UNDERSTANDING NEW CHRISTIANS IN PRISON

45

Chapter 12

DEALING WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS IN PRISON

 

Dealing with other Christians in prison can sometimes be like dealing with people from other religions. In today’s world, the term “Christian” is used very loosely. Most Americans nowadays would say that they were Christians. America is called a Christian nation as well. There are many ideas about what being a Christian means.

For your loved ones doing time, he will notice that there are two types of Christians in prison, either active or inactive. An active Christian is one who goes to church and takes time for frequent Bible reading and daily prayer. An inactive Christian says that he is a Christian but there is no fruit to show it. He claims to be a child of God and probably read some of the Bible at some point in his life, but there is no evidence of a changed life.

Also, in prison there are many different types of Christians or denominations. A true Christian, of course, trusts Jesus Christ for his personal salvation. Because of all of these differences, there occur many heated discussions about Christianity. The different types include those who do and do not believe in eternal security (once saved always saved). There are also those who believe a Christian must live a completely sin free life and that they don’t sin anymore. Speaking in tongues is always an issue. Baptismal beliefs differ widely with some saying that it is a must for salvation. Good works is required by some while others say that one is saved by the grace of God only. The list goes on and on.

The normal population of a prison is approximately 1300 men. Usually, 200-300 men out of the 1300 will claim to be Christians. Only about half of these will be actively practicing Christianity dropping the number to 100-150. Unfortunately, such a small number means that there will not be very many Christians in each housing unit. This small group contains individuals with very different backgrounds and beliefs on the Christian life.

During service times that are regulated by the Department of Corrections, most Christians will experience the same things because the prison system only allows for the two major divisions of Christian beliefs, that being Catholic and Protestant services. The Catholic service celebrates the Mass while the Protestant service is a hub for many different forms of worship. There is only one Protestant service and Protestants worship in a variety of ways. If the guest that comes that Sunday to lead worship likes to worship in a loud, yelling, dancing type of style of worship, it is very hard for those who like to worship in a quiet way or the opposite may be true too. This can be very difficult for your loved one in prison and he may not be able to worship in the way he is used to. Some prisoners become offended by the loudness feeling it is irreverent while those expressing worship loudly sometimes look down on those who don’t join in or are just worshipping in a more quiet way. Soon comments are made in a judgmental way about each other which create hurt feelings and separation. These comments usually come from the new or immature Christians who have not grown into strong, steadfast believers yet who realize what is important and what isn’t.

Such separation then leads to clique. These clique hurt the body of believers in prison. Your loved one may have already experienced this frustration. If he is a new believer, this can be very dangerous for his faith. It can allow ideas to develop about Christian living that are divisive. In prison, an inmate’s world is very narrow and a new believer can get caught up in these divisions very easily. He may then place way too much focus on the differences between Christians rather than the center of Christianity, Jesus Christ.

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