Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jim Wallis on "Faith-based initiatives"

I did make it to the Jim Wallis lecture/discussion last night--just barely, and I ended up sitting in the "nosebleed seats" at St. John's Arena at The Ohio State University in Columbus. It was a good event, and well attended. I was hoping to see some media coverage, but haven't so far--and one thing I'm really bad at is estimating crowd size. So, until I find the details somewhere, we'll just have to go with "big". I've realized at this point that I'm not going to have a full write-up ready to post tonight, so for now, I'll just share, closely paraphrased, one of the stories Jim told us last night...
I was asked to speak at Sing Sing prison in upstate New York. I asked, when do you want me to come, and the prisoners' representative said, "Well, we're free most nights! We're kind of a captive audience here!"

I was given a room in the bowels of Sing Sing, this infamous prison, and I was left in a room alone for 5 hours with 80 guys. One of the prisoners said, "You know, Jim, all of us at Sing Sing are from just about 4 or 5 neighborhoods in New York City. It's like a train you get on in my neighborhood when you're 9 or 10 years old, and the train ends up here, at Sing Sing.

But he had a spirtual conversion inside those walls. The New York Theological Seminary offers a Masters of Divinity program inside the walls of that prison. You become a preacher inside the joint--you graduate when your sentence is up. And he looked at me and said, "When I get out, I want to go back and stop that train!"

I was in New York a few years later, and guess who I saw, back home, leading a town meeting on poverty...trying to stop that train. That's what *I* mean by faith-based initiatives.

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