Posts tagged ‘punishment’

April 27, 2012

Charles Colson

Charles Colson died last week, aged 80.  He lived an extraordinary life, one that Hollywood could not have dreamt of.  Here is a brief of his life if you  haven’t heard of him.

He was born in 1931 in the USA.  He was a soldier, then a lawyer, and then a political adviser to President Nixon.  In this role he was the “hatchet man” – the one who would get things done, whatever it took.  He was a key figure in the Watergate scandal that ended Nixon’s presidency in 1974.  At age 41 he became a Christian.  His conversion was met with widespread cynicism.  The next year he went to jail for his crimes in Watergate.  Impacted by what he saw of life behind bars he started a prison ministry called Prison Fellowship upon his release, which now ministers to inmates all around the world.  His impact for the cause of Christ through Prison Fellowship has been massive.

Apart from all that, after he became a Christian he wrote 30 books which sold over 5 million copies, as well having radio shows and writing blog posts.  His output to humanity was large and he leaves a huge legacy behind.  He also had a very eloquent turn of phrase.

For some reason I own only one of his books.  It is not amongst his best known.  It is called The Enduring Revolution.  The idea behind the title is that history’s revolutions come and go, but Jesus is the one who revolutionises the human heart.  Christ began an enduring revolution because the changes that he brings to the inside of a person continue to this day.

The book ends with a story of a prison he visited in Brazil.  The prison was notable for the revival that had swept through it, and the exceedingly low rates of re-offending by those that left it.  Colson visited to find out the secret to their success.  He writes:

I saw the answer when my inmate guide escorted me to the notorious punishment cell once used for torture.  Today, he told me, this block houses only a single inmate.  As we reached the end of the long concrete corridor and he put the key in the lock, he paused and asked, “are you sure that you want to go in?” 

 “Of course,” I replied impatiently, “I’ve been in isolation cells all over the world.”  Slowly he swung open the massive door, and I saw the prisoner in that punishment cell: a crucifix, beautifully carved by the inmates – the prisoner Jesus hanging on the cross.

 “He’s doing time for all the rest of us,” my guide said softly.

 In that cross carved by loving hands is a holy subversion.  It heralds change more radical that mankind’s most fevered dreams.  Its followers expand the boundaries of a kingdom that can never fail.  A shining kingdom that reaches into the darkest corners of every community into the darkest corners of every mind.  A kingdom of deathless hope, of restless virtue, of endless peace.

 This work proceeds, this hope remains, this fire will not be quenched: The Enduring Revolution of the Cross of Christ.


April 27, 2012

Did you get the strap?

From 6-12 years old I wore two pairs of underpants every other day and not because I had bowel problems. My dad’s preferred method of punishment was to give me the strap and he wasn’t gentle either, hence double undies. It was almost always deserved like the time I climbed up a pine tree so high that I started to get dizzy and everything began to look small or for the umpteenth time my parents were called by the principal because I had beaten the snot out of some kid who had annoyed me.

 I remember my Dad saying once or twice that it hurt him more than it hurt me – I never saw him walking around with double undies! But did the ‘fear of the strap work’?  It certainly didn’t  deter me from being disobedient and rude; I became even more rebellious and got more devious at hiding my behaviour. At the time of the ‘crime’ I wasn’t thinking about the punishment that might come I was just thinking ‘How much chocolate could I buy with the $10 I had stolen?’ or ‘How cool do I look smoking in the toilets at the train station before school?’ It was only when I got ‘caught’ that I started to weigh up the consequences of my actions and ‘think about what I had done’ – not prior.

There are a plethora of fear of punishment type deterrents that are meant to motivate change from the major to the minor such as the death penalty, prison, fines, community service, home detention and many more. Anti smoking commercials attempt to use a version of this to deter people from smoking. They use the fear of punishment via the painful symptoms of lung cancer or emphysema to scare people into quitting. The horrific TV commercials showing the impact on the victims of drink driving seek to do the same. Do these actually work to discourage crime, speeding, drink driving and smoking? Has the fear of getting a ticket made you stop using your mobile while driving or just made you better at hiding your use of it in the car?

‘Fear of punishment’ is an external or extrinsic motivator. The change is trying to be impressed from the outside. The desire to change behaviour is better motivated ‘intrinsically’ that is from within. What motivates me to make a change? I quit smoking because I love my husband and I wanted to live a long life with him. I have slowed down on the road not because of the fear of a ticket or watching kids die in horrific TV ads but because my friend died in my arms at the scene of a car accident.

The church for a while even adopted this attitude with ‘fire and brimstone’ preachers. Some of my earliest ‘evangelistic attempts’ focused on ‘scaring people’ with vivid messages and pictures of burning fire and torment (Deepest apologies to my sister). While this type of preaching may have produced a small number of short term ‘conversions’ it is rare that the seed planted was deep enough to sustain a life in Christ. I’m not saying the police should give me a hug and kiss when I run a red light while talking on my mobile and that murderers should be given a ‘talking too’. But is the ‘fear of punishment’ an adequate deterrent? An evaluative question Dr Phil uses frequently is ‘How’s that working for ya?’ Revenue wise probably well but as a deterrent to major and minor crime and destructive habits…

I’ve only been able to sustain long term change in my negative, addictive and destructive behaviours because of the transforming power of God’s love working away on the inside of me.

Think about your life and the positive changes you’ve made.  What are the biggest changes you’ve made that you’re proud of? What motivated you to do it? Has the change lasted long term?

Let me know…

Over and Out

Catherine xo

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