Yesterday we discussed an article by atheist Michael Shermer in which he stated that as atheism replaces belief in God “we should continue working on grounding our morals and values on viable secular sources such as reason and science.” (Scientific American, April 2018, page 77). At the same time Shermer’s article came out, we received a report on prison suicide rates.
NewLife Behavior Ministries issued a report of an increase in suicides in Texas prisons. The data came from the University of Texas Medical Branch saying that attempted suicides in Texas prisons jumped from 65 to 150 in the past four years. Statistics on suicides are very complicated, but every study we have seen has shown a huge increase in attempted suicides. The increase applies to all segments of the population, not just prison suicide rates but the general public as well.
The secular sources for morals and values that Shermer recommends would include people like atheists Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. They advocate euthanasia for the “unfit” in society including Down Syndrome, mentally ill, and mentally deficient people. Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He advocates for infanticide to eliminate defective children and for animal rights. In his book Practical Ethics, he concedes that the question of why we should act morally “cannot be given an answer that will provide everyone with overwhelming reasons for acting morally.”
The biblical perspective is that all humans have value because they are created in the image of God. That is radically different from the secular view that we are just animals with no more value than any other animal. Suicide is directly connected to what we understand a human to be. The Christian view is that there is no such thing as “worthless human trash” or “unfit people.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018
From the beginning of this ministry, we have been involved in working with individuals who are incarcerated. The toughest part of prison ministry is inescapable. It is dealing with children who are experiencing incredible pain because of the actions of their parents.
Ezekiel 18:20 makes it clear, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son…” Still, children who are not guilty of any wrongdoing suffer when a parent is put in jail. It is excruciating to be part of “visitation” at a prison as children cry out for love and attention and can’t understand the reason for an end to the visit that always comes way too soon.
This issue has far-reaching consequences for all of us. Dr. Molinda Chartrand who works with both military families and incarcerated people says, “Hitting, biting, and hyperactivity are much more frequent when a parent is deployed or incarcerated.” Very young children who have a parent absent from the home have a 5% higher incident rate of behavior problems than the general population. Older preschoolers have a 20% higher rate.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that an estimated 2 million children with one or both parents incarcerated face the greatest risk of perpetuating the cycle of crime. Nearly 50% of all state prison inmates have either another family member in prison or have a family member who has been in prison.
There is a huge need for Christians to get involved in efforts to help address this problem. God’s plan for the family is the only plan that works. When the family is disrupted for whatever reason, it is the children who suffer as much as anyone. The toughest part of prison ministry is ministering to the children of inmates.
The data comes from the Kings Crossing Prison Ministries and the NewLife Behavior Ministries.
We have come across a story that shows the strength of some Christians, and how their ability to apply powerful forgiveness can bless others and bring about healing.
Carla Willmon was a junior at Harding University in 1995. Two men kidnapped and murdered Carla and were incarcerated for that terrible crime. In 2015 Carla’s parents, Roy and Jeanie Willmon wrote to each of the men. The Willmons expressed their forgiveness and their desire to study the gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s forgiveness with them.
That kind of forgiveness is beyond the ability of most people to understand. Our natural reaction is to want revenge, to retaliate, and to build a dossier of hate. The problem is that the death of your child and the loss you have sustained is only made worse by building up all of those negative feelings.
After several months of correspondence and study, both men were baptized into Christ Jesus, and both are actively teaching others. These men have reached several other inmates with the gospel. The Willmons continue to send books and teaching materials to them.
Some of us talk the talk, but here is a couple who have lived it remarkably. God’s way works. The teachings of Jesus have the potential to make good come out of the most horrible situations. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Powerful forgiveness that grows from powerful faith can change lives.
–John N. Clayton © 2017