Theological Editions - Indepth daily religious news, views, reviews & key theological resources

In-depth religious news, views, reviews, features & resources for the thinking person



Liturgy & Prayer

News & Magazines


Texts & Resources


Church too busy navel-gazing to take the lead over crime
by Graeme J. Davidson
12 July 2008

Where is the reference to Jesus teaching us to look at our own mistakes before we condemn others, the need to forgive and love those who wrong us, or how we should visit those in prison? Where are the prayer vigils and Church-sponsored meetings dealing with our national preoccupation with crime and punishment?

... In the early 80s, I lived for over four years in Santa Monica, California. During that time, there were six murders on our block and over a third of my neighbours had been attacked or raped. I remember one man arriving at a church meeting, bloodied and dishevelled. “Sorry I’m late. I’ve just been mugged and pistol-whipped”, he explained. The crime-wary group treated his apology as if he’d had a flat tyre and soon went back to the hot topics of debate – women clergy and gays. Nothing seems to have changed.
....Meanwhile, the terrified community resorted to electronic burglar systems and guard dogs, private security patrols and firearms. Local anti-crime groups clamoured for more police, tougher sentences and the death penalty. The result: despite increased policing and tough sentences, violent crime continued unabated, casualties rose through firearm misuse, and, sadly, people lost trust and became isolated from one another.
....Much the same is happening in New Zealand. Mainstream churches seem to be navel-gazing while others organise anti-crime marches with victims demanding revenge as their right. Has the Church handed the leadership on crime and justice issues to diehard reactionaries like the group with the paradoxical name: the Sensible Sentencing Trust? The Trust believes in tough sentences, that life imprisonment should mean life, that juries recommend sentences to judges, and that multiple offenders serve sentences consecutively. That means some burglars could do time for 120-plus years.
....Where is the reference to Jesus teaching us to look at our own mistakes before we condemn others, the need to forgive and love those who wrong us, or how we should visit those in prison? Where are the prayer vigils and Church-sponsored meetings dealing with our national preoccupation with crime and punishment?
....Rosemary McLeod asked this question of the Church in the June 22 Sunday Star-Times: “Where is any confident outspoken leadership on right and wrong?” The days when we sat in pews absorbing moralising sermons have gone the way of the moa. But, when St Mary’s Church, Karori, set about removing its Victorian-style pews – that give a good view of backs of heads – in order to provide more options for worship and to encourage youth participation, McLeod complained in her 3 July The Dominion Post column that it was sacrificing its history. Is outspoken church leadership on right and wrong about keeping pews rather than being innovative in welcoming and leading young people?
....The Church may appear to lack “confident outspoken leadership” because it doesn’t front anti-crime marches or back simplistic “more police” and “lock ’em up and throw away the key” solutions. Nevertheless, it’s a quiet and effective leader in the fight against crime. It helps young and old learn the principles of living with others, including the importance of doing good, seeking justice and being loving and forgiving.
.... It offers professional drug rehabilitation, counselling and special programmes for youth at risk and their families, helps victims of crime, and makes informed representation on crime and justice issues to government. Christians attend court and visit prisons to help those of us who have fallen. There are police and prison chaplains and the Prison Fellowship provides opportunities for restorative justice for criminals and their victims, faith-based rehabilitation programmes and support for prisoners’ families and for prisoners when they are released. The Church should be proud of what it does. But it needs to be more assertive in offering a Christian perspective.
....I survived my time in Santa Monica to face the trauma of a knife-wielding burglar back in New Zealand. I recognised my assailant from police photos but his friends provided an alibi. My natural response was to seek revenge. But I didn’t. I talked with elders of the local iwi and they exerted moral pressure on him. I also prayed that I could forgive him and that he would change his ways. I don’t know whether he did, but I’m not bitter and I definitely didn’t become a member of the Sensible Sentencing Trust.



