Since my daily radio broadcast, books and weekly newspaper column penetrate prison walls, I frequently receive letters from prisoners. One was so moving it will remain unforgettable.
This young convict had spent many years behind bars for a variety of offenses. He was writing from solitary confinement because of trouble he had caused in the prison and admitted he had read one of my books only because there was nothing else available. His story is a heartbreaker.
Like many chronic offenders, this troubled young writer had grown up the child of alcoholic parents. By the time he was in the seventh grade, he was hooked on alcohol and other drugs; that was also the year he dropped out of school.
Sharing some experiences from his tragic past, he wrote: “My mom and dad really had bad drinking problems.” This alerted me to the reason for his difficulties with the law but I wasn’t prepared for the next line in this heartbreaking letter: “Mom shot my dad point blank in the chest; that was the last time I cried.”
Legal trouble began early for my confined correspondent. When he was fifteen, he had his first brush with the law. Since then he’d spent more time in prison than out. One line in his letter revealed the main reason for his misery: “I have never committed a crime while sober.” Thousands of prison inmates could join in his confession. Alcohol use accounts for more than half of all crime that sends people to prison.
Some argue that drinking and using other drugs are not causes of crime. They insist that the lawbreaker had a bent to crime or he or she would not have become involved in it while under the influence.
Possibly. But, according to the Bible, we’re all bent.
Martin Luther called our inborn tendency to do wrong so deep and horrible a corruption of nature that no reason can comprehend it. Then he concluded that it must be believed because the Scriptures declare it. He might have added that experience confirms it. Doubters can find proof of this Biblical revelation in any newspaper or television news roundup.
Thankfully, there are God given built-in restraining influences that keep our tendencies to dishonesty, violence and immorality in check. These are strengthened by faith and encouraged by worship. Intoxication, however, removes healthy restraints and users soon become abusers.
It’s time to care more about kids than kicks.
The responsibility of being good examples to our children, friends and neighbors is a sobering thought. We owe those around us lives that demonstrate faith, hope and love, not addictions to personal passing pleasures.
Millions have found freedom from deadly addictions through a personal walk with God. He has broken their chains and set them free. Those we love deserve to see the power of faith active in our lives, enabling them to overcome temptation and enjoy personal freedom. Robbing them of this heritage is enough to make one cry.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org