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This book is a must read for anyone involved in or thinking about becoming involved in prison ministry. It is equally important for anyone who is interested in learning about the impact on society of the dramatic growth in the prison population in this country. It will challenge your perceptions of the justice system in this country and cause you to reflect on the biblical notion of redemption. The opening lines of the book, "When GOD CHOSE to take on human flesh, he did not become a priest or a monk, a king or a general, a poet or a philosopher. Instead, he became a death row prisoner, a condemned criminal executed alongside two thieves." give pause to our concepts of who the real prisoners are in our society. This book was recognized by the Catholic Press Association at the Catholic Media Convention on May 25th. It received a first place award in the category of Social Concerns. The citation is included below:
Award for Social Concerns First Place - The Convict Christ, by Jens Soering, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, N.Y. We found this book very compelling and well-written. The topic is timely, and the author's perspective is challenging and well-researched. It is a wonderful book for Christians who are ready to confront our society's "lepers"--prison inmates. The volume is easy to read and well-organized, and we especially appreciated the integration of Scripture, personal stories and broader reflections.
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Convict Christ is thought provoking. Put aside the nice stories of baby Jesus and Mary; of Christ being a carpenter's son teaching in the temple; of our ]salvation. Place Christ as a convicted criminal on death row - lowest of the low. A must read for anyone claiming to be Christian. The Gospel says one thing about criminal justice. Western (American) "tough on crime" culture behaves differently. It is not a question of liberal vs conservative. One may oppose crime without being tough on crime. How would Jesus treat the incarcerated?
I received this book from a friend while serving a nine-month federal prison sentence. It (obviously) spoke to my condition at that time and became my favorite among the several books I received from wonderful friends during my incarceration. It was also the only book stolen from me! (I bought another copy on Amazon as soon as I got home.)
Soering's penetrating perspectives on the often-smug indifference shown to prisoners by public officials and the media are not new. But when he applies them to Christians, they form a stinging rebuke to the church's own teaching and doctrine concerning its biblical obligations to those living behind bars. Soering's very readable (and at times sardonic) look at criminal justice realities is framed around relevant Bible stories of men (including Jesus) and women caught in the grip of their own legal systems, secular or religious (not that much different from ours in many ways). His astute assessments challenge Christians to reconsider their easy judgments against convicted criminals and their coldness towards the real plights of those stuck in the US prison system (the world's largest).
This is a book that can change minds. It's no screed against our government or angry indictment of Christians. Rather, it offers a sobering corrective to any Christian willing to consider what biblical justice truly demands of him or her.
You can easily read this book in one weekend. Then you may be moved to study Soering's other, even deeper reflections on how the church can fulfill its mandate to comfort the afflicted and set the captives free. I hope you will.
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Jens Soering is a German citizen and Centering Prayer practitioner who has been incarcerated since 1986. His case has been featured on Court TV and A&E's City Confidential. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, The Christian Century, Sojourners, America, National Catholic Reporter, and The American Conservative. His book The Convict Christ: What the Gospel Says about Criminal Justice was the first place winner of the Catholic Press Association's 2007 awards.