July 19, 2012
Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #234: Which Foot Shall I Shoot?
Man, yesterday was rough! I know; I hear you already: “How rough can it be when you don’t work, have your meals made for you and laundry done for you, and you aren’t even married?” True, I’ll concede that point to you.
Trust me when I say that, married or not, I certainly have my share of drama, courtesy of living in everyone else’s armpits. No matter what you choose to do in prison, no matter how private you may be inclined to think your decisions or actions are, you are never alone.
No one bothers you if you have nothing and if you do nothing that is out of the norm, but bank on everyone noticing and evaluating every variance in whatever you choose to do. You don’t even realize parts of your life have become strictly habitual until someone helpfully points out that you’ve changed your routine, the routine you never thought you had in the first place.
Now, I’ve worked in offices, I’ve served in ministries, I’ve attended a smattering of churches (ask any pastor: churches smatter, and they should smatter to you). Certainly in these environments it can feel at times as if everyone knows your business. But these pale in comparison to the “all up in your business” that you come to expect in prison.
This fact of life here is magnified by a hundred when you choose to acknowledge your relationship with God, and the eyes are really on you if you’ve been appointed to church leadership. Then, it becomes not just your walk with God but everyone else’s opinion of your walk with God.
At any point in the day, one or more Bible Studies are being held in the pod: How many of these are you attending, and why or why not? Is everything alright brother; I noticed you weren’t at the Unit Bible Study.
Now that I’ve been receiving the kosher diet, those prying eyes have only stepped up more: When did you become Jewish? Sell me some of the vegetables. And on. And on.
I haven’t minded defending the right I have to be on the kosher diet: the chaplain said my application for it was “the best researched, most compelling and legitimate request” he’s seen. So, everyone should be fine with it, if the chaplains both approved it, right? Uh, not really.
Yesterday after choir practice, I was pulled aside into a meeting with all the church overseers and elders—about nine guys. They told me that my being on the kosher diet was “causing weaker brothers to stumble,” a serious offense spoken of in I Corinthians 8, regarding meat sacrificed to idols.
My attendance at the Messianic services (I attend their Bible Study on Friday evenings, along with several others who attend our church services as well) was then brought up as a violation of the Leadership Agreement I’d signed; never mind that the chaplain, who drafted that agreement, was pleased to have me attending the study, knowing I’m an elder in the multi-denominational (though called “non”-denominational) Protestant services.
The meeting with the church leaders, which felt more like a group stoning since the principles regarding correcting another believer found in Matthew 18 weren’t followed, culminated with what they called an ultimatum: either cease attending the Messianic Bible Studies and receiving the kosher dietary meals or cease all leadership in the church, i.e., no more choir or piano.
I was patronizingly patted on the shoulder by the head overseer and told, “The choice is yours.” How exciting! With the loaded gun handed me, I couldn’t decide which foot I’d rather shoot, and I’d forgotten the words to “Eeny, Meany, Miny, Moe.”
When I asked why I couldn’t attend a Bible Study, the head overseer said, “The Messianics aren’t Christians.” WHAT?!? He continued, “So they are a false Bride of Christ, and by you attending those studies, it causes Christ to commit BIGAMY.” He then said we weren’t going to discuss doctrine. Riiiight … that didn’t sound like doctrine.
They gave me a week to decide, which I’ll use to pray. God is good, and He has something great in mind for me! More soon …