Camel's Hair and Locusts: The Light of Christ Illuminates the Darkest Days

Dear Beloved Readers,

My friend Mike is a prisoner currently serving time in the Michigan Department of Corrections. Mike is a man in his 40's who was raised and confirmed in the Catholic Church, but fell in with the wrong crowd and began "...running crazy, doing drugs and drinking." A near death experience brought him back to Jesus Christ through a non-denominational outreach program. His past behavior landed him in prison.

Today, Mike is dedicated to Christ and serving the spiritual needs of his fellow inmates through the various Christian programs at his facility. I met him through his bunky, who is one of my regular correspondents and also a dear friend. Mike's religious background, his native intelligence and his Christian heart have led him to seek dialog and deeper communication between Evangelical and Catholic inmates, and he has been instrumental in helping me reach out to the Catholic community in his facility, for which I am truly grateful.

Christmas can be a very lonely and trying time for the incarcerated. Many have no contact from home and family, and the only recognition of the season they receive is from caring individuals who donate to the various outreach ministries that provide Christmas in their prison facilities. I have seen hardened hearts melted many times by a gift bag containing something as simple as a new pair of socks, some word games and some candy and fresh fruit—and the truth that somebody cares. The children in our local parish prepared such gift bags for the Catholic men in our local prisons last year, and the response was both overwhelming and heartwarming. I invite you to contact your local parish, or the Office of Restorative Justice or Christian Service at your diocese, and ask what you might do to help make Christmas a little merrier for some who the world have forgotten—but Jesus hasn't. You just may find that sharing His Spirit with them ends up being the best gift you receive this Christmas.

As I finished the following letter to Mike, the thought occurred to me that what he and I share with each other should also be of interest to you. So in the spirit of the season, let me join Mike, and the many other Christian men in our prisons who are rebuilding their lives in Christ, in wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and joy in the year ahead.

Peace on earth. Goodwill to men. On to this month's column.


Catholics Incarcerated/FAITH
Serving Time with Jesus Christ,
Coming Home in the Catholic Faith

November 22, 2013

Dear Mike,

Greetings to you and to all of our brothers in Christ there with you at [your facility]. I pray this finds you all well as we prepare to embark upon another Advent in anticipation of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I also send best wishes yet again for a Happy Thanksgiving, which I did in my last letter, but your response was so prompt that I find myself with time to do so again. This is a good time to be thankful for each other and all who bow the knee to Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Peace and love to all.

Thanks for sharing your news and views. In light of your comments on Ray Comfort’s [1] book God Has a Wonderful Plan [2], and in particularly the fact that John Dewey [3] does indeed so much represent the opposite side of the coin when it comes to evangelizing our faith, I've included my last column for Christian Democracy Magazine [4] entitled “Invasion of the Soul Snatchers.” [5] I think you'll find it an interesting perspective. In light of Dewey's contribution to the downfall of the United States as a Christian nation, I think you will find the article I've included profiling Madalyn Murray O’Hair [6] interesting as well. Dewey and the humanists [7] opened the door for atheists [8] like O'Hair to use the courts to essentially remove Christianity from our schools and public life in general. There is also a short article from Think Christian [9] that is appropriate to our discussions, and a short Christmas reflection [10]—it is the season already.

What you relate about John Dewey1 and the aftermath of removing God from the schools, and in large part from our culture, is true and the statistics you cite are stark.2 I am old enough at 60 to remember when this was going on and also to remember what the world was like when America was openly Christian, and this was thought of as normal and good. Even most of those who weren't particularly religious thought that the morals and ethics of Christianity certainly provided the correct rules by which a society should be governed. When I was in grade school, I didn't know anyone whose parents were divorced. Everybody had a mom and dad and, with only rare exceptions, a solid home life. Almost everyone went to church, and no one could even conceive of a time in which this would be the exception rather than the rule. Times have changed, and in retrospect, it seems like they changed in a hurry.

Here is a short personal story about the end of prayer in the public schools:

I was in fourth grade when the ban on prayer in the schools [11] became law in 1962. Prior to this time, it was accepted that every school day begin with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer offered by the teacher. My teacher that year was Mrs. Early, who was an old lady then and nearing retirement. When she was instructed to stop praying with her students, she refused. She told our class that the end of prayer in school meant a dark day was dawning in America, and she was right. She said she would be no part of this, and told us that we would continue to start our school day with prayer as we always had, and we would do so until the authorities came in and arrested her and dragged her out of the classroom. No authorities ever did, and she continued to lead her students in daily prayer until she retired a couple of years later. No one ever complained, and I have been something of a radical since the fourth grade because of this courageous old lady who refused to knuckle under to this atheistic nonsense.

