God's Politics

God's Politics


Karl Barth Still Belongs in Prison (by Kevin Lum)

posted by God's Politics

I recently posted about the purging of religious books from prison libraries across the country. Since that post and a follow-up action alert, there has been a groundswell of outrage from across the religious and political spectrum against the government’s attempt to purge religious libraries. Thank you to everyone who took action. The response has been so overwhelming that The New York Times even took notice:



The bureau is hearing criticism from a broad array of religious groups and leaders. Sojourners, a liberal evangelical group based in Washington, sent an alert to its members, who within 48 hours sent the bureau more than 15,000 e-mail messages urging it to scrap the policy.


Since that article, a total of some 18,000 emails have now been sent to Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin, demanding that the federal government not be in the business of providing citizens with a list of acceptable reading material.


The outrage is growing, but the Bureau of Prisons has not yet changed its policy. If you have not taken action, please email Director Lappin now and forward it to everyone you know. Let’s make our voice heard.


View the Government Approved Reading Lists:


Protestant


Catholic


Judaism


<A
Islam


Kevin Lum is the congregational network coordinator for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.



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Comments read comments(24)
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kevin s.

posted September 24, 2007 at 11:27 am


I agree, in principal, that the approved reading list raises constitutional questions, but if you had to make a list of Christian books for prisoners, that is a pretty solid list.



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Paul T. Jackson

posted September 24, 2007 at 3:30 pm


As a former prison library director for general, law and staff libraries in a state prison, I found that the list of books that could NOT be in a prison library was more useful as a security measure.
Having an approved list does leave things out that some may want to read, and does seem like prior censorship. I suspect this list has been generated by those prison libraries that already have these items and have been found to not violate any particular policy. I see gaps as well in these lists, and knowing how things are usually gotten (many by gifts, or grants,) there are probably a lot of things not on those lists for now, because they aren’t already in prison libraries.
There are ‘gangs’ in prison some of which work within the prison religious groups and make for particular hazardous situations…some that I have monitored. And there are certain books that may describe protest activity that the prison officials do not want in a library. That could eliminate the bible as well, but hasn’t yet.
On the other hand it would be sad that only those things on the list could be ordered, as they might also represent a bias of the list maker having nothing to do with security. However, at least in the state system, there would be a method for getting a book on a list or off a restricted list. I suspect that might be the case here as well.



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Moderatelad

posted September 25, 2007 at 9:46 am


Forgot to post the message yesterday but prayers were offered for all of our military personnel where ever they are located. That peace and victory will come to Iraq sooner rather than later.
God bless our military personnel and their families.
Blessings -
.



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undisclosed

posted September 25, 2007 at 11:53 am


I reviewed the Protestant list and it looks good to me!



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N.M. Rod

posted September 25, 2007 at 1:30 pm


It’s no surprise that some posters who are self-identified on the hard right find no problem with a censored list that reflects the bias they want others to be indoctrinated in!
What kind of a world will it be when a country that has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of its prison population exports its culture and social structures to every other nation as many see to be our messianic and military purpose?
There’ll be a whole lot of private sector U.S. contractors building and staffing prisons for all the millions of new prisoners worldwide when the US frees the globe, if our own society is any indication! And, obviously, jobs for censors, too.
Hey — maybe when that’s done, we can subcontract our own prisons offshore… hmm, we already have some practice, come to think of it…



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kevin s.

posted September 25, 2007 at 2:33 pm


“It’s no surprise that some posters who are self-identified on the hard right find no problem with a censored list that reflects the bias they want others to be indoctrinated in!”
Have you even read the list? This statement tells me that you have not.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 25, 2007 at 3:35 pm


Some who associate themselves with what they call “the right” don’t have any problem with pre-approved lists of books. Shades of a medieval catholicism afraid of anything not labeled “Nihil Obstat” or having an “Imprimatur.”
I guess my own one-time conservatism is heavily tinged with libertarianism and classical liberalism. I wouldn’t want to live in anyone’s politically correct version of a world.
I consider myopia and tunnel vision defects, not virtues.
Stifling even the mind in prison is characteristic of the latest temptations to totalitarianism that America periodically roils itself with.
If authority is fair and legitimate, why is it so increasingly afraid and given to suppression?
The unilateral mindset is becoming our national disease.



