From the desk of Chris Barbera at Jesus the Liberator

March 23, 2021

Dr. Gabrie’l Atchison spoke from the pulpit of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral on the first Sunday of spring in the year of our Lord 2021 about contextual theology, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Hagar the slave woman, the alabaster jar of precious oil, Our Mother’s Garden, and Womanist theology.  

I thought about Prison Theology.  The inner being of each person in prison is an alabaster jar of precious oil, offered up in devotion to the personal deity, though a slave, Christ on the cross of a lynching tree of mass incarceration.  The relational spirituality of Womanist/Feminist theology is a methodological connection between Philemon and Onesimus.

March 17, 2021

Thoughts on Mariposa and the Saint, a one act monologue play recently shown via Episcopalian justice circles and outreach initiatives. 

Is Mariposa the Saint?  High atop the Sierra Nevadas, before the white man made prisons and reservations, this woman’s mother’s people lived and now this mother lived surviving a cruel world when she pulled a knife on a man.  In prison, the memories and breathe of freedom mix with walls enclosing.  She smiles, Sara, the solitary voice become Mariposa now inside, the still small voice, outside.  The depravity of American cruelty is a faceless, nameless pawn, not quite a banality of evil nor a commoditization; something akin to the great white whale, “the atheistic absence of all color”, though they are God fearing Christians.

Please end solitary confinement dear Jesus.

Photo by Maria Orlova on

March 9, 2021

There is a term “public-private partnership” which essentially translates into public lands and entities becoming more private.  Buffalo’s canal side waterfront is an example of this, where land and wealth flow into private hands.  This is more explicit in western states and territories.  Ecological preservation is commoditized, privatized and monetized.

Prisons are a “public-private partnership.”  State and federal prisons are built on public land; the public, through land and taxes, own prisons.  Public taxes then maintain prisons and pay staff.  Private entities use prison labor.  The public, therefore, funds private entities. Prisons are commoditized, privatized and monetized.  

The commoditization, privatization and monetization of land and people is par for the course in Christian America.

March 2, 2021

What does one think or feel in solitude?  How does one think or feel with little or no relation and connection with others?  Without relationship can one evolve?

Prison Theology has looked at the tragic situation of people in prison and tried to bring this essence into life outside of prison.  It has tried to offer the best insights of hermitical saints who voluntarily live in solitude into the solitude of prison.  Can Anthony of Egypt, Trappists or Yogis in isolated Himalayan mountains osmosis into the solitude of solitary confinement 21st century prison-industrial late stage capitalist America? 

In our 2nd publication, Jelani Zulante wrote of his experience in isolation, which he entitled “I Call This Authentic Non-Reality.”  He writes “I dreamed a dream for two months.  However, the nightmare began once the dream ended and I returned to my physical body only to discover how badly damaged and abused I was.”

Can hermitical saints in prison separate the dream from the nightmare? 

February 23, 2021

Some look at faith communities and churches through the lens of the “emerging church.”

In thinking about the annual reports for our organization, I have put together observations about the economics of the “emergent church” as it relates to our efforts.

We have always been a small organization.  We are volunteered led; we pay no salaries.  This keeps us in solidarity with poor people.  It also creates no hierarchies.  

Our rent has never been paid to a private owner or business, but to faith communities who host us and use that money to support charitable efforts.  We become part of that community.  At our host, St. John’s Grace, we continue to contribute to the weekly newsletter, and have supported and co-created community groups and relationships with an emphasis on prison issues.  We again supported Contemplative Outreach, a group focused upon developing and popularizing Christian prayer and meditation with the hopes to bring peaceful consciousness, by initially paying their rent, and sharing office space.  By helping to give them an opening at St. John’s, they were able to work with 12 step programs and individuals and offer a Saturday morning meditation with others. 

We have always extensively used the United State Postal Service.  We support entities of good governance like the post office, in our efforts to address the prison-industrial complex, an example of malicious governance.   

When specific types of books or educational materials have been requested from inmates, we have used local independent bookstores and business. 

We believe these efforts align us with “localized Christian independence/interdependence” and keep us minimal and humble and intuitively open to new “emergent movements.”