Thursday, July 17, 2008

Prison Theology

This is a decidedly uninformed post. I said before that the jail experience makes me uneasy. Therefore, I don't think about it much, but with the dancing Philippines prisoners, it's on my mind. But I ran across this verse in Psalm 147:6c "The LORD sets the prisoners free;" and started thinking about all the prisoner rhetoric in the Bible. Certainly the Bible, especially the Old Testament, doesn't shy away from punishment. This is the land of stoning for various reasons and offenses. I wouldn't label God as "soft on crime". And yet "the Lord sets the prisoners free."

I guess we have to ask what kind of prisoners. We could think about Joseph, falsely accused and unfairly sentenced, or Paul and Silas singing in jail and converting the prisoner guard. So theoretically we could narrow it down to the falsely accused or the political prisoner. We could think of debtors' prison as in the parable about the debtor whose great debt was forgiven, but then he threw in jail the guy who owed him substantially less.

But it seems a little shifty--like I'm nervous to think of God busting out all the prisoners in the Campbell County jail. And yeah, I would be. And then I think about "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis where a man from heaven comes to talk to an associate he knew on earth on a day trip from hell. Turns out the guy who is in heaven was a murderer who repented and the guy in hell couldn't understand how that guy wasn't in hell with him (or something like that--I really don't do research for this, sorry). God does all sorts of crazy weird things that prissy pious folks (namely me) think aren't too cool. So God sets the prisoners free. Take it at face value. Maybe kinder methods of discipline are in order then. If God is willing to free them, we can at least offer dance parties.

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