While prayer did not end in Mrs. Early's room, it did in the classrooms of the other teachers. And the following year, when Bible reading was banned [12], the annual Christmas Pageant came to an end as well. Like most other elementary schools, we put on a play in which we dressed up as Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men, angels, etc., and welcomed the Baby Jesus into the world. This was usually performed for the parents the night before Christmas vacation began. I remember leaving the school with my mom, dad and sisters after this event one year when I must have been in about 1st grade, and it had started snowing during the play. It was magical! School was out! It was Christmas! Imagine that, Mike: an America in which Christ was welcomed into our world every Christmas by virtually every grade school kid in the country. And then, 50 years ago, it stopped. Just like that. And look where we are today—in spiritual darkness, right where Mrs. Early said we would be.

And, apropos to our ongoing discussion, if society was still this way we wouldn't have the world's largest per capita prison population in the US, would we? One of the reasons my heart goes out to you, and the many who are in your circumstances, is that if I had grown up without my dad around and in the America that you did, I'm pretty sure I would be right there with you guys. This is where I connect with you all. In the Catholic Church, that's called "solidarity." It's a modern way of saying, "There but for the grace of God, go I." I don't know who would be in prison and who wouldn't if almost every kid had grown up with his family intact, his teachers leading him in prayer, and his family gathering with him to welcome the Baby Jesus into his school before leaving for vacation to do this in church and at home, but I'm willing to bet it would be a lot smaller population than what we have today. And we'd have a lot happier country.

There are lots of people today that want you to believe that America is a better country today than it was 50 years ago. I was there. I remember. This is nonsense. Sure, lots of bad things happened. There was Jim Crow in the South; civil rights protests and the Freedom Riders being murdered. There was Vietnam and civil unrest, and on and on. There was poverty and social injustice, but I don't remember it as any worse than today: not as bad in a lot of ways. Most of this stuff really exploded in and after 1963: it was as if God left the schools, JFK was assassinated, and suddenly there was corruption, unrest and unhappiness everywhere. When Jimmy Carter was president this collective feeling came to be called "the great malaise," but it was around for a long time before Jimmy Carter. I didn't know the word "malaise" when I was a kid. Later I'd learn that it means a great uneasiness; a generalized feeling of discomfort; a lack of well-being. I didn't know the word, but I sure knew the feeling, and I remember the first time I experienced it: it was when we were told that school was dismissed because President Kennedy had just been killed in Dallas. From this point on, it seemed to me that all the news I saw on TV was bad. But what didn't make the news was the fact that almost everybody, almost everywhere, still got along and life was built around solid families living in a Christian society where the churches were full every Sunday. For most of us, life in America was more like the TV sitcoms that followed rather than like what we saw on the news every night. Younger folks don't remember this, older folks seem to have forgotten it, and those of the humanist/atheist agenda deny it.

The JFK incident is telling because, to quote you a statistic, 62% are said to still believe that the official story of Lee Harvey acting alone is a lie and a cover up. [13] That's down from over 80% 20 years ago. However, thanks to a compelling new book by a Washington insider named Roger Stone [14] entitled, The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ [15], the evidence supporting this claim to the assassination originating within the government seems overwhelming and, in my humble opinion, undeniable.

We have been living a public lie in America now for 50 years concerning this. This was also the time in which we banished Jesus Christ from our schools, and began to publicly ridicule Christians as religious zealots and fools. And in this day, those who would expose the truth of the depth of the corruption in our government that this represents are dismissed by the mainstream media as fanatics—"conspiracy theorists"—as if this term was a synonym for "lunatic." But this facade is rapidly crumbling, and, as we move farther and farther away from the nightmare of November 22, 1963, the rotten inner core of the terrible truth becomes ever more visible. Rather than open and cleanse the wound that was inflicted upon the nation as that fatal head wound was inflicted upon the president, the solution forced upon us centers around denial, and this denial is held in place by fear: fear of the seizure of the wealth and property of the people, the erosion of their freedoms, and the forfeiture of the rule of government that generates its power from the public. And ironically, it is this very fear that was confirmed by the events of that fateful day in Dallas so many years ago. Mrs. Early was right. Dark days were coming, and still darker days lie ahead. We know collectively as a nation that something is not right, and this is the source of our ongoing national malaise: our "dis-ease."

And while for most a richer and better place, America 50 years ago was already a sick society and growing sicker. Removing God and prayer and Christianity from the schools and, in turn, from society didn't suddenly remove the "goodness" from the nation. It is not that black and white, and it was never that simple. Denying God does not represent the disease itself, but merely the most visible symptom of it. And what this disease killed was the hope that the America of that time, moving forward into this time, could truly recapture the innocence and the wholesomeness of the rapidly dying rural Christian heartland, and transform the country into the "One Nation Under God" that was once her potential and, as so many believed, her destiny.

In reality, this hope was likely dead long before the election of JFK. His assassination simply affirmed the reality of this in a symbolic and very public way. The death of our first Catholic president, and the end of Christianity in the public square at about the same time, signaled the death of this old America and the rise of the "brave new world" of our day. It is that time we can point to and realize, in retrospect, that this is when John Dewey and the humanists, and Madalyn Murray O'Hair and the atheists, crossed the Potomac in the same way that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon. This is when they realized the victory that has transformed America forever from the republic of a free and Christian people into the empire of a corrupt and anti-Christian elite. That so many fail to realize the truth of this is testimony to the power of their propaganda. That so many are, like you, in prison is testimony to the truth of it.

