Criminals Need Theology, Not Just Jesus

A recent study out of Georgia State University shows that in some cases sharing the Christian faith with prisoners might cause them to commit more crimes. According to the study’s abstract,

Through purposeful distortion or genuine ignorance, the hardcore offenders we interviewed are able to exploit the absolvitory tenets of religious doctrine, neutralizing their fear of death to not only allow but encourage offending.

Basically, the criminals took advantage of God’s unlimited ability to forgive and held to the mistaken notion that as long as they ask for forgiveness after their crimes they will still go to heaven.

Some aspects of Protestant theology (which may be espoused by some of these prison chaplains) does lead to the idea that no matter what a human being does after he has been “saved,” that person will eventually go to heaven.

I have seen this kind of thinking myself among fundamentalist Baptists.

I’d been wondering this for years. If they believe they’re saved no matter what they do, then what is to stop them from continuing to commit crimes.

they need to fall in love with Jesus.
That’s the deterrent to bad behavior. :wink:

Exactly! I have the utmost respect for prison ministries. Convicts are in a such a miserable place, both physically and psychologically, that the Gospel can sometimes make a really life changing impact on them. I used to always be cynical about prisoners who made a big show about finding God and reforming, but the older I get the more I realize how seriously some convicts are looking at themselves and trying to change. I sometimes wonder what kind of hidden saints may have found themselves and found God behind bars. I’m always profoundly struck by homeless Roman Catholics that I meet, and a good many of them have done time. There are a couple in my neighborhood who I view as real holy men; just very quiet and isolated loners who have absolutely nothing and absolutely no one. One of them I see quite often, who silently prays a rosary while he spare changes passerby, gives all his money to weaker and sicker homeless people. He doesn’t drink or get high or anything! He has a sort of intelligence or goodness about him that really makes him stand out, in a subdued kind of way.


How do you find homeless people like that?? All the ones that I find are all the opposite of what you describe.

Criminals need the sacrament of penance to clean their souls of mortal sin along with a serious conversion of heart that is soundly based on the love of Christ without it they will lose their souls

Is the church you attend near where homeless people tend to congregate? If not, take in a mass at a church near where homeless are in your city once or twice. I used to think the same as you until I started attending a church closer to our city’s downtown core where the homeless tend to congregate… and you’d be surprised who shows up at mass. And the things they do. I was struck by a man who wanders into mass every week, and he always gives something when the collection plate comes by, pennies if that’s all he has. And during the peace I’ve never shaken hands with someone more thrilled to be doing such a simple act. To call it moving would be an understatement.

open your eyes.
And your heart.

Has anyone taken into consideration that prisons have a high proportion of people with mental heath problems. That probably factors into the equation.

I have seen this kind of thinking myself among fundamentalist Baptists.Being involved in some prison correspondence ministry for Catholic inmates, I can attest to the fact that only those guys who have an authentic and deep conversion will ever do well on the outside.

Most of our prisons are nearly inhumane hell holes now as states cut budgets to corrections. The mix of violent gangers and career violent types with first timers and old men has subjected them to abuses that no one wants to believe. The results are discouraging because even the guys who might otherwise do well are often so screwed up when they get out that they have PTSD symptoms akin to what our vets are coming home with…and no one seems to care.

Throw into that the ever more documented abuse of prisoners by guards who themselves belong in jail and you get what you paid for.

A deep conversion to Christ is the only hope for these guys and the stats do prove that that is the factor in reduced recidivism.

Some of my most faithful guys are the older lifers. They are a joy to hear from. Read the book in my sig line and see how one of them communicates his faith.

Please pray for them (and me) as we walk this path together.

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