Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a depiction of daily life during incarceration in Kentucky, during 2008 and 2009, and is constructed from my notes.
Names are changed, except for nicknames that do not reveal identity.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
McCracken County Jail Cell 107, February, 2008
This morning I am called out of the cell to see a minister. I do not have a minister. Apparently, someone has requested a clergy visit for me. The minister is a nice-looking, soft-spoken gentleman. We speak through bullet-proof glass, on phones. I have a bible.
“My name is Brother Bryce Morris,” he says. “I’d like to share some scripture with you.”
“Okay. Sounds great,” I say. “Thank you.”
“Now,” he says, “I want to go over some scripture about how a Christian is supposed to live, okay?”
“So, if you have pen and paper, write these scriptures down, okay?”
“Okay. Romans 10:17. What does that say?” he asks.
“It says, “Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.””
“So faith comes through what?”
“Right. Hebrews 11:6.”
“But without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek him.”
“What must we do?”
“Right. And now turn to Acts 17:30.”
As I turn to the passage I almost ask the minister if it is really true that Paul wrote Acts while he was chained to a wall in a prison, and that much of the New Testament was written by men who were in and out of prison, but I say, “God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now He demands that all people repent.”
“What does He demand?”
“And what does that mean?”
“Admit to our sins?”
“And try not to do them anymore. Right. Now, Romans 10:10.”
“…for one believes with the heart is so justified, and one confesses with the mouth is so saved.”
“What do we have to do to be saved?”
“Good. Now Acts 22:16.”
“Now why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.”
“What do we do without delay?”
“Now Romans 7:6.”
“But now we are released from the law, dead to what held us captive, so that we may serve in the newness of the spirit and not under the obsolete letter.”
Brother Bryce says, “So that’s telling us that the Ten Commandments are the old law. We are released from the old law and now we live under the new law.”
“We do?” I ask.
“Look at John 17:21.”
“So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that the world may believe that you sent me.”
“What are they talking about here?” asks Brother Bryce.
“Praise? Unity? I don’t know.”
“Look at Ephesians 4:4.”
“One body and one Spirit, as you were also called the one hope of your call…”
“What is that talking about?”
“The unity of the body?”
“Right, good. Now Ephesians 1:22-23.”
“And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the new who fills all things in every way.”
“What is this talking about?”
“And Mathew 16:18.”
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherland shall not prevail against it.”
“Who is talking?”
“The Church of who?”
“The Church of Christ.”
“I am going to talk to the jail chaplain about having you baptized into the Church of Christ.”
I am not sure what to say. I explain that I was baptized in a Presbyterian Church, as an infant, and that as an adult I find the social statements of the Unitarian Universalists a good fit for me.
Brother Bryce explains that the Church of Christ is the only true Christian Church, and that baptism in infancy will not get me saved. And, that the true church does not have music.
I thank Brother Bryce. A few days later I receive a very nice note from him:
It was good studying God’s word with you. And I pray that you will think about the scriptures we studied, and decide to be baptized into the Church of Christ. I have also enclosed some Bible lessons for you, when you have completed the questions, just return to me, and we will grade. May God bless you, and hope to hear from you soon. Brother Bryce Morris”
I complete the Bible studies and return them; they are meticulously graded by hand, and then promptly returned to me. In fact, the Church of Christ is very kind and generous to inmates, with ministry and Bible studies.
I am thankful for the visit.
However, I politely decline the baptism and conversion.
Author’s end note:
As I have said before, the McCracken County jail deliberately banned all reading materials and educational materials, unless they were specifically religious and narrow in scope. It also banned work (for the women), treatment and anything to do with rehab, including 12-step meetings. Rather, the jail routinely warehoused nonviolent female class D offenders, in exchange for money from the state, for each offender.
In addition, the court and the public defender misled some inmates to believe that if they pled guilty and entered the faith-based residential treatment program and completed it, their record could later be expunged. This was a lie. The faith-based treatment center was not licensed to treat anyone for anything and no agreement existed with the State.
I learned this later when I was in the parole office, and a woman in tears, related how she had completed the program successfully, in exchange for what turned out to be an empty promise.