Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

A reminder of the men I visit in segregated cells

March 8, 2018

I was reminded of this quote when a book was returned to me this morning. The second sentence is, to me, very rich in meaning, very relevant.

‘Many prisoners find themselves stuck within a present that seems to go nowhere, with little to lose and little to look forward to, waiting for a future release that may never come or that, when it does, might not deliver the longed-for sense of freedom. They find themselves haunted by a past that cannot be undone and that may return obsessively to dominate the present and drain the future of hope.’

Lisa Guenther, Solitary Confinement: social death and its afterlives

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A reflection on Matthew 5:38-48

February 16, 2017

A reflection on Matthew 5:38-48 delivered during a prison communion service

We seem to be living more and more in times of division – deep division. There is a tendency, a human tendency, to group and label anyway. In scriptures we find the bad and the good, the just and the unjust, your neighbor and your enemy, the sheep and the goats.

So if we look at today’s society, we have divisions that are pretty normal. But there seems to be, now, an animosity, a distrust, a disdain, a willingness to judge rather than engage and listen.

There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground in many instances. There are those who love the Packers, but hate the Patriots, love the Cardinals but hate the Cubs, love or hate Democrats or Republicans, love or hate immigrants, refugees, people of color, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, unions, Planned Parenthood, the NRA.

But don’t we live in a pluralistic society with many philosophies, many viewpoints, and many beliefs? Brothers, that should be our strength, not a crack in our foundation. I am reminded of the strength when different entities are brought together. In biblical times, mud and straw made bricks. Today, carbon fiber-reinforced compounds are used to build jet fighters.

Why shouldn’t a society made up of many separate parts be stronger, more effective, more resilient, more growthful, and more life-giving? Sometimes what is needed is more confidence in our own principles and beliefs so that we can respond to differences with more tolerance, more patience, more humility … more love … that we may all reveal ourselves to be children of our heavenly Father.

An interview that turned out pretty well

November 4, 2014

An article that gives a peek at what I do in prison ministry.

A half smile and a nod

January 30, 2014

—∞—

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, then what am I?
And if not now, when? – Hillel

Last evening, at the offender’s request, I was a ministerial witness to his execution. There were only two witnesses for him, and I was the only one who actually knew him. During the past 13 years, we had conversed countless times as I visited the prison where he lived. My role there is as an assistant chaplain.

From what I could tell, my eyes were the only ones he made contact with as he was lying on the gurney. He gave a half smile and a nod in response to my nod.

The above quote bubbled up as I reflect on this morning after.

If not me, who?

November 17, 2013

I’m preparing to travel to the prison where an execution will take place at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, November 20. In my role as a ministerial witness, my arrival is to be around 11:00 p.m.

The man scheduled for execution is Joseph Paul Franklin, a hate-crime serial killer. I have known Mr. Franklin for more than 12 years, and I have visited his isolation cell countless times.

Some may ask, Why bother? That question calls to mind a couple of lines from the movie, Longford, about which I have blogged previously. Lord Longford was on a radio show and was being challenged about his long, frustrating and futile efforts to free Myra Hindley, one of the notorious Moors Murderers in the early 60s. The crimes were horrendous, grisly.

Lord Longford: … Forgiving her has proven difficult, very difficult. Not for what’s she’s done to me, that’s neither here nor there; but for the terrible crimes themselves. Forgiveness is the very cornerstone of my faith. And the struggle to deepen my faith is my life’s journey. In that respect she has enriched my spiritual life beyond measure, and for that, I will always be grateful to her.

Lord Longford: If people think that makes me weak… or mad… so be it. That is the path I am committed to. To love the sinner, but hate the sins. To assume the best in people, and not the worst. To believe that anyone, no matter how evil, can be redeemed… eventually.

So, I told Mr. Franklin I would be there for him. And if the execution goes through, I will be.

Irreversible Change

June 3, 2013

—∞—

I’m thinking about the story
A man and a woman
And an apple
Was that a tale of our beginning
Or of our end?

—∞—

Down by the lake
On the shore
By the lake
Lies a pebble
One of millions, actually
 
Rounded
Smoothed
Deposited
By a glacier
Long, long ago
 
Where was it yesterday?
There or nearby?
Moved maybe
By a wind-blown wave
Or a passing boat’s wake
 
If it was moved
An irreversible change
To the entire universe
Took place
Tiny, but irreversible
 
What about us?
What are we doing?
How’s our piece,
Our allotted portion
Of the universe, doing?
 
Irreversible change
I’m thinking about sunlight
Stored sunlight, stored energy
As in an apple
As in coal, gas, oil
 
Why is the oil there?
The coal?
The gas?
Is it for us?
If so, to do what?
 
Are these tangible things,
These stored solar energies,
Here for our good?
Or are they the forbidden fruit
An apple … a poisoned apple
 
Perhaps that mythical tale
Two people and an apple
Is a story of our end, not of our beginning
A story about hubris and selfishness now
Rather than providing for those who follow
 
One bite or too many
Perhaps
An abdication of our stewardship?
Our misunderstanding of dominion?
A failure to faithfully respond?

© 2013 Thomas W. Cummins