This is why Christian ministry in the prisons is so important. The government doesn't hold the keys to rehabilitation; it holds the keys to a society that seeks to solve its problems by locking them up and then throwing away the keys. Many of those who do the meaningful work of corrections do so in spite of, and almost in opposition to, the power structure of the courts and legislatures that continually seek to lock up more and more for less and less and for longer and longer; who sell the public on the idea that we must punish, not rehabilitate; that we must lock up lost men as if they are stray dogs—and euthanize the meanest ones. In this dark and godless time we find ourselves in, more people side with the plight of the dogs. If this isn't what Jesus meant by a time in which the love of most men would grow cold, it will do for now.

As for Jesus Christ, He can be removed from society, but He will not remove Himself from those places in our world where men suffer from their own sins, and the sins of a society which is in denial of God's ultimate truth and reality. He will not remove Himself from those who so desperately need Him in a world in which society celebrates sin at every opportunity, then punishes to the uttermost those who participate in it. No wonder our nation and our times are so confused!

Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today and forever, and when He is banished from the schools in a country grown as arrogant in its corruption as the United States, He will not hesitate to make Himself known in the prisons where the students from these schools ultimately end up. He will remove Himself from the halls of government where those in power have rejected Him, but, in doing so, He will seek out and embrace those who are summarily rejected with Him: the poor, the downtrodden, the sinners and the criminals; those with whom He shares the experience of the Roman jail, the Soviet gulag, the Chinese re-education center, and the American prison. He comes without hesitation to those who, from the enhanced perspective provided by the experience of incarceration, call out to Him, "Jesus, be merciful to me, a sinner!" He not only accepts but rejoices at the repentance the world refuses. He comes into your midst and once more takes His place upon the Cross so that those of you who hang with Him at His right hand might be saved, as was St. Dismas, and He endures the abuse of those who hang at His left and mock Him, as did Gestas, and as does the world.

Yes, Mike, Advent is upon us, and the Christmas Season approaches. Hope springs eternal to those who receive Jesus into their midst and celebrate His Incarnation as the one of us sent by God to save us, and Who can do so because, though one of us, He is also God: His Holy Son and ours. We celebrate it because this Incarnation cannot be banned by the government at the whim of humanists and atheists, and this light that has come into the world cannot be dimmed by those who have rejected Him and all He stands for; who do so to their own utter loss and to His eternal sorrow for them. Once again this year, and as He has done every year since He first appeared to those awestruck around the manger, He will come and He will make Himself known in our midst, and those who recognize in Him the grandest truth of human history will once again marvel together, "It is the Lord!"

To those of us who do thus recognize Him, the greatest freedom of all is ours; the freedom from sin and death with Him in heaven forever. Bondage is not a matter of the human body held behind barriers of concrete and steel; bondage is a matter of the human heart held behind barriers of sin and unbelief. Because He has come to us, we have been freed to go to Him. Because He has taken our sins upon Himself and died for us, we may live. Because He is risen, no one can take from us the victory of the Cross that He has won for us. And because He has shined the eternal light of God into our world at this, the darkest of times, many who were once blind now see and follow His Star unto eternity. It is those who remain blinded by sin and, in their blindness, seek to ban him from our schools, our government, our world and their own lives who are truly imprisoned, and not you. For them we pray. To the rest of us, Christ is born.


Looking forward to our next exchange.

In Him,

Chaplain Phil


cc: The readers of Christian Democracy

—Phil Ropp

Phil Ropp is owner of the news portal Radio New Jerusalem

1  It has been said that John Dewey had a greater influence on our public school system than any other man in the twentieth century. John Dewey was also an avid humanist who believed that truth did not exist. John Dewey was one of the first signers of the Humanist Manifesto in 1933. This document began with the foundational assumption that evolution explains all of reality and that God has no place in the affairs of mankind. John Dewey almost single-handedly transformed the American educational system to conform with the humanistic ideas. Building upon the foundation that John Dewey laid, both the Bible and prayer were banned from public schools shortly after his death. John Dewey was also responsible for promoting evolution in the American educational system, which has resulted in the current situation where no other alternatives are allowed. From Seven Men Who Rule From the Grave, pp. 151-180.
2  After Bible reading and prayer were removed from public school in the early 1960's, every indicator of social decay began to increase. In the two decades following this removal of absolute moral authority from public schools, the nation's divorce rate increased 100%, drug use increased 500%, violent crime increased 350%, unwed pregnancies climbed 500%, standardized test scores dropped 18 years in a row, premarital sex zoomed 1000%, and suicide increased 250%. Are any of these trends surprising, once the source of moral standards (The Bible) was eliminated from schools? The absolute truths of the Bible are the only thing that tie moral reality to the physical world. From America: To Pray or Not to Pray? pp. 4-106