The History of Friday 10:03 (Part 3)

Friday, January 04, 2008

(This will make more sense by beginning with Part 1.)

Matthew 25:34-36, "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance . . . For I was . . . in prison and you came to visit me.'”

For a 16 or 17 year-old trying to figure out pure religion, this was a quantifiable test. As a 58 year-old, I can say I have been inside San Quentin twice for the purpose of visiting a Death Row prisoner, but I would have to admit my motives were not purely religious. Yet as a teen-ager trying to distill the essence of pure religion, this seemed to be one of the tests.

I grew up in a series of Methodist churches where I learned the importance of practical service. These were good people, doing good things, singing good music, and sharing good meals. My sense, though, was that they treated the Bible as a convenient mythology for holding a good group of people together. At the same time, my own reading of the Bible told me that its interior logic forbid such a treatment. Either it is true—in all of its statements of deity, eternity, Heaven, and Hell—or it is not. Where was the bedrock? On a “Youth Sunday” at age 14, I was invited to present the Sunday morning sermon. I thought I had pushed the envelope rather daringly, but got only polite congratulations. My eight-dollar short story for the denominational Sunday school magazine was the retelling of a Buddhist parable. In looking for bedrock, I found none at all.

Thus, at 14, though my body continued to inhabit the Methodist Church, my spirit went elsewhere. I read the Koran and the Tao Te Ching. But with my interest in Chessman, I returned occasionally to Matthew 25. I couldn’t visit a prisoner, but I could write a letter. In an act of Christian obedience, I wrote to the California Department of Corrections and asked for a pen-pal. In an act of administrative regulation, they replied that pen-pals needed to be at least eighteen. I would wait another 37 years before writing to a pen-pal in prison

(Go to Part 4)


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