Progressive Prison Project
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
The Catch-22’s of White-Collar Ministry
By Jeff Grant
Catch-22 was one of my favorite novels and movies. The term, Catch-22, describes a situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules. Joseph Heller coined the term in his 1961 novel, Catch-22, which describes absurd bureaucratic constraints on soldiers in World War II.
Such is the case in founding a white-collar ministry. This is the first ministry of its kind. As is the case with most things new and cutting edge, it is riddled with Catch 22’s. Things seem to go better when I get into acceptance that some issues might never be resolvable, and I surrender to living gracefully in the gray areas.
On Being a White-Collar Criminal and Founding a White-Collar Ministry
A few months ago, I tweeted a list of famous white-collar crime advocates that included our great friend Piper Kerman, author of the book Orange Is The New Black. Within moments, Piper tweeted a reply. Quickly correcting me, she pointed out that she, “went to prison for a non-violent drug crime, not for a white-collar crime.”
This is one of the reasons I love Piper. She absolutely understands her work, advocacy and social location. And one of the reasons it has been so difficult in founding a white-collar ministry. What Piper knew, and what I had yet to learn, was that the world more readily accepts Smith College educated drug mules than it does Ivy League (or Union Seminary) educated white-collar criminals. It is a sign of our times that, in my ministerial experience, the world accepts murderers and violent criminals before it accepts white-collar criminals, no matter if they have paid their debt to society. And to make matters worse, it shuns and casts out white-collar spouses and families. A Catch-22.
On Being a Member of Alcoholics Anonymous and Founding a White-Collar Ministry
I am an Alcoholic. With God’s grace I will be clean and sober for twelve years on August 10th. I have a sponsor, who I speak with a few times a week and with whom I meet on a regular basis. AA Traditions 11 and 12 state: “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films,” and, “anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”
But, I am also a Minister and a professional. At first glance, these AA traditions might be a Catch-22 for me as Alcoholic who spends much of my life in a calling speaking about my personal transformation story. However, I believe that I am truly working within the spirit of AA and the Traditions in that I have dedicated my life to be of maximum service to others.
On Being Released From Shame and Founding a White-collar Ministry
I have been able to, slowly, climb out of the insidious pit of shame through talking about my crimes, punishment and recovery. Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Shame (www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame) and Ash Beckham’s Ted Talk on Coming Out of The Closet (https://www.ted.com/talks/ash_beckham_we_re_all_hiding_something_let_s_find_the_courage_to_open_up) were game changers for me. By being true to my calling, and letting go of my shame, I have learned that we can serve as examples to white-collar families that they can hope for a faithful and purposeful life on the other side of prison.
I talk about my wife Lynn and stepdaughter Skylar in my blog and articles, and they often join me at speaking and preaching engagements. They join me in the freedom that comes from sharing our experience, strength and hope with others in the wish that they may too be freed from the bonds of shame and guilt. I have offered to engage other family members in this process but they are more private, and have requested I not speak about them. I understand and apologize if my work hurts anyone I love. My faith leads me to believe that over time we will work through this Catch-22.
As is the case with most spiritual reflection, I seem to be left with more questions than answers. Even though this ministry has its share of Catch 22’s, I am energized and invigorated by the work. It gives me a reason to get up every day.
See comments below.
Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
at Christ Church Greenwich 254 East Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, Conecticut 06830
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883
Central Ministry & Office: Weston, Connecticut
Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Minister/Director
Lynn Springer, Advocate, Innocent Spouses & Children
George Bresnan, Advocate
From our Friend Dick Sederquest:
There is also a Catch 22 between self promotion (peddling your books, web site and volunteer efforts) and moderation (humility). It was the subject of one of my recent blogs.
Trying Too Hard – Another Lesson in Surviving Depression
I often find myself trying too hard. I know I'm happier when I stop obsessing on how to make things better. Like they say, "Better is the enemy of good." Preoccupation with a task is like putting on ear protectors, unfortunately muffling what the other person is saying.
Trying too hard can make one unhappy. This contradicts my prison ministry blog “The Directed Life” which suggests that persistence in one’s endeavors, also defined as “sticktoitiveness”, can lead to success. The problem is when that persistence leads to inattentiveness, when our focus on succeeding overwhelms our ability to listen and communicate with others. We become so preoccupied with our thoughts, we tune out. This is not good when your wife is trying to tell you something. When that happens, it’s time for a change.
Self-promotion makes me uncomfortable. My father, because of his bipolar illness and constant need for recognition, talked about himself and his accomplishments to the point of driving everybody around him slightly crazy, me included. Promoting my web site, memoirs and volunteer secular prison ministry program requires self-promotion. There lies the conflict between striving and moderation. Trying too hard creates stress, something I should avoid. During the worst of my depression, I worried constantly why I felt the way I did, even coining a self-deprecating expression for my behavior, “Obsessive Compulsive Introspection or OCI”.
I had recently fallen again into the trap of taking myself too seriously, becoming lost in the task of trying to do better. My preoccupation was dominating my thoughts. Unable to compartmentalize and segregate my activities, I had flooded the playing field rather than just watering the grass. I don’t want to give up helping people with my writing and prison ministry, but too much focus on improvement is addictive. “Help”, I’m saying to myself. “This guy is driving himself crazy.”
