Letters to Prison

Not much has been posted here for a few days.  I’ve been absorbed in writing to my nephew serving a four year prison term.  We talked very little during his childhood and early adulthood.  He lived hundreds of miles away on the other side of the  mountains, and when we did visit he was often gone.  What conversations we had tended toward the usual teenage two and three word answers to an uncle asking inane questions such as “how are things going?”, complicated by the many events in his life on the wrong side of the law in the company of his preferred friends who lived there. 
Now he’s in prison and we frequently correspond the old fashioned way, by letter sent through the postal service.  In the closed environment of his cell, the entire world of literature, history, philosophy, theology and politics has become open for exploration.  Odd, isn’t it?  And that’s what our conversations are about.  His five page letters full of questions and observations from the books he is now reading are answered by my five page letters providing some answers, asking more questions, trying to remember the books that were read so many years ago, and suggesting ways of learning the art of critical thinking. 
I posted one yesterday.  In it I responded to the issues he raised in his last letter and covered: reasons for a college education; reasons for skills training; the art of reading newspapers; reflecting on foundational assumptions about beliefs and basic standards of verification; why Anglicans are not much interested in the so called prophecies of the Philadelphia Church of God; the importance of the prophets in orthodox Christian thinking; what we mean by incarnational ministry; reflections on admirable political figures in American history; the seductive power of Washington; why it is important to study history in general and American history in particular; a brief touch on the Articles of Confederation,  Federalist papers and the Constitution to be followed up on later; and finally a brief review of the history of Islam, the crusades, growth of the Ottoman Empire, WWI and its aftermath, and why the Taliban don’t really care about any of that.
Covering all of that in five or six pages is a bit sketchy to say the least, but it’s part of an ongoing conversation, and it doesn’t seem appropriate to dive too deep with a young man just beginning to learn how to learn.  We’ve got time.  Four years to be precise.  In the meantime, I may try to write one or two other posts before taking a month long sabbatical.  

3 thoughts on “Letters to Prison”

  1. I just wanted to respond enough to let you know my sympathy and a little encouragement in what you are doing and feeling. My former son-in-law, my daughter's ex-husband,was just released from the WA state penitentiary after about four years (he wasn't in the local one, and I never asked where). He was a recidivist, as they call it, since he had previously served about four years in the Utah system for armed robbery. My daughter knew this, and never told me until long after she had married him and had her two children, when he started returning to his old ways and she divorced him,finally. This sort of truth about miscreants is very discouraging–that no everyone of that sort can really change. Old ways are hard to break. I know that one of our study group friends is very fond of the theme, very stressed especially in Luke's Gospel (as in the story of the Prodigal Son, and others)of the forgiveness of sins. And I recall the sad experience of Bill and Virginia Berney with their adopted son who kept going to prison. You mentioned briefly, also, that there is support for a sort of predestination in parts of the Bible,as unpleasant to think about as that is to liberal Christians. But you do have my good wishes.Dr B

  2. Tx PC and tx too Dr. B for his sympathy and some encouragement for your continued correspondence with our nephew – so many heartaches come through wrong decisions made both early and late in lives. The consequences seem so obvious to those of us who choose to live within the \”rules\” of society and yet often surprising to those who choose to live outside of the \”rules.\” I have to have hope for this child and for all children of God who choose the wrong paths. Hope for their return to society, for their lesson learned, for their future hopes and dreams. I can site cases of lost and dashed hopes for families and loved ones but I still MUST hope for God's redemption of a lost soul and for merciful love for those families whose hopes and dreams are dashed by their loved ones making inappropriate decisons. xo

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