Today's post falls under the general heading of "jailhouse religion."
Speaking of which, a story I wrote on a Texas woman who might have gotten away with murder — but became a Christian and turned herself in — was published this week:
GetReligion's own Mark Kellner described it "as an incredible true crime, confession, redemption story superbly told." I didn't even pay him to say that. So feel free to check it out.
End of shameless plug.
Back to our regularly scheduled analysis of religion — and holy ghosts — in the mainstream press: Today's focus is a Washington Post profile of a redeemed bank robber:
Catholic media professional Thomas Szyszkiewicz tipped us to this haunted story:
There's talk of "redemption" (it's even in the title of his book). His parents were pastors who founded some (unnamed, generic) church. He's teaching at a Catholic university (OK, we won't get into the discussion about how Catholic it is or isn't). There were moments of "grace," etc. What's missing?
Um, could it be religion?
The story opens this way:
During a break in a basketball game to raise money for charity, Shon Hopwood told some of his Georgetown law students it felt different than the last time he was on a court: When he played basketball in federal prison, he had to carry a shank in case his team started to lose.
His students laughed. He ran back onto the law-school court — and sank the winning shot.
Hopwood’s new job as a tenure-track faculty member at the Georgetown University Law Center is only the latest improbable twist in a remarkable life: In the last 20 years, he has robbed banks in small towns in Nebraska, spent 11 years in federal prison, written a legal petition for a fellow inmate so incisive that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, done that again, earned undergraduate and law degrees and extremely competitive clerkships, written a book, married his hometown crush and started a family.
Do any of those "twists in a remarkable life" include God?
Near the end, the story offers this assessment of the main character:
Hopwood is still, at 41, haunted by guilt and regret for his crimes. But he is an optimist by nature, and he has accepted that he can only change the future. Now his primary goal is to help people, whether by serving as a reminder that you can turn your life around, by giving students an understanding of the real impact of the law, or, he hopes, by influencing the criminal justice system.
However, the Post offers no details to indicate whether Hopwood's "optimism by nature" might relate to his faith background. Readers receive no indication of where he stands on the big question of life. Or whether he has wrestled with spiritual matters, particularly given his Christian upbringing.
As Szyszkiewicz pointed out, Hopwood's book title is "Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption." Just how likely is it that Hopwood's redemption story is as religion-free as this Post profile?
Not likely at all.
A quick bit of Googling turns up a first-person piece that Hopwood wrote for Christianity Today in 2012:
Hmmmm. After he surrendered to the FBI, he surrendered to the Holy Spirit. Yes, there's definitely a religion angle here.
The question is: Why did the Post choose to ignore it?