From the desk of Chris Barbera of Jesus the Liberator

February 16, 2021

Absalom Jones is listed in the Episcopal calendar of saints.  He founded the 1st black Episcopalian congregation.  With Richard Allen, he founded the Free African Society, a mutual aid society for free Africans and their descendents.  Black Lives Matter is their descendents.  People in prison are as well though not yet free.  

Republican Christian Fascists believe that violent white supremacist insurrection is ok.  They believe that Black Lives don’t Matter.   Therefore, the life message of Absalom Jones takes on a greater significance.  

The consciousness of Prison Theology is part of the freedom struggle of Black Liberation and the liberation from all forms of prison, enslavement, and oppression, both individually and socially.  We are a kind of mutual aid society in that we are in solidarity with people in prison (with its similarities to chattel slavery) and provide free educational resources and co-operatively develop a theology together.  We also provide other mutual aid such as emotional support, networking, letters to parole and other services. 

Photo by Elly Fairytale on

February 9, 2021

Our 2nd publication is entitled Dreamers, Romans and Prisons: Meditations on Crime, Illness, Healing and Liberation.  Within it, we write about how “America incarcerates and medicates people at a greater rate than any nation on earth.”   We believe that many health conditions (physical and mental) can be addressed in more humane ways and we give examples and testimonies of this.

In our book, Linda Abrams writes about “jailer and healer” paradigms.  She gives an example from the global south, from Peru, of this.  There, the plant based psychedelic medicine used by shamans and indigenous nations, ayahuasca, is a protected cultural legacy.  In the United States it is a schedule 1 drug (a highly criminalized designation).

New laws in Oregon that decriminalizes possession of all drugs in small amounts have been put in place.  This will reduce dependence upon the cruelty of prison and help develop new ways to address addiction, partly by treating it as a health rather than crime issue.   The legalization of marijuana in many states and perception of it as a plant-based medicine (like ayahuasca) is also reducing prison cruelty and financial and human-potential waste.  All these efforts will help us shift paradigms from the “jailer to a healer” culture that Prison Theology speaks about. 

February 2, 2021

“Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.”  (Ps 30:5)  Lori Carter took these words to turn her “mess into a message,” as she wrote in our 1st publication.  She endured the nighttime of prison, and before that, a host of afflictions that do not afflict or affect rich white male people in this country.  Many people not afflicted like Lori have and have been fed authoritarian and racist belief systems and seem to be more likely to embrace an imperial, hierarchical, capitalist Christianity.

When released from the nighttime of weeping she experienced in prison, she embraced the joy of the morning found in her liberation.  We mailed her dozens of copies of the publication she contributed to.  She took those books and visited many churches throughout Virginia, where she lived, and spoke to them about Prison Theology.  This is an example of praxis – of creating theory based on righteous action and of taking that theory and theology and offering it and yourself up as a message and messenger.  

Lori is one of the multitudes of witnesses that contribute to the moral regeneration of the world.

January 26, 2021

“Farwell, comrade,” said Rodion within himself, “the paths of Zion pass through prisons without number, like those of the proletariat…”  These words come from the novel, Midnight in the Century by Russian Soviet author Victor Serge.  

Prison Theology recognizes prison literature from various time periods, cultures, modalities of understanding, scriptures, and epistemologies.   Russian literature has produced profound insights into the inhumanity of prisons and the human condition. 

What does this Victor Serge quote contribute?  How does the biblical vision of Zion correspond with the proletariat, the workers who usher in an age of egalitarian society?  Is the Book of Acts a Christian expression of a spiritual egalitarian society also envisioned by Marx, a Jewish man?  Was the founding of Israel in 1948 precipitated by socialist agrarian co-ops, also known as a Kibbutz?  Are people working to establish egalitarian spiritual societies criminalized and cast into prison?  Does America incarcerate the poor?  Was Jesus poor? 

Photo by Julia Volk on