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kevin s.

posted September 25, 2007 at 4:08 pm


“I guess my own one-time conservatism is heavily tinged with libertarianism and classical liberalism”
Would the federal government purchase religious books at all, in accordance with this model?
“The unilateral mindset is becoming our national disease.”
This is a bit much. There are books for 4 different religions allowed either way.



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undisclosed

posted September 25, 2007 at 4:24 pm


What books are missing that anyone feels just HAVE to be there?
I did not review the Islam list, but I’m assuming that any book guiding someone “How to be an Islam Fundamentalist” would be censored.
Is this not a good thing? Or do we want a bunch of Islam Fundamentalists running around once they get out of prison?



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N.M. Rod

posted September 25, 2007 at 4:38 pm


Would we want a bunch of Christian fundamentalists running amok once they were released from prison?
They’re running amok (so to speak), and they’re not in prison…yet, anyhow.
Why is it anyone’s right to determine the inner thought life and dialog of anyone else, even a prisoner? This has not been our traditional western model of openness until now.
I’m chagrined that, indeed, the “right” are book burners and censors, just as accused, all along. At one time I would have believed otherwise – say, if they were contending for the reading materials and intellectual freedom for captives in other, totalitarian nations, such as the case of dissident intellectuals.
There is a totalitarian streak that likes to invoke a hellfire and damnation self-righteous, tyrannical version of Christianity that gives us the moral right to dictate what others read, think and believe.
Even for those imprisoned for various crimes, that run the gamut from shoplifting, marijuana use to embezzlement, organised crime and murder, why should we shut off hope of a genuine spiritual and intellectual search outside our own confined self-serving list of “approved texts”?
Or perhaps this is a peculiarly wicked nation, with inhabitants so vile and dangerous that extreme measures must be taken. After all, with 25% of the world’s incarcerated population here, we must be exceedingly evil and dangerous indeed, with a need to suppress and control by all means possible our temptations towards freedom.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 25, 2007 at 4:44 pm


As to whether or not government ought to purchase anything at all, except to further its rulers’ particular cravings for control, I guess it’s true that many find public libraries anathema as well, which purchase materials from a wide variety and of opposing views using public money.
I’m guessing that many subscribe to the view that John Ashcroft expressed to his staff upon assuming the Attorney-generalship, his personal belief that “justice is all about vengeance.”
This explains the view of crime and punishment typified by hoi-polloi crowds around prisons waiting for and then celebrating ghoulishly prisoner electrocutions. One can satisfy dark desires expressed in the joy found in controlling others and deligghting in helplessness more in keeping with De Sade while pretending it’s all in the interest of justice.



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Brenda Waters

posted September 25, 2007 at 5:20 pm


I reviewed the Protestant listing (I don’t pretend to know anything about the other three), and the only thing I would add is Christian Doctrine by Shirley Guthrie. For anyone who might be interested, it’s an excellent basic introduction to Reformed theology.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 25, 2007 at 7:00 pm


Why should there be an “approved list” of the only books allowed to be read at all?
Why is thought control so important?
It’s missing the point to say, “well, the only book I’d add, is… such-and-such” as if you qualify to determine what people should be reading instead of someone else.
Any number of works might be valuable, without predetermining them.
This is worse than censorship, because censorship involves outlawing specific texts that someone finds objectionable that others should be allowed to read (determined, of course, after they themselves have read it without harm to themselves, superior beings that they are) – because EVERYTHING that is not specifically allowed, is by default forbidden.
In other words – totalitarianism – that which is not specifically allowed is forbidden.
What a magically infallible group of people we have making up the canon of approved texts outside of which no other ideas are allowed to be thought about, discussed or propagated.



