CAMERON, MO. -- He's been in prison for 30 years now, and no doubt will be for several more. His step-mother called him not long ago to tell him his father had died (his mother died some years back), and of course he couldn't go to the funeral. And he just got chewed out by prison officials for what essentially was a misunderstanding on their part.
So with all that and so much more, he looked me in the eyes here in the visiting room of a state prison the other morning and said:
"I am a blessed man."
His capacity for joy seems nearly endless. And though he spends each day and each night locked up, his spirit is gloriously free.
He would attribute his choice of attitude to his understanding that God, through Jesus Christ, loves him unconditionally and is present with him always as the Holy Spirit. In other words, he draws strength and resolve and comfort from his Christian faith.
I know that lots of prisoners have jail conversions that aren't all that sincere but are, rather, a way to impress the parole board. And yet it's also true that some people in prison have committed their lives to God through this or that religion and that it's a sincere transformation of their lives. That's how the man I visited here at the Crossroads Correctional Center is.
And it seems to me that if people with almost no freedoms can find strength and solace in faith, maybe there's hope for the rest of us, too.
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THE REALITY OF INTERFAITH MARRIAGE
Perhaps you saw this interesting story Saturday in The Kansas City Star by my colleague Helen Gray on interfaith marriages -- a subject raised by this past weekend's wedding of Chelsea Clinton, a Christian, and Marc Mezvinsky, a Jew. For another take on this subject, have a look at this story by Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today. I mention this not to shine more light on the Clinton wedding but, rather, because these intermarriages are another sign that Americans are figuring out how to navigate the interreligious waters of our changing faith landscape. And that's a good thing.