By Malcolm Boyd
We’ve mainstreamed torture, haven’t we, Jesus? Turned it into just another word in the clutter of everyday news. Not something to work up any sweat about. It seems to me our worst sin is to torture people who are already in our power as prisoners. Like people in our prisons. Like Bobby Dellelo.
The 33 years you spent with us here, Jesus, including when we nailed you, still hasn’t taught us what we need to know about love and justice, has it? Our prison system seems an agonizing and endless system of crucifixion. Why don’t we wake up, Jesus? Prison torture is torture of flesh and blood beings. It’s not unlike our torture of you when you dwelt among us.
Please convert us, Jesus, to work against prison torture. Change us into community organizers for peace, justice, nonviolence and your love. Thank you, Jesus.
– Malcolm Boyd was a poet/writer-in-residence at the Episcopal Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Los Angeles. After a career in Hollywood and television, Boyd was ordained an Episcopal priest. He founded a college coffee house in Colorado and opposed segregation in Louisiana in 1959. He joined 27 other Episcopal priests, Black and white, in a Louisiana Freedom Ride in 1961, and registered voters in Mississippi and Alabama in 1965, the year “Are You Running with Me, Jesus?” was published. A fortieth anniversary edition has been published with additional poems.
In 1966 national media reported on his gig reading prayers and his dialogue with audiences about God in the San Francisco nightclub, the hungry i. He performed with Dick Gregory, Vince Guaraldi and Charlie Byrd.
The New York Times wrote, “Malcolm Boyd is a latter-day Luther or a more worldly Wesley, trying to move religion out of ‘ghettoized’ churches into the streets where people are.” In 1968 Boyd was with Martin Luther King, Jr. in a nonviolent protest against the Vietnam War inside Arlington Cemetery, directly below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He was arrested in the Pentagon for being part of a Peace Mass protesting the Vietnam War.