In the Book of Matthew, Jesus tells the famous and what some refer to as the “least of the these” parable. Jesus tells his followers that the actions you take towards those society condemns as the “least” desirable are remembered deeply by God. Jesus is letting all those who seek to be Christians and live like Jesus must always remember that how we interact with the poor, orphans, widows, disabled, prisoners, etc. will serve as a testament for how we view our relationship with God. In essence, if we love God we will love those that society rejects as “outcasts” and “undesirables.”
In a nation filled with people that profess to be Christians it’s worth taking a second to reflect on a study commissioned by the Industrial Workers of the World. The Study (https://incarceratedworkers.org/news/new-report-documents-poor-quality-food-and-health-care-prisoners) is filled with first hand accounts of the horrors prisoners suffer on a daily basis. From food devoid of any nutrition, to Prison Nurses and Doctors purposely withholding medically necessary treatment, the report is shocking.
Some may be quick to do the cliché “they are criminals. They chose their lot in life why should I care?” However, as a country where the overwhelming majority claims to be Christians are failing to live out his vision.
Lets belabor the point so we can truly think about what this report says regarding our countries moral health. Jesus, from the beginning of his ministry garnered a reputation for befriending people labeled as “undesirable.” From Prostitutes, thieving tax collectors, to even the prisoner who was hung on a Cross next to him, Jesus was never far from those who have been rejected from society as a result of the poor choices they have made. While society runs away from people who are different, rejected, or “odd”, Christ made it a point and commanded all who love him to run towards people whom others would call “deplorable.”
I remember reading a passage from renowned Theologian C.S. Lewis that has stuck with me for years. He was asked about society and the impact strong moral values can have on those countries Social Policies. I don’t remember exactly what he said but it essentially was that “you will know if a country is moral by looking at how it treats its most vulnerable people.” I agree that prisoners have chosen poorly. Left-wing assumptions aside I will even agree that maybe they could have chose better decisions. However, when one becomes a prisoner they instantly become vulnerable. They instantly become what radical Theologian Cornel West might refer to as “blues people.” They become vulnerable to violence, sickness, and depression. They become people that Jesus would most certainly label “the least of these.” I pray we do better as a country to correct this evil. I pray that Christians stake their lot with “the least of these” and end this nightmare.