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Mick Sheldon

posted September 25, 2007 at 8:18 pm


Why should there be an “approved list” of the only books allowed to be read at all?
From what I listened to on a talk
show was the books banned were ones that were suppose to use religion to support terrorism . So if you had a book condoning burning planned parent buildings or using the Muslim religion to promote an agenda that uses suicide bombing .
This list and other comments I have heard since then sure makes that view seem untrue or that the folks making the policy happen are totally unware of what is going on .
No bibles or other Faith Groups Scriptures have been banned have they ?
Regardless , sounds like it got out of hand .



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Arthur Keitha

posted September 26, 2007 at 12:29 pm


I go to a local jail/prison. At one side are county inmates, on the other side are state inmates. Once a week I do a Bible Study and have a time of conversation with the inmates.
I only wished that we had a jail library. The few religious books that are available to the inmates all have been donated. And even that is difficult, there is a rule that you cannot just go and buy them, no, they have to be sent to the jail from a distributor.
The only book that I have no problem taking in is the Bible. And that is just as a gesture from the local sheriff, I can bring in as many as I want and give them to different inmates.



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undisclosed

posted September 26, 2007 at 1:23 pm


Mick, I think you are bang on. The books banned were the ones that were suppose to use religion to support terrorism. I don’t think that it has been so much that it has got out of hand, more likely, they figured that they better ban some other books that don’t use religion to support terrorism in order to come across as being fair (i.e. they did not want it to appear as though they were only picking on the Muslims – in reality the whole reason behind it was a response to Islam extremism, since a large number of convicts who convert to Islam choose a radical, violent version of it. In order to appear fair and “tolerant” it was decided to ban a number of books from other faiths as well.)



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undisclosed

posted September 26, 2007 at 1:30 pm


N.M. Rod, you said:
“Would we want a bunch of Christian fundamentalists running amok once they were released from prison?”
The answer, of course, is yes!!
Are you a Christian? Do you know what Christian Fundamentalism is? I’m going to assume that you don’t, so here you go:
Christian fundamentalism, is a movement that arose mainly within British and American Protestantism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by conservative evangelical Christians, who, in a reaction to modernism, actively affirmed a fundamental set of Christian beliefs:
- the inerrancy of the Bible
- Sola Scriptura
- the virgin birth of Christ
- the doctrine of substitutionary atonement
- the bodily resurrection of Jesus
- and the imminent return of Jesus Christ
Which of these fundamentals do you personally have a problem with?



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undisclosed

posted September 26, 2007 at 1:47 pm


Arthur Keitha, keep up the good work! God’s Word is all that anyone needs!



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N.M. Rod

posted September 26, 2007 at 7:10 pm


I used to be pleased to identify myself as a fundamentalist – that is, a believer in the revealed truth and inerrancy of scripture – until I found out that fundamentalists aren’t so fundamental when it comes to scripture that disagrees with their own preconceptions and theologies.
For instance, most fundamentalists believe war is A-OK these days. Most also have their watered-down interpretations that completely explain away and make irrelevant to real life all of Jesus’ core teachings in Matthew 5,6 and 7. Some believe wine really means grape juice. Some think Jesus was a capitalist. Some think there’s no possible dynamic interaction with the Holy Spirit and that miracles are no longer happening. Others believe that we are in the last days for sure with months to go before the end. Others believe in a kind of American Israelism with America playing messiah to the globe, much like Herbert W. Armstrong believed in British Israelism.
I consider my own beliefs more fundamental than all the above.
Thank you for taking the time to educate me about how fundamentalists are the purist form of Christians and most like Jesus, though!



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Mick Sheldon

posted September 26, 2007 at 8:28 pm


I consider my own beliefs more fundamental than all the above
Well I don’t blame you , When I was appointed on a Human Rights Council some liberal activists made a great bigg fuss about it , the paper often failed to mention my name , just labeled me fundamentalist . I was ticked off untill my wife explained I was a Fundamentalist . Assembly of God since 1985. J
ust the way the liberals portrayed it it was equal to hate monger . In fact if I did not know me , I would not of liked me from the stereotypes promoted .



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Arthur Keith

posted September 26, 2007 at 9:20 pm


We identify ourselves by using terms we do not necessarily use correctly according to Webster. And then we also have preconceived notions of what each is. To me the term liberal may be something bad while to another it is something great. What is the difference? Our understanding of what it means. And that is not based on anything measurable. I grew up Dutch Reformed, real conservative. I always joke that we used to separate the chickens and the roosters so that no one would work on Sunday, not even the animals. And we use to walk to Church in the middle of the street so that the heathens could not drive any faster than we would walk. I am glad I have changed since those days. Today I am a Catholic, probably still conservative but my understanding of what that term means has changed. I still do not agree with everything my Church teaches but I agree with most. I find that I am happy here.
I try not to label others. When I was discharged from the Army, I went to seminary. I had done some things while in the service that I was not proud of, in fact I had a difficult time living with myself. I had to find forgiveness and thought that I would stand a good change of finding it in a place where people studied God. Instead, I found a place where everyone was trying to make me over in the image they had of what a minister should be like. I stayed for three years and was not very happy. They were not the kind of Christians I wanted to be. I tried a second time, several years later. This time I had a great experience. And I got closer to God, I even found a way to live with myself.
Labels, the first school called itself fundamentalist, the second school was more liberal. And yet, I am still conservative. I happen to love the Church Fathers, I think that nothing has been published since then that is worth reading. A joke, don’t shoot me.



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Torin

posted September 26, 2007 at 9:24 pm


“I used to be pleased to identify myself as a fundamentalist…”
“…the scripture cannot be broken” -Jesus (John 10:35)
“…one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” -Jesus (Matt.5:18)
Obviously no one is more of a fundamentalist than Jesus. So why should we be ashamed to be called such? The problem is ignorance over what a fundamentalist really is. This ignorance is evidenced by the actions of some people calling themselves fundametalists who truly are “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” It is also evidenced by those who label fundamentalists
as war-loving, non-thinking, judgemental, selfish, Republicans. I wonder if either group has read the Good Book cover to cover. Maybe those who hate fundamentalists are too free-thinking to read the bible? When anyone takes an honest look at Jesus, it’s obvious He is not and would not be politically correct with homosexuals, so-called abortion rights advocates, and many other so-called “liberal” concerns. By the same token, He in no way would give breaks to the rich at the expense of the poor. He would not send people to die in pointless wars for business, personal, and political reasons. Jesus would be called a “bleeding heart liberal” by so-called conservatives and a “closed-minded intolerant fundamentalist” by so-called liberals.
Ezekiel 16:49. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.(50.)And they were haughty, and committed abomination (homosexuality) before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
Sounds like the “right” and “left” are both wrong.
God please forgive us for trying to justify our own sins by pointing out the sins of others.



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undisclosed

posted September 27, 2007 at 3:21 pm


N.M. Rod,
I came back to see if you answered my question and I see that you have not. So, I pose it again:
Which of these Christian fundamentals do you disagree with?
- the inerrancy of the Bible
- Sola Scriptura
- the virgin birth of Christ
- the doctrine of substitutionary atonement
- the bodily resurrection of Jesus
- and the imminent return of Jesus Christ
I’m not talking about the man-made ones you mentioned above. I’m talking about the basic Christian fundamentals which *define* a Christian as a fundamentalist.
Also, I never said that fundamentalists are “the purist form of Christians and most like Jesus”
You posted about your concerns regarding Christian fundamentalists. Christian fundamentalists believe in the 6 fundamentals listed above. Please let me know what the problem is with these fundamental beliefs. I’m a new Christian so look to other Christians for guidance. Or, am I in the wrong place?
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:14



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Gerald R. Wheeler

posted September 28, 2007 at 12:43 pm


I was not aware of the government censoring of religious materials in federal prisons, but I want to voice a strong objection to this policy. Prisoners should be allowed to read the bible and other christian literature. This policy will work to contradict what a prisoner is supposed to achieve in prison.



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