc.

As a Christian, I HAVE encountered a handful of 'believers' who see others' personal rock-bottom moments as opportunities to 'make the hard sell.' It's tremendously distasteful and repugnant. And those few people (who were generally regarded as an embarassment even inside the Church) were vastly outweighed by those who genuinely believed that the faith they'd found would help others in need.
posted by verb at 11:00 PM on November 25, 2005


nanojath, I tend to agree. Wouldn't it be great if atheists as a community put concerted effort into building moral scaffolding, not only in prisons, but in society at large.

Sad thing is, the press wouldn't even give such an approach a second glance. Atheists need a gimic - like Jesus for instance (yes its a bad joke if viewed from one perspective, but from another I think its quite justified. The folks that promoted Jesus as the Messiah conducted the best marketing campaign in history)...

If classical philosophy courses were taught in prison, with an angle towards the development of moral reasoning through the ages, then maybe atheists could get a foothold and have a gimic for the newspapers at the same time.

Atheists are too busy not preaching to get their message across

Big up to verb too.... nice comment
posted by 0bvious at 11:34 PM on November 25, 2005


I'm an atheist but I've seen some local Christian organizations do good work in rehabilitating prisoners. They usually fail but they've had a handful of success stories too. You could replace the religion with substrate's church of horizontal relations and it wouldn't matter. What these local groups do is provide a temporary home for the people so they're not bunking up with their old buddies who're also convicts. They provide jobs, training on how to handle finances and transportation to the jobs. It seems like they try to assign a convict a mentor and the mentors I've known have gone to great lengths to be their for their mentee.

This isn't government run or sponsored though, not even by local government. It's done via donations, and even I'll make donations to it.

I work with one of the guys involved with it. I usually get in to work at about 6:30 am and have 3 hours to myself before anybody else rolls in. I noticed that he was beating me in, I asked him what was going on and he said his mentee needed a ride into work, his work started at 5:30 so he was giving his mentee a ride to work.

A secular organization could do equally well but I haven't seen one organized. One of the reasons is that there are lot less atheists than their are religious people and only a small fraction of religious people will sign on for a church sponsored program like that. So the combination of the small fraction of atheists combined with the small fraction of anybody willing to make the sacrifice involved makes it less likely that a secular organization will make it.
posted by substrate at 11:53 PM on November 25, 2005


the same old inane shit
posted by bevets at 9:00 PM PST on November 25


Trying to help kablam out, huh?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:43 AM on November 26, 2005


bevets: Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. ~ Philip Dick

Wow. That's the first time I've seen that quote used to support religion.
posted by jsonic at 2:30 AM on November 26, 2005


0bvious

Wouldn't it be great if atheists as a community put concerted effort into building moral scaffolding, not only in prisons, but in society at large.

'Moral Scaffolding' is only binding when based on a Moral Law Giver. Atheists may make an arbirtrary choice to act morally. I can make an arbitrary choice to wear a blue shirt today, however I have no compelling reason why I should choose a blue shirt over a green shirt and I have no obligation to wear a blue shirt tomorrow.
posted by bevets at 4:03 AM on November 26, 2005


If I might move outside prison walls for a moment: Belief is often found useful for addicts (AA) who accept the fact (?) that they are unable on their own to cope with addiction and turn themselves over to a higher power.

Back into prison: we have a good example of the many blackinmates turning to Islam and getting focused in a better way. Problem: this may well turn into recruiting ground for jihadists.
posted by Postroad at 4:43 AM on November 26, 2005


Which do you suppose comes first, the institutional support for non-consensual intercourse or institutional religion? I ask because they seem to occur together.
posted by srboisvert at 5:37 AM on November 26, 2005


bevets:"Atheists may make an arbitrary choice to act morally"
Well then, good. Better by far that a man makes a choice to behave morally, rather than act morally simply because he fears punishment. Which is the better? To choose to not steal an apple because you believe it to be wrong, or to not steal an apple because you fear you might be caught and punished?
posted by kaemaril at 6:22 AM on November 26, 2005


It fascinates me that this is happening in Florida, known for one of the worse (abusive) penal systems in the US (the other being Texas). And its voluntary! You can choose to go to Jesusland Prison, or stay where you can enjoy management loaf and other good treats.

From the article:
'These are human beings,' he said. 'The biggest point I see to the whole faith-based, character-based movement is getting and setting an environment for a person who's made a mistake or done something wrong, to still be able to live in a safe, secure place where they can develop as an individual, a person, as a human being.'

That is such a good idea, lets make in mandatory in all prisons, even the secular ones. WTF! Where the hell should someone be 'safe' if not in government custody--Given that the government is supposed to be in business to keep citizens safe.
posted by Goofyy at 6:45 AM on November 26, 2005


From the article:
'These are human beings,' he said. 'The biggest point I see to the whole faith-based, character-based movement is getting and setting an environment for a person who's made a mistake or done something wrong, to still be able to live in a safe, secure place where they can develop as an individual, a person, as a human being.'

