||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
The Ultimate Terror
By: Dale Recinella
The cool mornings of spring have evaporated.
Sticky, humid air squats heavily throughout the unairconditioned wings of death row, signaling the advance of another trademark north Florida summer. By 10:00am the halls are sizzling. My eyeglasses refuse to stay mounted atop the sweaty bridge of my nose. The calendar says it’s spring. But in this sun-soaked steel and concrete box, there is no spring. Winter is cold. Then summer is hot. It’s that simple.
As the footfalls of my rubber soles announce my arrival with squishing noises against the damp cement, a middle-aged man moves to the front of his cell. He’s waiting for me.
“Man, of all the people that come back here, you are the only one that scares the hell out of me.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing, brother,” I joke, still not certain whether this is a set up for a punch line or an intro to a deep discussion.
“I don’t know,” he shakes his head solemnly, indicating that there is no punch line coming. “I just know that you come back here and scare me but nobody else does.”
“Is it the way I look or the way I dress?”
He bends over laughing but pursuits the original line of his thoughts.
“It’s like this, man. Everybody else that comes back here hates somebody. Some folks hate Catholics; some hate Pentecostals. Some hate cops; some hate inmates. They all hate somebody. And they all believe that God hates the people they hate. See, I’m fine with that. I understand that. But you—you come back here talking about loving everybody,” his eyes grow wide as he makes a sweeping gesture with both arms. “Love the inmates and love the cops, too. Love all the Christians and even the ones that ain’t Christian. God loves everybody.”
“It’s not my idea, you know. I’m just sharing with you what Jesus said. We do believe that Jesus is God. So what He said must be true.”
“Man, that’s too much.”
“Why? Why is it too much?”
“It’s scary. Listening to you talk scares me.”
The lines forming across his face reveal the intensity of the inner struggle. His words come slowly, deliberately.
“Look, man. I understand hate. I lived hate. Before I came here, my whole world was hate. It don’t matter who is being hated. Hate is hate. And when I hear people talking hate—even if they use other words—I’m comfortable with that. It’s familiar. But when you start talking about all this love stuff… God loves everybody and all that. Man…you terrify me.”
“It’s like my core is hate. I’ve been raised to hate. I was born to hate. If I let in what you’re talking about, it’s like my very core would cease to exist. I don’t know who I’d be or how to be. It’s that scary.”
“According to Scripture, the opposite of love isn’t hate. The opposite of love is fear. Are you afraid of being loved?”
“Let’s just say I’m not used to thinking of myself or anything else from that perspective.”
“You’re right. It’s a radical departure from what the world has to offer. Maybe that’s why it’s called the Good News.”
“I’m not saying whether it’s good or not. I’m just saying that when people come back here talking about a God that hates the people they hate, I know the score. That’s a God I understand. But when you come back here talking about a God that loves everybody…. Man, you scare the hell out of me. It’s terrifying.”
First published: The Florida Catholic, May 9, 2002
© 2002 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.
Your name and information will never be used or sha#3333FF with anyone. We promise!
Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed