Published January 5, 2024
Christians should avoid simplistic rhetoric about crime
After several decades of comparative domestic security, more and more Americans are going to bed each night worried about rising crime in their own neighborhoods. In 2022, the national homicide rate stood 34 percent higher than just three years earlier, and 50 percent higher than in 2014. Increasingly, voters are ranking crime high on their list of political priorities, and they are convinced that our criminal justice system is not tough enough on crime. How should we as Christians respond?
For starters, we should resist the temptation to dismiss criminals as the scum of the earth, contemptible people whom we can’t wait to see locked away or worse. “There but for the grace of God go I” may be a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Our hearts should be moved with compassion not only toward petty offenders who are just down on their luck, but even toward the most hardened criminals, whose darkened souls deserve our pity. But compassion doesn’t mean surrendering our moral judgment. It doesn’t mean minimizing the seriousness of crimes either as a moral issue or as a scourge on society. The recent progressive drives to defund police and stop prosecuting many categories of lawlessness have proved to be abysmal failures, ironically proving most harmful to the weakest and poorest in society.
Brad Littlejohn, Ph.D., is a Fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping public leaders understand the intellectual and historical foundations of our current breakdown of public trust, social cohesion, and sound governance. His research investigates shifting understandings of the nature of freedom and authority, and how a more full-orbed conception of freedom, rooted in the Christian tradition, can inform policy that respects both the dignity of the individual and the urgency of the common good. He also serves as President of the Davenant Institute.