May 4th, 2012
03:10 PM ET

Prisoners play Jesus and disciples

(CNN) - A cast with an armed robber as Jesus and a convicted murderer as the disciple who betrays him takes the stage in a production of "The Life of Jesus Christ" at the largest-maximum security prison in the United States.

Prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola have been working on the play for more than a year with inmates from the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women. The play runs through Saturday at the Angola prison.

Bobby Wallace, who has been behind bars for 21 years as part of a 66-year sentence for armed robbery, has the title role, reports CNN affiliate WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge.

"To try and be like Jesus is an awesome task, because none of us are perfect," Wallace told the TV station. "We're all sinful, and if we stay focused, we can be the best people we can possibly be."

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Levelle Tolliver, who plays Judas, told WBRZ that he identified with his character because "I was a bad person, I was a thief, I was a liar."

Tolliver, who is serving a life sentence for murder, said no else wanted to play the role but "I wanted to show a different ending, a different outcome of Judas," according to the station.

"Judas begged for mercy, but he didn't believe God forgave him of his sins," Tolliver told WBRZ. "I believe God forgave me, and I'm going to have to show you with my actions."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (213 Responses)
  1. Ed

    Why does this stuff make National news? Who cares if prisoners put on a life of Jesus play.. Everyone always has to find something to wine about. God, I just wish people would man up and stop crying that someone has offended by them. One day people are going to wake up and realize how foolish we have been.. In the quest to be fair and non offensive to anyone we have created a society of sissies walking on eggshells. Oh no I probably just offended someone.

    May 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why do dolts like Jim earn enough money to buy computers?

      There's no rhyme of reason for anything.

      May 5, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  2. Everett Wallace

    how can a muslim play JESUS will somebody tell him JESUS do not play and I am offended by any one tryin to play me, could be put in jail or wind up dead. You do not have the POWER.

    May 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  3. SuFiSm iS dIfFeReNt

    Jesus has been written out the newest version of the bible because he was too liberal.

    May 4, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  4. Ellen Thompson

    Wow, another anti-christian article by CNN. I smell fear.

    May 4, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Greyhound37

      What are you afraid of, exactly?

      May 4, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why would you assume that the person who senses fear in others is also fearful?

      May 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Greyhound37

      @ Tom
      Logically, she can't smell through a computer monitor so she'd only be smelling herself or others in the same immediate vicinity. Therefore she must be smelling fear locally. Most logical hypothesis is that she's afraid herself. Why? No idea. That was why I was asking.

      May 4, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If you are so stupid that you don't comprehend the idea of "smelling" as "sensing", Greyhound, you should change your screen name.

      May 4, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Jim

      Tom, you are an idiot. The only person in the thread that mentioned anything about "sense" is you.

      May 5, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Since you have none, Jimmeh, I doubt your opinion on "sense" is in any way valuable. Go peddle your idiocy somewhere else.

      May 5, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Jim

      Sorry Tom, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings... Well, I did call you an idiot so I guess I kind of meant to hurt your feelings. But, mainly, I was just pointing out facts.

      May 5, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You wouldn't know a 'fact' if it bit you in your anus.

      May 5, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Jim

      Tom, is that where the facts bite you... in your anus?

      May 5, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  5. eatmybird

    You mean those ,'Oh so good right-winged Christians aren't perfect"? Just keep your hands off their guns

    May 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  6. politicallyinsurrect

    I wonder how fast the play would get shut down if it was a bunch of muslim or nation of islam prisoners putting on a play about Mohammed.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Etalan

      Louisiana State Penitentiary is consider to be a pure christian nation, where it still debating if they should be teaching creationism in school. I don't think they will come out alive.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  7. Charmin'

    Yup..here come the cowards that will love to bash Christianity lol
    Have a go.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Lol

      I'm not a coward, and christianity DESERVES bashing.
      Off ya go.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Mark

      Actually, you come across as both a coward AND a fool. So go back to your hole.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  8. Andrew

    In Numbers 16:35 alone Jesus/god murdered 250. Just one small example.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  9. Richie R.