Bugger that. No wonder Florida's Death Row has so many full cells. I don't think that someone who raped and brutally murdered an 11 year old girl deserves a "safe, secure place" to live.
posted by keptwench at 7:32 AM on November 26, 2005


bevets, despite the supposed moral superiority of Christians there are still very very few who will sacrifice their money, let alone time, to help somebody else. There are hindu's, and I know a couple of excellent examples, who will go to amazing lengths to help people, there are muslims who will do the same, and again I know an excellent example. There are atheists who will go all out to help people as well. I live in a very Christian town, I will tell you that for a town so predominantly and vocally Christian there's a whole lot of apathy going on. Despite the fact that the people I work with spent hours trying to convert me to Christianity I only know a few who will spend their own time to try and help somebody. Christians are absolutely not different than anybody else. There's just more of them.
posted by substrate at 7:47 AM on November 26, 2005


keptwench, show me where in the article you pulled out the coddled child murdering rapists argument? I don't see it. Most people in prisons are in there for doing stupid things. Most of prison life is about learning to be less stupid next time around. That can either be learning to be a better criminal or a better person. I know which I'd rather happen.
posted by substrate at 7:50 AM on November 26, 2005


Christians are absolutely not different than anybody else. There's just more of them.

Well and succinctly put, substrate.
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:52 AM on November 26, 2005


Another article on the prison. Wakulla is the third faith-based prison in the US; the other two are also in Florida.

According to this Christian Science Monitor article on the opening of the first faith-based prison, the prison's supporters cite the InnerChange Freedom Initiative as an example. (When he was governor of Texas, President Bush invited Charles Colson's Prison Fellowship to start InnerChange.)

A two-year study by the University of Pennsylvania and the Manhattan Institute found that "InnerChange graduates were 50 percent less likely to be arrested and 60 percent less likely to be reincarcerated than those who did not take part." The study fudged the data by only counting people who graduated from the program, not everyone who participated in it.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:20 AM on November 26, 2005


keptwench: Apparently you'd rather just continue the cycle of abuse. Your moronic, revengeful thought process is the very same that produces rapists and murderers. I'm sure you couldn't care less, because your sense of moral outrage obviously trumps reason. I bet you'd torture prisoners of war, too.
posted by Goofyy at 8:23 AM on November 26, 2005


I keep wondering why the Xians are still recruiting when according to the Book of Revelation only 144,000 will ever be saved. Maybe that means one Real Christian per generation? If we figure "a generation" as 20 years that's only 2,880,000 years, surely not a problem for a God of Deep Time!
posted by davy at 8:30 AM on November 26, 2005


Response to slothrup, Bevets:

Given The Scandal of The Evangelical Conscience (Evangelical Christians sin* at roughly the same rate as the rest of us), in what way can Christianity be considered moral training or rehabilitation?

*Where sin is physical and sexual domestic assault; promiscuity including pre-marital sex, single parent pregnancy, and abortion; divorce, racism, and charitable giving.
posted by Richard Daly at 8:39 AM on November 26, 2005


Er, where charitable giving = lack of charitable giving.
posted by Richard Daly at 8:41 AM on November 26, 2005


Another reason to guffaw at Xtianity. Murder, rape, pillage, blashpheme, but as long as you say you accept Christ you get a free pass. Fucking ridiculous.

The Spaghetti Monster looks better every day.
posted by bardic at 9:13 AM on November 26, 2005


Moral Scaffolding is only binding when based on a Moral Law Giver. Atheists [only] may make an arbirtrary choice to act morally.

That's rich. Let's think this through (although, if you'd bother to have read the Euthyphro, you'd know this was bullshit to begin with): Divine commandments and individually-willed actions are both equally arbitrary, but the operative fact is that god is bigger than you, and so will kick the shit out of you for eternity if you don't bend your will to its arbitrary pronouncements? Talk about a boot stomping on a human face, forever.

How appropriate, then, that on this infantile view, cruelty is only judged bad as a product of divine whim -- and only when it suits the arbitrary whim of the deity. Is anyone surprised that such a view breeds cruelty? This is what happens when your conception of the godhead is a direct projection of mean-daddy issues, I guess.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:25 AM on November 26, 2005


I can't say as I care one whit what it takes to reform a prisoner, so long as (a) he truly is reformed, and becomes a postive, productive member of society; (b) the tools of his reformation do not impinge on my freedoms.

It's the latter where the bevets of this world and I part ways. I am perfectly satisfied with bevets believing whatever he wants. Unfortunately, he wants to force his batshitinsane beliefs on me. That is unacceptable.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:54 AM on November 26, 2005


This is not new.

" Another reason to guffaw at Xtianity." - Well, that's an effective political program.
posted by troutfishing at 7:38 PM on November 27, 2005


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