“Considering Issues of Mass Incarceration Through the Lens of the Beatitudes”
Paulson, Shirley. “Considering Issues of Mass Incarceration Through the Lens of the Beatitudes.” Pages 114-31 in Thinking Theologically about Mass Incarceration: Biblical Foundations and Justice Imperatives. Edited by Antonios Kireopoulos, Mitzi J. Budde, and Matthew D. Lundberg. Faith & Order Commission Series. New York: Paulist Press, 2017.
Paulson’s essay is one of 22 in this ecumenical collection focused on the topic of why mass incarceration matters to the churches in the United States. All of the essays seek to answer why it is a topic of theological inquiry for those who consider issues at the heart of ecclesial division and unity. Paulson claims that society could resolve at least some of the issues by shifting our attitudes from discarding people we dislike to loving them. Whether in or out of prison, everyone can be encouraged to take responsibility for his or her own thoughts. The beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, provide guidance for dismantling victimhood thinking, microaggressions, and real criminal behavior. Paulson analyzes each beatitude from the perspective of the teachings of Christian Science. For instance, regarding the beatitude, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. . .,” Paulson quotes Mary Baker Eddy’s comments: “Love metes not out human justice, but divine mercy. . . We must love our enemies. . . Every man and woman should be to-day a law to himself, herself, —a law of loyalty to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.” (Miscellaneous Writings, 11-12).