"It's the business of touching a life."
That's how Stan Moody, senior pastor of Columbia Street Baptist Church in Bangor, Maine, characterizes prison ministry.
Moody, a former prison chaplain at the maximum-security Maine State Prison, is also the author of numerous books, the latest of which is "Let My People Go! Following Jesus into our Jails and Prisons." (Click here to read an excerpt.) He spoke recently with EthicsDaily.com via Skype about religion and prisons.
"One of the things I noticed was the number of evangelicals that were inside the prison system," says Moody, who is also a former state legislator.
"I am concerned about the fact that people coming out of evangelical churches and winding up there … in a lot of ways they dragged some of the fundamentalist, legalistic way of thinking into the prison," says Moody.
"And it's very disturbing because in some ways they're back in a time warp, back into things that they learned growing up, and it's very difficult to break through that system," says Moody. "The prison system itself lends itself to that sort of thing because there's a hierarchy of sins, let's say, within the prison system."
Breaking through that system is only made more difficult by the fact that, according to Moody, the church "is doing virtually nothing at this point" on the prison issue.
"There are people going into the prison and ministering, but it's a detached sort of ministry," says Moody. "It's not getting involved directly, touching the issue. It's not becoming a servant."
While security concerns, for example, account for some of the lack of ministry, there's another, bigger problem, says Moody.
"We seem to want to bring Christ to people, but we don't seem to want to be Christ to people. And that's where the rub comes."
Moody says it's more likely that church folk will run a Bible study than "take somebody by the hand who's coming out and walk with them through the process of re-entry."
Moody cautions: "You have to know that it's not going to work, always."
Watch the interview with Moody at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily/skype-stanmoody
Learn more about Stan Moody at StanMoody.com
Watch other EthicsDaily.com Skype interviews at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily