Elisabeth Boehm likes being seen as countercultural. As a conservative Christian, she’s working in the field of prison reform, a social issue many seem to think is the bailiwick of liberals. Her job is communications coordinator for Justice Fellowship, the political advocacy arm of the late Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries in Washington, D.C. But she also has other aspirations that many would say run counter to the get-ahead-quick, career-focused mentality so present in the nation’s capital.
Boehm came to Summit ten years ago as one of the youngest students in her session. At 16, she worked hard just to understand many of the conversations she found herself involved in. “Summit was the first exposure I’d had to an academic dealing with the issue of worldview,” Boehm recalled. “Even in discussions among the students — because I was younger than most of them— it was fun but challenging taking part in these intelligent conversations about the issues.”
The enjoyment of hearing articulate people communicate complex ideas stuck with her after Summit. She went on to attend Patrick Henry College and earned a degree in journalism.
At Justice Fellowship she edits outbound communication and website content and manages the organization’s social media. Working there has opened her eyes to the realm of prison reform, an area where many conservative Christians remain silent. Justice Fellowship aims to reform the criminal justice system in the U.S. “I love [my work here] because typically justice reform is more of a liberal cause; liberals come at it from a human rights standpoint,” Boehm explained. “But if you look at it from a Christian worldview, we have such a better foundation for talking about this issue because we can talk about human dignity.” Two important areas of interest to Justice Fellowship are the use of solitary confinement because it dehumanizes prisoners and works against the goal of rehabilitation and over-criminalization because the most well-meaning citizens break laws simply because too many things have been criminalized in the United States.
Boehm’s job at Justice Fellowship puts her right in the nation’s capital, where she is surrounded by millions trying to fast-track their careers. But having given birth to her first child, she now has a different sort of career aspiration: to be the matriarch of her family. Boehm first got interested in the idea when she read a book — Bill and Will Bonner’s Family Fortunes — on how financially successful families maintained both wealth and a healthy family life for generations, as opposed many modern examples where wealth seems to destroy families. The secular book’s authors observed that the wives and mothers were key; they managed the affairs of the home (including finances and most of the child-rearing during the day) while their husbands worked in their respective businesses. “The greatest matriarchs accept responsibility for building and preserving their family legacies,” Boehm wrote last year in a blog post for her father’s financial firm. “They hold the members together emotionally, spiritually, and financially, so that relationships are maintained, values are upheld, and wealth is developed — and sustained.”
Such an idea today might seem blasphemous in some circles, but that doesn’t deter countercultural Boehm: “A lot of people —especially in D.C. where I am — have got to prove they have the career and manage the household. I’m not calling that sinful, but it’s interesting to see how it doesn’t always work. And the kids end up feeling neglected,” she said. “You miss such an opportunity to cultivate the family culture.”