Can't argue with success

"A controversial program using Christian teachings to try turn around the lives of hundreds of Minnesota prison inmates is working, according to a new report from the Department of Corrections," reports Minnesota Public Radio.

That would be Prison Fellowship's "controversial program" InnerChange Freedom Initiative. The article continues:

State researchers followed more than 730 former inmates released between 2003 and 2009 and found that those who were part of the program reduced their risks of returning by as much as 40 percent.

State officials are hailing the program as a cost-effective success. They say it is a good deal because the state provides the space and the program pays everything else.

"There is no cost to the taxpayers of the state of Minnesota," said David Crist, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections. "Yet it does reduce recidivism. And when offenders are not out there committing new crimes, the public is more safety. That's a very practical reason for working with IFI."

The program, the article acknowledges, is "based on Christian principles." It also acknowledges that no participants are forced to convert to Christianity. Nevertheless, even for those who don't, those principles are helping to change attitudes, behaviors, and lives.

Hard to see what's so controversial about that.


Thanks, guys! Sorry it took me so long to catch up with you.

Sir Lee, I do agree that encouragement is vital to such a quest as ours. Thanks for your encouragement. You're quite right that we cannot please God out of our own sinful selves, but only as He gives us the grace to do what pleases Him. Maybe that's where I went off the track....?

And Rolley, dear, of COURSE it's all about Love. I often meditate on the Love with which I am loved, and am always "blown away"! You are equally correct that all Virtue is "IN" God. Therefore, by remaining as close to God as possible, I end up possessing (in Him) all that I seek!

Between the two of you, you help me see the "bigger picture". Thank you.
He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Father
At the recurrent risk of repeatedly, once again, being redundant a second or even third time in addition to numerous previous times, I must say that “what works for me” (with respect to this pursuit of virtue) is


knowing how impossibly much (!!!!) God loves me (and you and everyone). For, unless I err, the irreducible message of the cross is that God Almighty loves us more than life itself. And that being the case – if I am loved THAT much, how how how can I not love Him in return to excess?

From thence – from the sure and unshakable knowledge that God loves me as much and more than my heart could ever desire – from thence springs the robust motivation to “be truly virtuous”; i.e., to reciprocate the love of this Lover of mine who loves me beyond my wildest hope.

Knowing (and that is the key: *knowing*) that I am so loved, His “yoke” of commandments becomes easy, and the “burden” of His expectations of virtue becomes light.

For that reason, I hourly purpose to know nothing but “Christ and Him crucified”. For “in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”; and “know[ing] the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, [I am] filled with all the fulness of God.”

A Little Exercise for Pursuers of Virtue:

How much does God love us?

If a person lays down his life in order to save another from some horrible fate, we say that that person loves the other “more than his own life.”

What did Christ do? Answer the question - out loud - and be blessed.

Is this not the very essence of the New Covenant in His blood?

“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.


And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36: 24-28).

Knowing knowing knowing how much I am loved, I long to love Him in return. And that is all that true virtue is!

Note to Gina: consider this another of my discursive asides on the innermost principles contained in the “Inner Change Freedom Initiative” – for so I honestly, if pathologically, rationalize.

Carol, the more I try to please God, the more I realize that 1) there are many ways in which I could have tried to please Him, but I haven't thought much about them until now; and 2) if I try to please Him purely with my own effort, the result is often a failure.

But, I also realize that my failures are forgiven, and that God loves me inexpressibly in spite of all my neglect of Him.

So pursuing Virtue is a painful but highly rewarding process. Let's keep encouraging one another to press on.
Thank you, Rolley. That was extremely well done. I have read whole books that didn't treat virtue as well.

I agree that loving God is the only way to "have" virtue (not ours, but God's). I think I'm looking to increase virtue in my life so that I can love God better/more fully. Perhaps, as Kim (?) said in another article/post, I'm trying to grab the problem from the wrong end! Perhaps, I need to seek ways to love God more/better, and let the virtues find me?

And thanks, Gina, for allowing this discussion. It has been helpful.
Some Thoughts, Carol
God is Love, and Love is every virtue personified, or what the apostle Paul called “the fulfillment of the law for righteousness” (Rom 10:4). Fallen man, on the other hand, is every sin personified (Isa 1:5-6).

Awareness of this disparity is what caused Adam and Eve to hide from God. They knew they were guilty and that the consequence was death. God’s goodness accentuated their badness. Because He was now their Judge, their feelings towards Him went from amity to enmity (Rom 8:7). That’s where we all are today.

Consciously or subconsciously, we equate virtue with God. Virtue reminds us of what we should be but are not (except by the strenuous grace of God). It reminds us of the disparity between us and our perfect Creator. It reminds us of our guilt. It reminds us that God, Virtue Incarnate, is our Judge. It makes us want to hide from and/or destroy everything that excites our awareness of these inconvenient truths. It makes us want to obliterate conscience, marginalize the people who remind us of our imperfections, and even crucify the God who has the power and right to condemn us.

Sinful man cannot love virtue any more than he can love God, because he perceives virtue as a threat, as a mortal enemy, as that which will always stand over him and his imperfections, forever reminding him, no matter how hard he tries, “you’re still not good enough.” Until he knows he is forgiven and that Virtue is his Friend not his Judge, virtue will be “controversial” to him, will be something to avoid, to oppose, to quell, to exterminate.

It is only the one who is forgiven much that loveth much. Hence the impossibility of true virtue residing in a fallen human being who does not have a restored relationship with God through Christ. “We [are enabled to] love Him [only when and] because [we are assured that] He first loved [and has forgiven] us” (1 John 4:19).

Until we can love God, who is every virtue personified, we cannot love virtue. That is why I say, and observe, that virtue is controversial.
I have no experience with the prison aspect of the question. But I am interested in Rolley's statement, and in Sir Lee's response.

Lee, some 7 weeks ago, you and I set out on different paths with the same destination in mind. We were in search of Virtue. How are you coming on that? I've found the ones along my way to be very shy. It seems the closer I get to any one of them, the farther away they are! While I have managed to catch a couple and kept them successfully alive (so far), they still seem to me not wanting to be a "possession". I'm thinking (only thinking, at this point) that, perhaps I should release them back into the wild and redifine my search paramaters. What has been your experience?

And, Rolley, do you think that the controversiality of Virtue could be due to the fact that so few people understand what they are? I mean, no one hunts for skunk pelts when mink pelts bring such a high price. Personally, I find it odd that, in looking for a "hunting" mentor, I find so very few. I'd be interested in your opinion.

Finally, Gina, I apologize if this takes the discussion off course.
Gina, do most prisons offer non-religious programs funded at taxpayer expense that attempt to reduce recidivism? The article mentioned a secular program based upon IFI, but that sounds like an attempt to copy-and-modify something that already works. I'm wondering if other prisons, particularly those without IFI, spend money in an attempt to do (presumably unsuccessfully) what IFI does for free, successfully.

It's controversial whenever you make someone else's effort look wasteful and ineffectual.

But ultimately, I agree with Rolley. Surely, though, the doors of a prison must be a lot like the gates of Hell, gates which will not prevail to hold Christianity on the outside.
Virtue is Controversial
There. I've said it.

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