Chris Hoke

Gang Pastor | Jail Chaplain | Writer

The official homepage for Chris Hoke--Tierra Nueva jail chaplain, gang pastor, and writer in Washington's Skagit Valley.


My first book, WANTED: A Spiritual Pursuit Through the Jail, Among Outlaws, and Across Borders, is out February 3rd, 2015 with HarperOne.

From the proposal: 

"Wanted chronicles a young man’s spiritual quest from the bright Southern California Suburbs of his youth to the darker side of society in the rainy Northwest, where he finds—as a volunteer chaplain—the jail to be a portal to a world of mystery on the margins. He is not looking for a way to change the world so much as a place to belong, a place to reach out with others and touch (and be changed by) another world within this one. He is driven not by guilt for white privilege but by loneliness, a yearning for communion that hasn’t died even after his frustration in churches and alienation in secular university life. He wants to step into the pages of the gospel accounts where Jesus performs miracles with a band of outcasts outside religious settings. The jail is his portal to this world.

"The opening set-up chapter follows the young, failed hipster of a narrator from his childhood nightlife in the suburbs, through his explorations in music recording and Russian literature in college, to the “night shift” vocation as a jail chaplain among a criminal world that comes out only at night. To his surprise, a growing network of tattooed Mexican gang members in the lush agricultural valley dub him their “pastor.” When he comes to terms with this uncomfortable title—embracing the role of a “shepherd” of “black sheep”—the adventures begin.

"The self-contained chapters that follow take the reader anywhere but a pew for a taste of the sublime: singing with an attempted-suicide in the jail’s isolation cell, discovering friendship with a house thief who has a knack for recruitment and who literally rots to death in prison, fly-fishing salmon rivers with tattooed gangsters, dodging immigration and airport security with migrant farm workers while observing the valley’s migratory swans, painting in abandoned LA buildings, mysticism in solitary confinement, prayer with schizophrenics, hospitality in the Turkish underground, and finally the narrator facing his own need and belovedness on the back of a motorcycle racing through Guatemalan slums."

I am represented by Wendy Sherman Literary Associates.


Critical Praise

"Hoke eloquently articulates the erasure of margins and the birth of a new inclusion-where the demonizing ceases and the disposable are no longer tossed aside. It is a book which refines one’s own heart to meet the brokenness of the other and discovery your own. ” —Fr Greg Boyle, S.J., Founder and Executive Director of Homeboy Industries and author of Tattoos on the Heart

“When Chris first told a story on my show, Snap Judgment, it was so beautiful I wept. But I kept asking for more. This book proves what we believe at Snap—stories can lure you into places you’ve never imagined, and maybe even change your life.” —Glynn Washington, Host and Creator of NPR's Snap Judgment

“The psalmist says that God hides himself in the dark. That’s exactly where Chris goes looking for him. This search among the most maligned of us is bound to become a spiritual classic.” —Dennis Covington, author of Salvation on Sand Mountain, National Book Award finalist

“A liberating, transformative chronicle of how spirituality can foster inspiration and hope while emboldening the downtrodden through their darkest days.” —Kirkus

“As a former jail chaplain myself, I have yet to find a book that is so well written, so honest, and so non-naïve-and yet compassionate-about the kind of world we live in! You will live in your own world with greater courage if you read this book.” —Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation and author of Falling Upward

“A powerful and moving account of what it means to actually engage a hurting world.” —Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

Wanted sings the gospel song that’s echoed through the centuries, from Paul and Silas’ jail cell to Fannie Lou Hamer’s. I haven’t read a book since Tattoos on the Heart that made me cry and shout “Amen!” as much as this one.” —Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of Strangers at My Door

“I’m not Christian but Chris has proven that all people—even the most troubled—are worth our intrusions, even as passersby, as migrants, as souls among souls. Thank you for this moving story. More people should have such courage, such character.” —Luis J. Rodriguez, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and author of Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. and It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing

“Hoke meets the lonely young men of his valley who are in so many ways unwanted—and he advocates for them, loves them, calls them brother. Beautiful, unsettling, sometimes laugh out loud funny....For all their darkness, these stories have given me hope like nothing else I’ve read in recent memory.” —Fred Bahnson, author of Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith

“God has a remarkable ability to show up anywhere. Blessed are those, like Chris Hoke, who have eyes to see, and who tell the stories so that we may come to believe. WANTED is beautiful writing and powerful testimony to God’s living presence in forgotten places.” —Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread and City of God

“Chris Hoke is what I would call a Christ-follower. He follows the path that Jesus walked, eyes open, hands ready to help, heart ready to break. The result is life-changing-for him, for those he serves, and for us if we have ears to hear.” —Scott Cairns, author of Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems