Raised Lutheran, convert Jewels Green is a former abortion clinic worker turned ardent human rights advocate.
I grew up fatherless in a multigenerational household. Being surrounded by extended family – all the time – was a great comfort to me as an only child, as was attending Sunday School every week at the ELCA Lutheran church where my mother and her seven siblings were all baptized, where I was baptized, and where later my three sons would all be baptized as well.
I loved Sunday School and singing in the children's choir at church. The music of worship always made me feel happy, at peace, and closer to God. My favorite hymns of childhood still bring me such joy. I remember in one of the classrooms at Sunday School hung a beautiful painting of Jesus, surrounded by children, and I thought “it would be wonderful if He were my dad!” When the teacher explained that He was my spiritual Father, well, that suited me perfectly.
As the years went on, I embarked upon a bumpy road through a stage of adolescent rebellion, though I still went to Sunday school. I attended every Sunday, even with a shaved head and heavy black eyeliner – until I was sixteen. That's when my faith got shaky, then disappeared completely for a spell. I'd ‘fallen in with the wrong crowd’, which meant I'd fallen out of my religion.
At the age of 18, Scott Woltze robbed three banks and was sent to prison. After his release he pursued a life as a secular academic. Then at the age of 33, he had an experience of the mercy and love of God, and reverted back to the Catholic faith.
So let’s start with the obvious question: How does an eighteen year-old come to the shocking decision to rob banks? At that time I thought I was at an impasse: I dropped out of high school after being suspended seven times my senior year, and I’d just quit my job because I couldn’t manage my anxiety amongst the ups and downs. I was still reeling from a rough childhood, and I had gradually become alienated in some deep sense from life itself, from existence, from the ultimate meaning of things. Of course now I know that all of these things add up to the fact that I was alienated from God—who I didn’t even believe in at the time. Even so, I couldn’t bear this alienation, and so I held the strange view that the radical act of robbing banks would help me break through the gray facade of life and scratch the bottom of existence. I thought that robbing banks was so out of the ordinary, such a break from the normal that it would cause a kind of metaphysical rupture and I would finally see life for what it is. I also thought that robbing banks would surely land me in prison—since I knew that nine out of ten bank robbers get caught—and that prison would give me a chance to rebuild myself. I know it sounds crazy—a wild paradox—but I was making an escape into prison as a last attempt to salvage myself. And believe it or not it actually worked and exceeded all of my desperate hopes.