    B(iraq) Hussein Osama, are you kidding me!?! Did you seriously just say that atheists are worse than murderers? Do you even realize how incredibly, incalcuably rude, ignorant, bigotted, cruel, unintelligent, ruthless, unChristian, and ridiculous that statement is? Perhaps you should impliment enough rationality into your comments so as to realize that NO MATTER WHAT RELIGION YOU ARE, YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN 99.9999% OF THE POSSIBLE GODS EVER TO HAVE BEEN CLAIMED TO EXIST. So use your head, put yourself in perspective, and don't make stupid comments.
    If this seems rude, it's because I HATE when people HATE atheists. They're JUST LIKE YOU and ME!

    May 4, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  10. Emigdio Alvarez

    Reminds me of the Prisoners from Cebu, Philippines.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  11. JT

    This black guy looks more like the real Jesus than the blond haired, blue eyed Jesus that is hanging on your wall.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Etalan

      Maybe Jesus was really black and the church denial the fact and bend it to make it easily for the white people. What if it really a white/Asian person. I mean can you really trust a book during the time where it easier to get a beer than a understanding of writing.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • politicallyinsurrect

      You mean white "aryans" didn't come from Jerusalem? Fascinating.. lol

      May 4, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  12. paul cos

    The biggest obstacle to christianity are christians.

    May 4, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Hitchens

      cos never was a reason for believin

      May 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  13. paul cos

    There are probably alot of child molesting priests in the prison,they could help you with the historocity of the piece,give a few tips here and there,make sure all the lines are right.

    May 4, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Hitchens

      Do you have any statistics to back up your claims ?.. any experimental data? or is this just the ramblings of an insane person that does bad stuff with their life and now wants to justify their wretched existence because you can't live with yourself?

      May 4, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Zee

      Incorrect, the church protects them from prosecution!

      May 4, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  14. just sayin

    Prisoners get the time to play a lot of games that priests also like, but the priests play theirs with young boys.

    May 4, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Hitchens

      This is definitely a fake just sayin post.

      May 4, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Etalan

      Prisoners usually have higher stranded compare to priest. They beat up most child molester at prison.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    May 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • paul cos

      do you have medical statistics to back up your screen name claim?..any experimental data? or is this just the ramblings of an insane theocrat that did bad stuff in their life and now wants to try and save their wretched existence because they cant live with themselves?

      May 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things


      May 4, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Etalan

      85% of all master degree or higher is all Atheism, 95& of atheism are PHD.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Hitchens

      It appears you are not one of the 95& (%) ?

      May 4, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • bla

      Sure does, it makes people feel like they've done something helpful when they haven't actually done a damn thing at all.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Etalan

      Yeah 2 more year i be finish with my math major. Also nearly finish with my Computer programming. Here my prove of the fact I make http://phys.org/news102700045.html, 75% of Scientists are Atheist at 2007. It have been increasing during those 5 year. But ask hitchens he seem to know everything with his bible.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Hitchens

      I think "hitchens" can create a coherent sentence. As opposed to the card carrying genius "etalan".

      May 4, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Etalan

      Really, because I use complete sentence, unless you been judging your English base on the bible. Therefore everything is coherent to you.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • Greyhound37

      Multiple studies seem to indicate otherwise. Please search wikipedia for Intercessory Prayer and you'll see the results there. Most of the results indicate zero influence of prayer.

      However there was a small percentage over even chance (59% instead of the usual 50% average) that indicated patients did WORSE when they were informed that someone was praying for them on their behalf. (more major complications developed in this group) Please see the section on STEP study for those particular results.

      So yes, you're correct that there is evidence. Unfortunately for you, it does nothing to bolster your case. Please keep looking for evidence, though. One day you'll realize that IT, rather than an unseen supernatural being of your choosing, supports the real world in which we live.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • reader

      Could you please quote a study 'proving' your statement. Who/when the study was conducted. I can prove that the bible is inconsistent if you would like me to but first which version of the bible do you believe is the 'word of god'. The variations in the different bibles would make my proof long enough to fill a book,

      May 4, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Hitchens

      God or wikipedia recommended by an anonymous greyhound37 on a belief blog. Decisions, decisions who to choose? Why I believe I'll believe God !

