By CHRISTOPHER QUINN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/31/07
Michael Vick, the $130 million man, says he found Jesus.
Found him after facing something more menacing than a lineup of 300-pound guys who get paid to run him down and pound him into the Astroturf.
Vick is threatened with prison, the loss of tens of millions of dollars in salary and endorsements and maybe an end to the career that offered enough luxuries, amenities and pleasures to fill several episodes of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."
"Through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God," Vick said in his Monday press conference.
His is the latest high-profile jailhouse conversion.
It seems more celebrities find Jesus in jail than in church.
She read her Bible while doing 23 days in jail and decided God was giving her another chance.
Former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega?
He had a portable baptistry set up in a courtroom and got dunked in the presence of a gaggle of security guards.
Oklahoma bombing conspirator Terry Nichols may have dodged the death penalty by swaying jurors with a tale of a jailhouse conversion, lawyers said.
From the powerful to the powerless, people reach out to grab onto something when it looks like they are going down.
Phil Wiley, Chief Assistant District Attorney in Gwinnett County, has seen his share of jailhouse conversions.
"People come into court. They say they have found God or Jesus. And I think that is commendable, as long as they are not using that as a crutch. And you never know whether they are or not," he said.
One man a few years back walked into court with a Bible in hand, Wiley said. He told the judge he found God.
The judge, knowledgeable about the Good Book himself, asked the defendant if he knew where the Apostle Paul was when he wrote many of the books of the New Testament, Wiley said.
"Pardon me?" the defendent queried.
"Paul was in jail," the judge answered. "And I'm going to give you that same opportunity."
David Kuo, the former White House staffer and author of "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction," blogged about Vick's finding Jesus at Beliefnet.com.
By phone, Kuo said, "As prominent as Michael Vick is, when you bring Jesus into the equation, it's huge [news]."
"At least he didn't get up there and say, I'm a victim. I was traumatized as a child. I'm an addict of this or the other.
"It seems like every politician that gets caught goes to rehab and every athlete that gets caught goes to Jesus."
Mark Earley is the former Attorney General of Virginia who now heads up Prison Fellowship, the ministry founded by jailhouse convert and Nixon White House operative Chuck Colson.
Earley said, "It is not unusual when people's lives fall apart that they turn to God."
To gauge whether someone's conversion is authentic he looks for four things, Earley said â€” humility, movement from a "me centered" to an "others centered" life, involvement in a local church and accountability.
"A lot of people who come into contact with the criminal justice system were living a life where they had little accountability. They were not allowing others to participate in their life that could keep them from going over the cliff," Earley said.
And there is a final ingredient to proving whether a claim to have found Jesus is sincere.
"The real evidence of whether they are serious is proven over time," he said.
Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.
"None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm".
Henry David Thoreau
Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.
"Luck is the residue of design." - Branch Rickey