A problem with freedom…
via Spiegel.de. (Yes, it’s a long read, and it is SO worth reading…)
No bars. No walls. No armed guards. The prison island of Bastøy in Norway is filled with some of the country’s most hardened criminals. Yet it emphasizes self-control instead of the strictly regulated regimens common in most prisons. For some inmates, it is more than they can handle.
This paradise has been around for 20 years – and has a warden who loves statistics. The numbers, after all, prove him right. Only 16 percent of the prisoners in this island jail become repeat offenders in the first two years after leaving Bastøy as compared with 20 percent for Norway as a whole. In Germany, where recidivism is measured after three years, the rate is 50 percent.
The warden also feels vindicated because there has never been a murder or a suicide on the island – and because no one left Bastøy last winter even though the sea ice was frozen solid.
One only has to look as far as the rabid rhetoric surrounding tougher penalties, harsher prisons and longer sentences coming out of the newly empowered Republican party of the States and the tired rantings of the Conservatives here in Canuckistan to see the brilliance of this article in and of itself.
When more sober minds actually do credible research, they discover that criminals are not afraid of shame, rules, punishment, bondage or being pursued – indeed, they long for all the above and a system that uses the withdrawal of freedom as a punishment is no punishment at all. The twisted irony of the whole thing is that the North American mind is so obsessed with the freedom we fail to grasp that there are some who so fear relational responsibility and freedom that our, “Punishments,” are actually a reward and an incentive.
Criminals actually have a problem coping with freedom – not incarceration…
The most effective treatment you can inflict is actually to force a criminal to deal with freedom wherein shame is replaced with having to take responsibility for the longings of one’s own heart and figuring out how to live with relationships in the community. The terror that freedom strikes in the hearts of those we call criminals apparently defies the grasp of even professionals in the field.
But, the truth here goes even deeper.
The parallels with what Christ was up to are striking: The God of the universe came down to a system run by legalists who believed the solution for human evil was more rules, bondage and tougher punishments – and He declined to play.
He did the most offensive thing human evil could imagine – He exposed the wardens as worse than the inmates. Then, He took away the system’s power to make inmate or warden bad thereby stripping all of their rules for living. Next, He added insult to injury by instituting an island life where people had to live in freedom, where relational responsibility was unavoidable and where inmate and warden alike have to depend upon such as a guiding force for life given the absence of a big stick of law and punishment to guide them. Ya, no wonder we’ve been trying to get back into prison ever since…
But here’s where the similarity ends. In Norway, when you can’t cope with freedom, you tell the truth about it and put in for a transfer to a prison. They send real wardens with real guns and handcuffs and take you back to a real prison with real walls and barbed wire. No one tries to act like you are not in prison.
In North America, we too can’t handle freedom. We too get our warden/reverends to take us back to a prison of rules – but then we ask them to use words that sound like we are still on the freedom of the island. We ask them to paint the bars of our shame with a seascape of grace like terminology and to tell us that the barbed wire of this strange Evangelical combination of Judaism, Gnosticism and the New Age Movement is really passion-driven, heart-led relational responsibility.
Not only do we have exactly the same problem with freedom, but we also have a problem with reality and truth.