      May 4, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Greyhound37

      @ Hitchens
      LOL, and I didn't even need to tune in to Comedy Central for those laughs! Thanks!

      May 4, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  16. Russ

    religion: only the good people get in with God.
    atheism: good people believe there is no God.
    Christianity: only bad people (who know they need a Savior) get in.

    That's why Jesus said: "the tax collectors & prost.itutes are getting in before you..." (Mt.21:31)
    There's no such thing as "good" people (Rom.3:10-12).
    For obvious reasons, prisoners are more apt to get that than white collar suburbanites.

    May 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • momoya


      Atheism does NOT say "good people believe there is no god," how stupid?.

      Atheism says: People who apply critical reasoning without bias in all their philosophies accept the reality that no god has been demonstrated and therefore belief is unwarranted..

      May 4, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • ,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      Momoya,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      Why should any atheist be bothered one bit that God either exists or doesn'T? Can't one just get along lil doggies,get along? Or is it that hate still boils over and continues corrupting the up and coming newbies on the benches? Is one not but a part of the wholeness or are we ever to continue the splintering of? Where does one stop the malignancies of sociological fermentations' laments?

      May 4, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Kelly


      People forget that the so called law abiding citizens and soldiers (Cops) crucified Jesus. 2,000 years later and the same people would no doubt do the same thing. The world is so corrupt that the saints are imprisoned or crucified and the lunatics and criminals run the government.

      May 4, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • ,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      Kelly,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      The equatorially beleagered missed representative are collar bound with egoisms vilenesses! The curtailing of churches emulating Godly virtues is nowadays the triumphants slaughterings of its' flocks thru unneeded perfumes such as books and Tv evangelists doing the cornerstone marketings of other than the Bible! How can the Truth not be subverted when subvertionalisms are most churches common denominators?

      May 4, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: you're demonstrating my point. though you don't define "goodness" in the classic, moral sense, your derogatory remark is the illustration. people who agree with you are "in" (good/right/etc.). those who don't are "out."

      May 4, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: and more pointedly – many who claim to apply critical reasoning unilaterally seem to forget to be critical of themselves. the skeptic so often has supreme confidence in himself – and where's the consistent critical reasoning in that?

      May 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Russ

      No, it is not necessary for someone to agree with me to be "good" in my eyes.. In fact, I could see a person as good who disagreed with me on every point and was a fundy young-earth creationist.. I could even find that person more logical than myself.. I think people should think critically and examine their views rationally.. I know more than one nut-case christian who lives their lives with far more critical examination than me or most atheists..

      The skeptic who's not a hypocrite is MOST skeptical about himself/herself.. For one, I am very quick to apologize or yield my preference because, after all, who am I above any other person?? Who am I to say that they don't have a better idea than me?. But a skeptic is also honest.. Belief is not a choice; I did not decide to stop believing in god.. I was compelled by the rules of logic to reconsider my stance on my belief.. Then, I was compelled by my honest reflection on the evidence to admit that I had no valid reason to believe.. Then, I had to argue with myself for half a decade.. Then I had to argue with others.. Then I had to decide whether I might possibly have the courage to follow my convictions.. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, and it took almost two decades.. So maybe you can try that line about "consistent critical thinking" on some other atheist who wasn't a minister and firm believer for more than thirty years and then lost friends, was threatened with violence, and suffered property damage for merely honestly evaluating their own belief as best they knew how..

      May 4, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Russ.. who said only good people believe there is no god.. there are good and bad Athiests as there are good and bad Christians, Muslims Jews, Hujdus etc. There is no difference in those who believe or do not believe as to morality.. but religions tend to tell it followers they have he moral high ground. and that their god is supreme over man and his laws....that's why we worry about religion.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: i respect your willingness to be vulnerable here, and i can tell i've hit a nerve with that particular criticism. that was not my intent.

      but to follow the logic of our discussion: i could easily supply opposing "testimonies" of those who did the same from the other end (former atheists who became theists: CS Lewis or Anthony Flew, for example) who equally suffered among their peers, families, etc. and the history of the Christian faith is littered with those who have suffered for their beliefs. having said that, as i'm sure you'd readily acknowledge, suffering for a belief does not make it a correct one.

