From the desk of Chris Barbera at Jesus the Liberator

June 30th, 2020

As Jesus the Liberator enters our 25th year, we have been practicing the African parable of Sankofa – looking back to move forward.  Therefore, we have been putting our archives in order and have completed our 3rd book, which contains organizational history.

In September of 2018, we presented at the Prison Abolition Conference at Canisius College.  The abolition of prisons is similar to the current national discussions of abolition or defunding of the police.  It is not a scary or fearful idea.  It is a way of re-conceiving community and individual safety.  It is also a theological discussion of crime and punishment.  

Within our re-conception, we wrote in the abstract for the presentation that “we have emphasized personal narratives of liberation, Liberation Theology, African American Theology, Feminist/Womanist Theology, meditation techniques of the East and West, creative writing and restorative justice, among others.”

These knowledge streams help to form a Prison Theology and can also help to form a re-conception of policing in our nation.  In making this claim, we see a place for theology, the church and ritual in the healing of police/prison brutality and its underlying reality of racism.

June 25th, 2020

Before the American civil war, slaves were considered property (Dred Scott et. all).  In the 21st century, prison inmates are considered property of the state.  Law and order politicians are concerned about property rights of property owners.  Many law and order politicians speak about an ownership society. 

There can be no slavery or private property if everything is held in common, as mentioned within the Book of Acts 4:32.  No individual can own another individual, and so no individual is property. Christian consciousness, common and collective caretaking, and the spiritual dignity of each individual abolish slavery.  The abolition of slavery necessitates the abolition of the prison and police system as it is currently practiced and conceived followed by the reconstruction and restoration of a just way of being and sustaining peace.  

At Jesus the Liberator, we believe in the inherent spiritual freedom within each individual.  By facilitating that freedom within people considered property of the state, we are simultaneously helping to bring about a spiritual freedom within the property owners in society.

June 17th, 2020

We are witnessing quick and profound shifts in the long struggle for equality and justice, spearheaded by Black Lives Matter.  The voice of the street is informing cultural values and political and legal structures.  We are clearly seeing the connections between the military, police and prisons – all implements of a slaveholding societal overlord.  

One way in which Jesus the Liberator has addressed this is by creating a space within the minds of prison inmates for freedom of thought.  In a world of domination, we offered Christian servitude to the servants and said “no matter what you did, we love and support you and here are some books to think about it and here are people willing to respond to your inquiries.”  

Inquires led to study and writing of papers and a completion of a curriculum. That coursework was sometimes transferred to Empire State College to be accredited.  Some of our initial monetary support was from the New York State VESID grant, the Equal Opportunity Center (EOC) and the Department of Education.  And so, we gave support and education to many victims of the slaveholders, and we used institutions within the society of slaveholders to do so.  This helped to humanize these institutions and also prioritized a vulnerable population.  The key to this was the relationship between Christians willing to serve inmates and build a culture and concept collaboratively. 

We have been working to show that transformative consciousness begins from the grassroots and from those who have liberated themselves.  A Prison Theology originating with descendents of slaves is transforming individuals and slaveholding institutions within the society.