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Voice in the wilderness
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I got my first “fan” letter the other day.

It had been laying dormant for a few months in an unused mailbox that someone finally decided to check out, and after a few weeks of being in someone else’s hands, it made its way to mine the other night.


A fan letter. Cool.

I looked at the return address.

Yuh oh. Smith State Prison in Glennville.

Was it a marriage proposal? Sorry bub, that duty has been filled.

Was there a poster-sized image of my fan inside for me to hang on the wall over my desk?

No. Nothing quite so titillating as that.


This fella took time out of his busy schedule to address a column that he was not happy with.

Seven full pages of handwritten “testimony.” God bless him.

For some reason he kept quoting my “very Christian beliefs.” I don’t think I’ve ever said that about myself…not a claim I make lightly.

He was upset that I was attacking folks who are in prison …who are languishing in prison, as he has been lo these last 20-plus years.

He’s aiming for his doctorate in theology, and from his sermon, he is well on his way to getting it.

If suiting up for Jesus is your calling, that’s cool with me. He needs all the help he can get.

I feel kinda bad cause I don’t have that particular column at hand to refer to, but I think I may have overstated some of the “thoughts” I had at the time.

That is why my column is under “opinion.” We’re all entitled to one. And sometimes folks don’t see it the same way I do, hence this letter from my inmate friend.

He’s trying to save me, quoting several verses from the Bible. The love of money is the root of all evil.

I laughed, because in talking about how much taxpayers spend to keep one person in prison for over 20 years … it is a lot … a lot … of money.

I wasn’t worried about that money as if it was coming out of my pocket, ’cause I have pittance to spare, but that pittance I do share.

It just takes a lot of people a lot of years to work outside the prison system to pay for him to be there. As much as he hates being there for the crime he committed, and as much as he is trying to overcome what he did, he is still costing everyone a hard earned dollar for something they didn’t do.

Besides that, it’s more “the love of power” being the root of all evil in my book.

He questioned how I would feel if a loved one of mine were in his shoes.

I’d feel the same exact way.

If my son ever does something that is against the law … and gets put in jail, or worse, gets put in prison, I’ll be one angry little mama.

I’ll still love him, but, hey. He did something he shouldn’t have. Under my roof, he should have known better.

My fan mentions that a lot of people are in prison because of the environment they grew up in.

No excuse. Sorry. I do not accept that.

Everyone is born with an innate sense of right and wrong.

I know lots of folks who did not grow up in the happiest of environments, yet went on to overcome and lead successful lives.

My dad had the suckiest childhood ever. He managed to overcome, even with the odds stacked against him.

He was not particularly religious, but he definitely knew what was right and what was wrong, and raised seven kids with the hope that we would know the same.

Six out of seven … not bad.

I had dinner with two of my oldest and dearest friends last night. Both are women who grew up under abusive hands. Physically, mentally, emotionally.

They both overcame the odds and raised responsible families.

Both married abusive first husbands but managed to continue raising their kids with a sense of responsibility and respect.

They were “blessed” by finding good men the second time around.

Did they or their children end up in jail or prison?


I don’t buy the “environmental” issue when it comes to people in prison.

My fan seems to think I am on the wrong path, but let me assure you, Dr. Rev. Dean, I am not.

I find it hard to call myself a “Christian” because I could never live as right as Jesus did, even though I try really hard.

Jesus didn’t condemn anyone. Ever. He got mad, but he understood. He knew that there would always be people who “just didn’t get it.”

Perfect though we should try to be, we’re not. We’re human.

He was all about enlightenment. That was all Jesus tried to do. He just wanted people to be aware of their natural God-given gifts and abilities, and to let them know that no matter what they did or where they went, there was always the love of God within them and around them.

I don’t believe Jesus died for our sins. That is way too easy a thing to say.

Jesus died because he kept telling us how not to sin. Jesus was spreading the word of God, who wanted us to know the way, the truth, and the light.

Jesus died because he believed in one God.

It is that one God who has forgiven you, my good friend, because he is an all-loving, all forgiving God. Remember: To err is human, to forgive divine.

It is up to you to forgive yourself.

I wish you good luck and good fortune with your ministry.

Your flock needs you.