      and in regard to my critique of skepticism: it was not a one-liner w/o substance. the primary philosophical quandary of the skeptic is that – if consistent – she unravels herself. but that sort of consistency is not what i'm hearing from you (maybe relationally you are self-skeptical, but not philosophically). you appear to have strong metaphysical convictions (even if just a loud "no!") – which is not consistent with a truly self-skeptical lens.

      you said "i was compelled by the rules of logic..." as though you are supremely confident that logic necessarily excludes the possibility that the Infinite exists – even though you are finite. that is not a logical deduction, but a faith-based assertion.

      and that is my very point: it requires faith to reject another faith. no one is utterly devoid of faith. we simply put our faith in different places. so, what have you placed your faith in (now that you've left the ministry)?

      May 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Evolved DNA: I think you missed my point. Your assertion that there are good & bad people of every stripe is exactly opposite what I am saying.

      What makes Christian anthropology distinct is that (unlike almost all other religions, as well as most atheists) it says "there are no good people. we are all broken. some just hide it better than others. but all are broken, without hope of goodness in themselves." Check out Rom.3:10-12, for example.

      Hence, our belief that we cannot save ourselves by what we do.

      May 4, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • momoya


      I couldn't relate to most of what you said, but I'm not feeling vulnerable, I don't think.. Logic implies that infinity may very well exist, I would say it must, but what do I kow?.. What has that to do with god?!?! No, I'm not "supremely confident" about anything.. I am reasonably skeptical..

      I wish I could make more sense of your post.. Sorry.

      May 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: sorry i was too wordy then. at the risk of being blunt:

      you didn't simply abandon your faith as a minister. what were you so confident in that you rejected it? what is it that you relied upon (that you put your *faith* in instead)? a new theory of existence? your own rational faculties?

      May 5, 2012 at 12:34 am |
  17. just sayin

    Seems like it would be more fitting and realistic for people in an insane asylum to play Jesus and etc.

    May 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Hitchens

      It appears to be a fake just sayin post

      May 4, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Hitchens

      I stand corrected, it is not fake

      May 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  18. momoya

    Acting seems like a good creative outlet for prisoners, and they do have the highest concentration of Christians in there, so it makes sense.

    May 4, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • @you

      momoy-for how long were u incarcerated? no wonder u r soooo bitter!

      May 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @you: First off, attempt some manners when speaking to people, it will get you a tremendous amount further on here...especially when speaking to someone old enough to be your parent.
      Second, the stats do not lie:
      Atheists represent less than 1% of the prison population.

      Christians represent about 78% of the prison population compared to about 75% in the general population, or a ratio of 1.04.


      May 4, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • just sayin

      Clearly it is Christians who are a danger and unhealthy for our society. This is a Christian Nation and Christians are primarily responsible for our problems.

      May 4, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • just sayin

      I assume Christians will accept responsiblity for the negative as they do for when they wish to impose their majority power. No??????????

      May 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      Christians get parole, atheists don't. All convicts are innocent and Christian.

      May 4, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • bla

      Like one of my high school teachers said, "Everyone finds god in prison." His cynicism was one of the best things to ever happen to me.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Etalan

      @momoya is right
      Louisiana State Penitentiary is in the heart of "true" christian nation. Also Louisiana is one of the bible belt nation, which have high crime rate, low education, and more people with gun than outside the bible belt nation. There is a reason why Religion and crime go together.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Tom

      momo is a coward that runs away when confronted with direct questions and yet presumes it has a right to takes absolute liberties when it comes to christians. stop the bunkum already!

      May 5, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  19. William Demuth

    Fishing for new Christians in filthy waters is par for the course.

    Their new recruits have already been beaten down, buggered and broken

    I am sure they can find more dregs for their armies!

    They will perform stupid human tricks for a pittance because they LIVE IN A CAGE!

    Perhaps Jeebus will grant them another chicken bone for dinner if they cow tow!

    May 4, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  20. Second Chances

    Forgiveness is the key to being a Christian!

    May 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Clear Christian Morality

      Murderer good. Atheist bad.

      May 4, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama


      murderer bad. Atheist worst.

      May 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.