With all my experience with depression, I should be smarter than that. With all my good advice to others, why is this motivational speaker forgetting the message? I had to bounce this off my peers to get their perspective. Peers to the rescue! Last weekend, twenty men from my Universalist church played hooky from our normal weekend obligations of family, household chores and even church. We drove to an idyllic site in western Connecticut for our annual men’s retreat. We carried with us the weight and concerns of our normal lives. On arrival, we warmly welcomed each other. We initially forgot about our cares in an atmosphere of sharing, honesty and camaraderie. When we left the retreat, we were changed, our minds in a different place than when we made our journey to the retreat.
At the retreat, I did a lot of bouncing. I talked honestly to a number of people, some close friends and some just acquaintances. The theme of the retreat was balancing work (in my case promoting and volunteering), family and self. I already knew that I didn’t have to give up on my volunteer and promotional activities, but I had to make a cleaner mental break between those activities and my life. I had to compartmentalize my volunteer and family activities and thoughts, especially stop being annoyed when my wife interrupts my train of thought.
I’m putting this piece down and forget it for the rest of the day. When my wife comes back from shopping, I’m going to give her a big kiss and ask her how her day is going. After lunch, I’m going to swim 30 laps in my athletic club pool. Tomorrow is my volunteer prison program, not today. Putting things into perspective, my problems are miniscule compared to what the guys in my class are dealing with. Oh yes! I’m also going to listen to my wife very attentively next time she interrupts my train of thought. I’ve thought about buying her an air horn to get my attention, but that is a little over the top.
Just writing this down, and laughing at myself,
has helped a lot.
has helped a lot.
Dick Sederquist is a cancer and depression survivor and the author of two memoirs “Hiking Out” and “Inside and Outside”. Dick conducts a volunteer motivational program called “Life Change Discussion Group" for inmates in two Connecticut medium security prisons. You can learn more about Dick and his secular prison ministry at www.dicksederquist.com
______________Comments from Other Social Media:
- Barbara Fair Boo hoo. My heart bleeds for white collar criminals who generally leave prison and transition into their own TV and radio shows and six figure careers while non violent drug offenders end up homeless, jobless and unable to go to Ivy league schools and all this in many cases after serving decades in prison for selling drugs to adults who should have the right to choose what drug they want to put in their bodies . The best part is that now the government is seeking ways to cut in on the profit. White collar criminals usually committed crimes against hundreds, thousands and maybe even millions for their own benefit....· 21 hours ago ·
- Progressive Prison Project, Greenwich, CT. prisonist.org That's an interesting perspective Barbara. Perhaps you can share your research so we can have a complete discussion? We can invite Piper Kerman, a nonviolent drug offender, into the conversation as well.
Of the the hundreds of white collar offenders to whom we have ministered, not a single one has a radio or TV show. What we need is Solidarity, not infighting. We are all God's children and doing the best we can.
- Barbara Fair I think your perspective is as interesting as mine. There are many, many sources clearly showing the more negative outcome of non violent drug offenders such as loss of parental rights, inability to access public housing, higher education, and public assistance. You can begin with Sentencing Project. org. Research the kinds of draconian sentences non violent drug offenders receive and the collateral consequences they face upon release ; consequences white collar criminals do not face.I have to assume you never counselled people like Martha Stewart who has a TV show following her incarceration and former Ct governor John Rowland who hosts a radio show following his incarceration. If we are ALL God's children maybe we can come together and stop insinuating drug offenders and violent offenders are any "less than" than white collar criminals. We need to work together toward a more just, humane and compassionate criminal justice system for ALL....20 hours ago
- Progressive Prison Project, Greenwich, CT. prisonist.org We absolutely agree. That's why our ministry is dedicated to people accused or convicted of inner city, white-collar and nonviolent crimes and their families. Check out our blogsite at prisonist.org for more info. So good to be in community with you Barbara. We are great admirers of your advocacy. Blessings, Jeff
Jeff, I suppose at least some of the variance in societal reaction to the general/violent versus white collar criminal is because the white collar criminal has committed a violation of trust. Someone we trusted has deceived us, raising questions about the reliability of our own discernment. Since we cannot trust that our judgment of your trustworthiness is valid we cannot easily put our trust in you again. That a number of high profile, white collar criminals have professed repentance only to return to their deceitfulness, or continue to publicly rationalize their criminal behavior, even after pleading guilty, does not help your situation.
By Craig Brueckman, CFE
I want to thank all those who have prayed, volunteered, given their resources, or done something that gave the prisoner, in the jail system, access to the knowledge of Jesus Christ as being their Savior and Lord. There are many true followers of Christ, serving time or life for something they did or didn't do and wether they did or didn't, let us pray that they'll continue to allow the Holy Spirit to keep them strong so that they can be a ministering voice and the hands and feet of God, for the sake of their personal walk and for the sake of others knowing that they have the free choice of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ, no matter what man may condemn them for or what might happen in the future.
By Crystal Rollison