Letter from Prison | January 5, 2004 | Conversion, Christianity, and Anarchism


Hello Everyone!

I suppose all of you have heard rumor of amazing spiritual forces at work in dark, sardonic me: a Stretch Armstrong, if you will, caught between the forces of good and evil. For those of you who have recognized my divided nature this may come as no surprise. For some, it is a bearded Marx or Kropotkin sitting on the one shoulder in a posture of buddhist peace—the picture of the earthly utopian vision, while upon the other shoulder a horde of televangelists twist and writhe in a heaving mass of snakelike coils and snatch at my rarefied (strictly metaphorical) soul with lizard tongues.

For others, it is Jesus who perches on one shoulder: an areole of heaven illuminates his tear-streaked and gloriously open face, while his voice intones, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light, the only way to get to the Father is through Me.” On the other shoulder a knot of black clad youths, their faces shrouded in black bandanas and ski masks, thrust and elbow one another. One teen bursts forward and, poising to hurl a rock through a window, shouts, “Anarchy!” Another, “Patricide!”

I suppose we would have to unknot these images to make any sense of them, a task better suited to picture-books than philosophy. First of all, I have always believed in God. But I’ve come to question everything I’ve believed and understood upon reading the New Testament.

You see, the concept of God is probably the most volatile idea in the history of man and womankind.

A God can serve as a pretext for acting in an utterly irrational way; what could be wrong for “God’s chosen?” The selectively applied concept of God can liberate the opportunist from “everyday” morals and into the libertine sphere of “Godly” morals.

If there is a God, then right is defined as “God’s will.” However, if God is a creature alien to our morality, that is, if God is not anthropological, or secondly, if God is not a loving and caring God, then God’s will must always appear “immoral” and “unjust”, even though definitionally, it is right, moral and just. Jesus is the only prophet who declares that God is love. The soul of Jesus’ message is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

It is a continual ironic testimony to hypocrisy and the danger of ignorance that the most ruthless deeds of the Western Hemisphere have been committed in God’s name, for Gold and Glory.

I seriously do not understand how anybody that has read the Beatitudes and understood them, let alone the rest of the New Testament, could possibly use Christianity as a justification for war, and/or greed. That is perhaps the most pathologically contradictory application of an idea I have ever heard of.

In fact, to me, it reinforces the fact that those conquistadores should have actually read the book and followed it as opposed to bowing before the false idols of Gold and Glory, using the concept “God” to mean simply a suspension of ordinary human decency. I believe the proper titles for these people are “antichrists” and I certainly would include our current president in this category.

I came to prison because I found a point of deep hypocrisy in the rhetorics of our government. There is nothing so absurd as a self-contradiction: training terrorists while condemning terrorism. A lie is perhaps the most basic and agreed upon indicator of evil.

While I may have complained some in the letters about the conditions here, the reason why I decided to incarcerate myself was because I could put my ability to tolerate hardship and my thirst for adventure in the service of a cause that really meant something. I’ve taken this experience pretty lightly in terms of all that. I will always do what I believe God calls me to do regardless of the punishments that the world may dish out to me. All the changes in my thinking have been forged in the crucible of my soul rather than as a result of punishment. I believe God called me to do what I did and I would do it again if I were so called.

Currently, I view myself as a radical teller of truth. I take that role quite seriously (which is not to say that I take myself seriously).

So I won’t have anyone saying, as my friend here said, “Yeah, he went off to prison and they broke him down like a shotgun, now he’s a born-again.”

I have a few quotes that are unrelated to the rest of this message which I think you all will appreciate.

“Next time I get ahold of a dollar, I’m gonna squeeze it so hard that eagle’s gonna cry.” -My bunkie

“When I was out there hustling I used to ask everybody, ‘How much does it take to be rich? How much do you need before you’re rich? How can you tell if you’re rich? How do you know?’ And couldn’t nobody tell me. The one thing I did find was Don King once said, ‘If you can count it you don’t have enough.’”

I’m getting closer and closer to the door. In fact, I have only one-and-a-half weeks left. This is my last letter to you all from jail. To all of you who have visited me and written me, thank you and I love you. To all of you who did not do so . . . you’ll just have to prove the legitimacy of our friendship in some other way, like acting really excited to see me when I get out. No, seriously, I love you all.

Now that I’m finally getting used to prison all the way, they’re releasing me. Sigh. Life is a continual series of adjustments.


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About the Author

Hi. My name is Jeremiah John. I'm a sf/f writer and activist.

I just completed a dystopian science fiction novel. I run a website which I created that connects farms with churches, mosques, and synagogues to buy fresh vegetables directly and distribute them on a sliding scale to those in need.

In 2003, I spent six months in prison for civil disobedience while working to close the School of the Americas, converting to Christianity, as one does, while I was in the clink.