Sunday School Solution

I stood next to Prince Philip when I was at Buckingham Palace for the Templeton Prize ceremonies two years ago. We were surrounded by dignitaries. “Mr. Colson, what can we do about crime here in England?” he asked. I told him: “Send more young British children to Sunday school.” He smiled, thinking I was joking. “Not at all,” I said. “Professor Christie Davies at the University of Reading conducted a study that showed when Sunday school attendance was highest in England, crime was lowest. Conversely, when Sunday school attendance declined, the crime rate increased. Send young boys to Sunday school,” I continued, “so they can be taught the basics of Christian morality.” “Pretty good idea!” he replied. Society is now reaping the bitter fruits of the misguided theories about crime that began in the 1930s with the foremost criminologist of the day, Professor Edwin Sutherland of the University of Indiana. Sutherland argued that crime was the result of sociological factors. A generation of liberals in academia and government accepted the view that if only the evils of society—such as poverty, unemployment, and racism—were overcome, crime would disappear. Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark expressed this notion when he wrote: “Healthy, rational people will not injure others.” In other words, poverty is the cause of crime. A decade later, President Jimmy Carter used the same rationale to explain the widespread looting during the 1977 New York blackout. “Obviously the number one contributing factor to crime of all kinds,” he said, “is high unemployment among young people.” The facts, however, indicated otherwise. A New York study revealed that 45 percent of the arrested looters had jobs. Only 10 percent were on the welfare rolls. Furthermore, the study revealed that the looters stole things for which they had no use or need. As Professor Thomas Sowell of Stanford writes, “People commit crimes... because they put their own interests or egos above the interests, feelings, or lives of others.” Sowell's judgment is supported by psychologists Stanton Samenow and Samuel Yochelson in the landmark study The Criminal Personality. Samenow and Yochelson discovered that, with their subjects, crime was a moral problem. They concluded that criminals, not society, are the cause of crime. These findings found further support in Wilson and Herrnstein’s definitive study Crime and Human Nature. The two Harvard professors concurred that crime is essentially a function of individual choice. Individuals are making wrong choices with accelerating frequency: Violent crime is up over 500 percent since the sixties. Juvenile crime is up 5,000 percent. All this demonstrates the abject failure of the secular worldview. With its benign view of human nature, it is incapable of producing a moral, just, and safe public order. A recent poll found that one-third of all Americans would not want a fundamentalist living next door. But the influence of Christianity, with its emphasis on personal transformation, responsibility, and virtue, is what preserves and protects the social order. So tell your neighbors what I told Prince Philip. If you want to do something about crime, don’t knock Christianity. Send the kids to Sunday school. Indeed.    


Chuck Colson


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