As the wife of an 18-year veteran of corrections, I need to implore you to stop throwing pretend gang signs in your photos.
Let me explain.
It has somehow become popular for people, even those who rightly consider themselves Christian, to take pictures of themselves with silly duck faces, software-enhanced doe eyes, and animal ears, and there is no problem with any of that.
I can't also help but notice when, otherwise well-behaved, people also find it necessary to 'throw' down gang signs in their pictures.
As an adult and as a Christian, I humbly and lovingly ask that you refrain. You cannot imagine how your actions, though innocent, reference a culture I don't think you'd want to be drawing references to.
My husband works in a prison that houses many maximum security inmates that mostly come from the 4th most violent city in our nation, Baltimore, Maryland.
Many of the criminals that live in the housing facilities where he works have committed more than simple murder. Some are responsibility for atrocities that would haunt your worst imaginings, and many of these are gang members. Serial rape, pimping, and multiple homicides are the norm.
When rival gangs are at war, the prison becomes a dangerous battleground, and I pray nightly for the safety of all whose lives are caught up in the fray.
It isn't unheard of for someone to smash someone else's head in with a TV or for an inmate to bust somebody over the head with a padlock placed in a sock for leverage.
Stabbings are another way of retaliation, and men have had their necks sliced completely open. A man has had all their skin steamed off while trapped in industrial-sized dishwasher on purpose by a gang member. The soles of his feet fell off when he was let out.
The violence is swift and unpredictable. Men have thrown other men off second-story balconies, and one twisted another one's head completely around. Others have, in the past, used dumbbells to beat others in the head. The injuries gang members cause are gruesome and often fatal.
The gangs are a source of problems both on the streets and off. Gang leaders often operate their outfits from inside prison walls, controlling what happens on the outside.
They operate drug rings, pulling in truckloads of money and infiltrating the cities with deadly substances for people to abuse. It isn't glamorous, and it isn't cool. Christians have no business mimicking the gang signs that they use. None, whatsoever.
It helps to normalize the proliferation of gang culture and to even establish it as something cool when it most certainly is not. When I hear that the gangs are getting antsy in the prison, it means that somebody I love or am friends with could get killed. It means that a correctional officer might not come home tonight.
It's not a dance I am willing to engage in.
When my husband conducts cell searches, oftentimes he finds photos of inmates with their friends or families, and everyone will be posing as gang members. Imagine how it looks when Christian kids pose online in the same stance, and yet, I see this on a fairly regular basis.
I am certain that a large amount of this is done in ignorance, and that is why I write this post in love. We are not to be conformed to the pattern of the world in any way. We can make all the duck faces we want and use software to make our eyes larger if we like, but please, I ask you to stop throwing pretend gang signs.
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