The Jesus worshipped in prison seems to be different than the Jesus worshipped by most outside of prison. The Jesus in prison seems to be more like a prison gang leader of an all male gang called Christians.

You could say I’ve always been “spiritual”. I grew up in a lukewarm Christian environment where most around me were believers, just not the practicing kind of believer. In fact, we went to church all the way up until Jimmy Swaggert had some scandal that broke Grandma’s heart in the late 80’s. I don’t know what it was, nor do I care. All I knew about religion was that worship meant giving money and my stillness. As an energetic and unhappy child, I could offer neither.

While the men on the pulpit or on TV were screaching about promises of hope and healing my Mom was being beat, everyone seemed to be on drugs, my extended family were practically helpless party animals and I was experiencing abuse that let’s just say wasn’t pleasant. Christianity and the God they worshipped never seemed to make sense to me. Yet, I experienced spirituality in these little ways that made me understand that “God” wasn’t what the Bible or money hungry pastors made Them (I do not recognize God as masculine or feminine) out to be. The God I experienced seemed to be a far different, another “God” entirely.

I’ve known there were different “Jesus’s” my entire life but in prison Jesus took on a whole new character- hateful. An angry God is nothing new but Jesus has nearly always represented the very epitome of forgiveness and tolerance, there’s a reason prisoners gravitate to Jesus- for forgiveness. Well, some do, some gravitate to Jesus (and other religions) because of the ability to interpret Christianity as a highly rigid set of precepts to follow it gives one something to excel at over others. I’ve come to recognize this as self-righteousness, those who practice it would call it devotion.

Those in the LGBTQ community are well-versed in this practice as it has been used against us for a very long time. God applies to everyone as long they all act straight. This concept has so etched itself into Christianity that when I tell people I am a monotheistic believer (Yeah, I believe in God) that they wonder “how’s that?”. And they mean it, they legitimately do not understand how someone trans or gay can also believe in the Christian God. To which I usually reply (these days anyway) with “the Jesus I know loves everyone, I don’t worship the Jesus you do”.

That’s it, it’s that simple. Conversation over.

Prisoners search for something above reproach, something no State or officer can control, something that even they can be experts at. Civilians love to hear about how a prisoner was transformed by the power of God because it is one of the few things anyone can think of to prove the system “works”. “Well, they found God, they go religiously to sermons…the system must be working”, really, what other metric is there?

Prison Jesus enables someone to do something better than another. Be more pious, more rigid, more exclusive. Prison Jesus wants certain rules followed, be the most structured, be the loudest, the most exclusive, the most intolerant of anything or anyone else and you’re the man. Oh, that’s the other thing, you do have to be a man because in their eyes, so is God. Prison Jesus allows and encourages patriarchy.

The question I have is, do you see Prison Jesus in the Jesus you worship?

With Love
Ruth Utnage