Eventually, Chris married his girlfriend and he didn’t even invite my mother to the wedding. It was clear to me that he had fallen back into the same old crowd – drinking and using drugs but hopefully not robbing anyone to support a habit. He just could not allow my mother to see his friends and to see how he was living.
While all of this drama was unfolding I moved away to college to pursue a degree in psychology. Over the course of the next few years I would devolve from agnosticism to hardened atheism. I became a disciple of B.F. Skinner. Secular humanism became my only religion.
Some time after I began worshipping in the church of Skinner, I chastised my mother over the acts of kindness she had shown to Chris, his girlfriend, and their young daughter. I explained that giving him money for gas and groceries after he had shown some signs of returning to his old lifestyle was wrong. I told her she was reinforcing antisocial behavior. I think I actually told her she was behaving immorally by doing so.
I don’t know what ever happened to Chris. I don’t know whether he ever committed another robbery. I don’t know whether he got back on heroin. I don’t know whether his marriage lasted or whether he’s even alive.
But last year I did learn something quite interesting. The church my mother attended back then – University Baptist Church (UBC) in Clear Lake City, Texas – started a college fund for Chris’ daughter. She joined the military and served her country after finishing high school. Then she took the money the church offered her and she got a college education.
UBC did a great thing by giving that young girl a chance to make it out of the very bad circumstances into which she was born. But they did more than give her an education. They’re giving everyone reading this column an education, too.
It is so easy for conservatives to say that we need more prisons to deal with the problem of crime and recidivism. It is not nearly as easy for us to let a prisoner into our lives or even into our homes. But we owe it to the next generation to do the hard things Jesus taught us to do. Things they don’t teach our children in school.
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