And the Criminals With Him

As regular readers know, I write here from time to time about my experiences in prison ministry. For those interested in this work of mercy and the current state of the prison-industrial complex in the US let me make you aware of a new resource.

And the Criminals With Him (Amazon link, Cascade link) is a new volume of essays edited by my friend Richard Goode that commemorates and continues the prophetic legacy of Will Campbell--Civil Rights activist, bootleg preacher, author (his most well known book is Brother to a Dragonfly), and prophetic gadfly.

In 1965 the Committee of Southern Churchmen began publishing, with Campbell and James Holloway at the editorial helm, the journal Katallagete: Be Reconciled. During its time Katallagete featured essays from, among others, Thomas Merton, William Stringfellow, Jacques Ellul, Walker Percy, and Daniel and Philip Berrigan. (For more on the history and theological legacy of Katallagete let me point you to this article by Steven Miller.)

In 1972 Campbell published an issue of Katallagete aimed at exposing the inhumanity of the US prison system. Now, forty years later, the essays of And the Criminals With Him, revisits and updates that seminal issue. From the book description:
In 1972, Will Campbell published an issue of the Committee of Southern Churchmen's journal, Katallagete, to shed light on the US prison system. None could anticipate how the system would expand exponentially in the next four decades. Today, the US operates the world's largest prison system, incarcerating nearly 1 in every 100 American adults. How did this expansion happen? What is the human toll of this retributive system? How might "ambassadors of reconciliation" respond to such a punitive institution?

Replicating the firsthand nature of Will Campbell's original Katallagete collection, twenty new essays pull back the veil on today's prison-industrial complex. The plea throughout this collection is not for some better, more progressive institution to exact justice. Rather, the invitation is to hear from voices of experience how the system functions, listen to what the institution does to those locked in its cells, consider what an execution involves, and, most importantly, contemplate the scandalous call to be in reconciled community with those whom society discards and the system silences. Our story is that there are neither good nor bad people, neither felon nor free world. We are all one. 
I have an essay in And the Criminals With Him entitled "On Fear and Following" taken from reflections I first shared here. For churches with prison ministries or for individuals engaged in or contemplating prison ministry let me encourage you to get And the Criminals With Him.

For introductions to Campbell's life and theology I also highly recommend Crashing the Idols and Writings on Reconciliation and Resistance, the two volumes that functioned as my own introduction to Campbell.

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6 thoughts on “And the Criminals With Him”

  1. Thank you, Dr. Beck, for a very informative post.  The linked article, "From Politics to Reconciliation" was of great interest to me.  Fascinating, actually!  I had never heard the word "Katallagete" (Greek:  Be reconciled), or -- my favorite -- "eclecticism."  That's the best "ism" I've heard yet.  My vocabulary is forever expanding from my reading here at ET.  :-)

    Once again, I'm reminded of the book "Hearts and Minds" by Harry S. Ashmore.  It's been a long time since I've read it (15 years?!!), but the thesis was much the same.  Laws will enforce changes, but changing people's hearts and minds is another matter altogether.

    I like the idea of the church standing in stark contrast to secular political "solutions" to social ills.  Imagine if churches had broken ranks with the socially "acceptable" norms of the day, and freely chosen to integrate their congregations!  Some mending (reconciling) of hearts and minds might have begun, and taken hold in the larger society.

    Lastly, the Prison Bible Fellowship is probably the best indication that I can find which tells me of your inherent kindness and gracious nature, and consequently has earned my deepest respect and gratitude.  Thank you so much for going and being *with* these men, showing them mercy, and serving to reconcile them to God and community. know and live it!  Blessings~

  2. More people should know Richard Goode - his work and mind are wonderful.  This journal article came out today that speaks more in depth to what Goode is doing with Lipscomb University in providing college educational opportunities for those in prison.  Really, really good read (and I am excited about the book too!)

  3. Brother To A Dragonfly is an excellent book. I highly recommend it. I will be picking up And the Criminals... as well.

  4. Couldn't agree more. Richard was my new faculty mentor the first year of my academic career which was at Lipscomb. So I guess he can take the credit for how I turned out as a college professor. :-)

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