Most professional staff in prisons balk at portraying Jesus as the answer to the destructive life patterns many inmates possess. However, it is also naïve to think that once an inmate accepts Christ the battle is over. Usually it has just begun. While therapy, education, and behavior modification have their place in rehabilitation, most inmates are unable to change until they deal with their spiritual bondage. I applaud IFI for tackling this problem from both sides ("Help on the inside," Aug. 12), and it appears their methods really work.
-Claudia L. Porpiglia; Apopka, Fla.
I was astounded that an "expert witness," even a liberal divinity school professor, would say Jesus' atoning death reflects a "legalistic" understanding that is "not shared by many Christians." However, such gibberish is present in some mainline denominations. In many churches, concern over the environment, honoring Charles Darwin's birthday, or governmental caring for the poor are far more important than Jesus' substitutionary death. What a sad state of affairs. I suppose Sullivan would have inmates sit in a circle, hold hands and sing, "Give Peace a Chance."
-Darrell Cartmill; Ironton, Ohio
Judge Pratt's decision against InnerChange Freedom Initiative is typical of the narrow-minded thinking of many in our judicial system today. The IFI program only exposes inmates to moral, spiritual, and biblical information that helps them change behaviors and increase the likelihood that they will be successful outside the prison walls.
-Judy Guenseth; Galesburg, Ill.
I am involved with a similar prison ministry. It is so painful to see the court system rule against such a great program. The lack of a mentor or friend who loves them unconditionally often has propelled inmates into making bad decisions, yet mentors are exactly what this judge is stripping from them.
-James Trone; Nashville, Tenn.
Is bringing together Prison Fellowship and Americans United for Separation of Church and State "in a fruitful way" ("Wanted: Judges like Solomon," Aug. 12) the role of a judge? I thought it was to apply existing laws to the cases presented. Isn't that exactly the problem with much of our current judicial system-judges making laws from the bench using their "common sense"?
-Jim Johnson; Clarks Summit, Pa.
As Christians, we are delighted if introducing the name, teachings, and promises of Jesus Christ can reduce recidivism. But if the same goal can be achieved for some prisoners with the teachings of Muhammad, Buddha, or another religious icon, then so be it. Why not encourage any and all religions to attempt what Prison Fellowship has done and see if they can produce the same results with their methods and their gods?
-George W. Fellendorf; Keene, N.H.
Perhaps because we know Christian conversion is ultimately an inner persuasion rather than outer one, some have been reluctant to claim the original intentions of our Founders regarding free speech as it applies to religious freedom. But who can deny the results of our "polite" silence? The First Amendment has been turned into a weapon against the very freedoms it was intended to protect.
-Michael Mallie; Kalona, Iowa
Are not the true handcuffs government funding? Could not evangelicals fund 100 percent of this program? As a now-adult child of a convict father who was saved in prison, I wholeheartedly support efforts to aid prisoners. But who are IFI officials kidding when they say "evangelism is not our main goal"? Fighting recidivism and equipping prisoners for life in the outside world are worthy but unattainable goals outside the life-changing power of salvation through the Cross.
-Julie Aydlotte; Powhatan, Va.
Rise above money
Marvin Olasky rightly classifies the construction of residential areas such as Johnstown, Pa., and New Orleans in flood plains and below sea level, respectively, as prideful "acts of man" ("Pride and fall," Aug. 5). In "Temptations of the rich" (Aug. 12) he rightly condemns low cost, federal flood insurance that rewards those who irresponsibly build vacation homes in storm-prone beach areas. I would add that, not only does God judge people and nations who trust in big ships, levees, and unjust insurance, He also invites Christians to rise above economic incentives, making wise judgments on land use by respecting God's principles that govern the economy of His creation.
-John E. Silvius; Cedarville, Ohio
Pursuit of luck
Andrée Seu's column on gambling ("Race to the bottom," Aug. 12) was another home run. Here in Alabama many promote gambling as a panacea for all our budgetary and educational woes. Government has never contrived a better way than gambling to tax ignorance, credulity, and greed. Thanks for describing the folly that rushes in where the pursuit of "luck" is enthroned as a citizen's right.
-Jennifer Eason; Huntsville, Ala.
I must respectfully disagree with the premise of "Cruel to be kind" (Aug. 12) concerning the federal minimum wage. One of the major problems of welfare is the financial disincentive for able-bodied adults to seek employment. An individual cannot meet basic living needs for himself or his family on $5.15 per hour. Yes, not all households of minimum wage-earners are below the poverty level and, yes, some marginal employers may have difficulty paying an increased wage. Nevertheless, there are many hard-working people with incomes below the poverty level. It is unconscionable that Congress did not approve a modest increase, with provisions for cost-of-living adjustments.
-John C. Montgomery; Broken Arrow, Okla.
Since when was paying a just wage only about reducing poverty in the abstract? If atheists want to cast the issue as a poverty-reduction measure, fine, but Christians should cast the issue as a matter of justice. As when the government sets safety standards, a few businesses would suffer temporary losses but then everybody would learn how to comply and get on with life.
-Stephen Schuler; Golinda, Texas
It is ironic that the Dixie Chicks' new CD (Bestselling CDs, Aug. 12) has the lyrics: "I don't wanna hear nothin' else about killin' and that it's God's will, cause our children are watching us." Isn't this the same group that taught us "Earl had to die"? "Goodbye Earl" not only validated murder under certain conditions, but the video portrayed the crime as cute and amusing because the victim "deserved it."
-Bob Hamp; Keller, Texas
I appreciated so much the insights in "Slouching toward the comfort zone" (Aug. 5). Seu's sentiments echo the conclusions of a growing army of "entertainment weary" pastors from New England to California. The Acts model for church growth will be the real "emerging church" in the 21st century. The mile-wide and inch-deep church-growth movement of today, with its overemphasis on trendy music and pseudoevangelism, will be read in church history books as a failed attempt to win the world to Christ by conforming Christianity to the world.
-Rick Francis; Chester, N.H.
The article about the Richmond sports academy, U-Turn, was excellent ("Making a U-turn," July 22). Coach Mike Davis is inspiring in how he approaches combining sports and faith.
-Fred Shackelford; La Verne, Calif.
A Tour de France official has said the Tour no longer considers American cyclist Floyd Landis to be this year's winner, but he has not officially been stripped of the title ("Tainted performances," Aug. 19).