Education, Religion and Crime

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

The most recent (Aug/Sept 2011) edition of First Things (which I heartily recommend) had a couple of articles that shed light on the practical benefits of education within a religious institution, and on higher education today, two subjects I spend much of my time thinking about. You might expect this from a journal the central focus of which is “religion and public life.” But the convergence of the two articles struck me.

In the first, the monthly “The Public Square,” the new editor, R. R. Reno commented on recent debates at Harvard about the place of religion in the general education curriculum of our current universities. According to Reno, psychologist and popular author Steven Pinker argued against the inclusion of a course on reason and faith, claiming that the belief in the influence of faith “is an American anachronism,” and that western society is “moving beyond it.”

A few pages later in an opinion piece “The Religious Antidote,” Byron Johnson a professor of social science at Baylor, and author of More God, Less Crime, argued that in an analysis of 273 studies of crime and religion, 244 (90%) of them showed a beneficial relationship between religion and crime. That is, where religion is part of the life of youth, for example, there is less crime. And where faith is part of rehabilitation programs, they are more successful in reducing crime and recidivism. He even mentioned the benefits of restorative justice programs which FPU’s Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies has championed.

I have heard this kind of analysis confirmed by Fresno Police Chief, Jerry Dyer. He is very open in his public comments that the faith based institutions in the city are effective in reducing crime and helping youth and adults out of gangs, crime, drugs and into healthy lives.

If indeed western society is moving beyond the anachronism of faith and religion as a social good, it seems we should plan for more prisons and invest in security companies. On the other hand we might follow the open-mindedness of religious researchers and faith based universities.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+
  • Bruce Whitsitt

    This is something that should be explored in-depth.  Back in the 90s, someone (I now forget who) offered up a hypothetical situation that underscores the importance of faith impacting crime.  It went like this:  What if you were walking on the street, and saw a half-dozen minority teens lingering on the sidewalk in front of you?  Most people would assume that these youth were gang members, and that they were a threat.  However, the argument continues, what if you knew that they had just come out of a Bible study?  Of course, the threat perception would be significantly reduced. 

    I once had an intern who had grown up in housing projects in Fresno.  He regularly attended a Sidewalk Sunday School organized by some brave Christians.  My intern went on to get his B.A. in social work, and then become a campus missionary for Campus Crusade.  All of his siblings became involved in crime, drugs, and jail or prison.