From the desk of Chris Barbera at Jesus the Liberator

September 9, 2020

Within our new book, More to this Confession: Relational Prison Theology, we present some anonymous voices from prison inmates.   As a way of “mining the data of words” and exegesis, I want to give insight into the mind and experience of inmates who write short cryptic words either separate from or within a larger work.  This is a way of doing Prison Theology, that is, contextualizing the spiritual insight within captivity.

For example, someone wrote “People died while I was in jail.”  Can we feel or understand the pain of not even having the choice to say our final peace or blessings – or to receive final peace and blessings?  There is a general unresolved feeling in this.  Existential crises are never shared or carried communally.  The weight of existence is on the individual, like cursed Job.  

In addition, someone wrote about “The variegated, diverse and mundane in prison.”  Prison is a hegemony of punishment but the people inside are unique.  There is boredom and variety.  In this way, we can relate because some life experiences are universal, which helps us to humanize others.

Hearing words of inmates and feeling the emotional power of them is a core of Prison Theology.

Amplifying those words and giving insight and context is another core component.  Connecting those words to a community of faith is an act of love and a “building up of the kingdom.”

Christendom was built upon the words of inmates.  The “kingdom” of the earth mocked the “kingdom” of God and so Jesus “flipped the script.”

Image by Berenice Calderon from Pixabay

September 2, 2020

Within our new book, More to this Confession: Relational Prison Theology, we present some anonymous voices from prison inmates.  Many of these voices in written form are not epigrammatic, but rather short, emotionally potent flashes of insight fraught with pain.  They are sometimes a thought not fully formed but budding with latent liberation and potentiality.  They describe a reality in a few words.

At this moment in time, Kenosha, WI is the new flashpoint and epicenter for racial justice.  Jacob Blake, a black man, was shot 7 times in the back.  An underage white male took it upon himself to strap on an automatic, military style rifle and go defend Kenosha, a city not his own, presumptively defending white Christian Western civilization.  He killed 2 people.  

Within white Christian America, we are seeing that black lives are less important than property.  Laws are written to defend property.  Slaves in America were considered property.  Prison inmates are considered property of the state.  Taken in this context, the following words from a section in our book entitled “Notes from a trial, notes from a journal,” are illuminating.  

“Is the protocol rational, visible, and moral?”

“If the facts align, morality is irrelevant”

“Morality is protection of assets and property”

“This trial is about property”

“Brutal wearing down on technicalities”

August 26, 2020

In our new book, More to this Confession: Relational Prison Theology, I write that “We are creating a template for voices of the ‘mystics and prophets and criminals.’  We are creating an epistemology (theory of knowing) based on the fringe of society, those outside the law or those subjected to or under the law (which in the prison context is one and the same).”

For example, inmates write:

“Resist the death of prison” 







Great God Jehovah

“Embrace eternal life now”

  “Resist the death in prison”

This sequence illustrates that inmates have some knowledge of the diverse attributes of these names of God and the mystic connection to the articulation of the names of God as a means of resistance and “salvation” from the death of prison.  It also shows that “death” (spiritual) is of and in prison.