See also
Should we intervene to prevent suicide? >> more
Divorce risk indicator >> more
When you feel like you're sharing a bed with a stranger >> more
Surving the breakup >> more
Suicide terrorism as a desperate weapon of liberation >> more
Ned Flanders — popular face of Christianity >> more
Seven common myths about religion >> more
Moral divide between church leaders and laity >> more
Unholy silence over MPs hypocrisy and greed >> more
Anglican schism over gay clergy inevitable >> more
My agonising path to enlightenment >> more
More than ever, it's a time for generosity >> more
National's ethics smell of political expediency >> more
Pope's trip to Holy Land fraught with potholes >> more
The resurrection may have been superfluous >> more
Rasputin — from sinner and seducer to saint? >> more
Religious delusions and the Jerusalem syndrome >> more
Protest mild compared with Jesus' vandalism >> more
What Castro and Obama have in common >> more
Holidays can revive romance or widen cracks between couples >> more
Dubious scholarship reinterprets Jesus to fit secular creed >> more
Furore over gay marriage echoes the conflict over slavery >> more
If only politics were as certain as dear old granny >> more
You've got to have faith to win the White House >> more
The problem of evil >> more
TV Programmers let lose Roman circus >> more
Prostitutes welcome in the kingdom of God but not in Dannevirke >> more
Church too busy navel-gazing to take lead over crime >> more
Will the Anglican Church split over gay clergy and same-sex unions? >> more
Faith in secular western society >> more
The Vatican's pelvic theology >> more
Abuse and the Beijing Olympics >> more
Would the real Jesus stand up? >> more
Hypersensitivity perverts ethics >> more
God and presidential hopefuls >> more
A three-ghetto church based on politics >> more
Good and bad intentions >> more
Deliver us from exorcists who harm >> more
How effective is prayer? >> more
Masters of non-violence, resistance and kung fu >> more
Was Mother Teresa living a lie? >> more
Double standards over child sex abuse >> more
Soppy inspirational and pseudo-spiritual emails >> more
Caring organisations and pyschopathic bosses >> more
The new anti-religious evangelists >> more
Call for religious education could backfire >> more
Blessing creatures great & small — but what about blowflies? >> more
Does God exist only in the brain? >> more
The Prudes who crucify >> more
tomb raiders and the bones of Jesus and his family? >> more
Jesus loves Osama >> more
Is God more like a matchbox or a number? >> more
Confessions of a failed axe murderer >> more
Bacchanalian festivals and sentimentality >> more
Manners: insignificant social customs? >> more
The 109 fighting boys >> more
Trying to exhume the historical Jesus >> more
Is global violence really on the increase? >> more
Polygamy, circumcision, atheist journalists and religious diversity >> more
The Christian Right stands by Israel out of a misguided theology  >> more 
What a rat taught me >> more
The Church is becoming a retirement hobby for granny clergy >> more 
Is there an anti-Christian conspiracy in Hollywood? >> more
Have church schools sold out on Christianity? >> more
How good a Christian is President George W Bush? >> more

Hitler, Lawyers, Politicians SUV owners and life after death >> more

Were the Christian hostages really idiots for peace? >> more
Infidelity: in hot pursuit of a better organsm or better intimacy? >> more
Skulduggery and controversy over discovery of religious texts >> more
The cartoons aren't about secular freedoms versus intolerance >> more

Christian Zionists hinder justice and peace in the Middle East >> more

Should making more money be your New Year's resolution? >> more
My early life as a black sheep in a nativity scene >> more
Different types of suicide bomber: what makes them tick >> more
Cheating a short cut to sucess in winner-take-all society >> more
Life after death: Is it logically possible? >> more
Is it Anglican to practise apartheid? >> more
Da Vinci Code unlocks controversy>> more
Bishops' statement: pompous, pious, out of touch and verging on the heretical >> more 
Church leaders unconvincing over prostitution law reform >> more
Divorce risk factors >> more
How global are we?  A Christian's view of globalisation >> more
Victims of dirty tricks & friendly fire: Machiavellian tactics in the Church militant >> more
A redundant resurrection >> more
War, violence, ethics, religion and hypocrisy >> more
If St Peter was interviewed for ordination today >> more
13 ways to empty a church without really trying >> more
How tolerant is the Museum of Tolerance? >> more
A church comes out and reconciliation divides >> more
Micah's dream — too much to ask? >> more
Has the revised Anglican Church in New Zealand instigated a benign form of religious apartheid? >> more
The case for St Judas Iscariot >> more
Exorcism: the ministry of deliverance >> more