Crime and Religion: The Unlikely Duo



Faith based initiatives have been on the rise lately in many areas of society and a number of studies have been highlighted emphasizing the relationship between religion and crime. 

Apparently, religion has a significant impact on the reduction of crime, particularly in areas that crime is a predominant activity. 

According to Byron Johnson’s article in the Houston Chronicle entitled “The Factor of Faith in Crime Reduction,” there are empirical studies that have proven that despite the negative surroundings of many urban youth, their involvement with their church played a vital role in keeping them on the straight and narrow. 

He stated, “Aided by a number of important studies over the last two decades, and several systematic reviews of these scholarly publications, it has become clear that the religion and crime research literature is not inconclusive as some scholars have misleadingly suggested. These reviews document consistent and mounting evidence suggesting increasing religious commitment or involvement helps individuals avoid crime and delinquency.”

Johnson further added that despite the extensive studies that support the proactive deterrent with crime and religion, this scenario is not incorporated more within the criminal justice system.

In the article, he noted, “The weight of this evidence is especially intriguing in light of the fact that religion continues to be overlooked by so many. For example, one will look in vain to find any references at all to religion in criminology and criminal justice textbooks.

“This is because many social scientists go out of their way to overlook or dismiss the role religion plays in crime reduction in spite of the evidence showing religion is an important protective factor.”

Johnson, who is a distinguished professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, is not alone in this viewpoint regarding crime and religion, and the list of supporters is growing. 

According to Patrick Fagan’s article article, “Why Religion Matters Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability,” crime and religion can have polar opposite results whereas the increase of religious influence decreases the tendency towards criminal activities.

He stated, “In at-risk, destabilized communities, religious practice was found to be a buffer against youth crime in the same way that it reduced the likelihood of substance abuse among adolescents.

“Even in communities where there are no strong social controls against delinquent behavior, religious commitment and involvement protects youth from antisocial behavior-both minor and serious.”

Fagan also addressed the economic value that faith based programs play in addressing the problems within our communities, particularly the urban areas that generally receive more negative spotlights.

The “value add” that faith based initiatives bring to focusing on the benefits of religion and the detriments of crime and the dollars spent on programs less effective should be re-evaluated.

Fagan’s asserted that, “Faith-based social service ministries have unique competencies in addressing some of the most difficult social problems. By some estimates, these organizations provide $20 billion worth of privately funded social service delivery for more than 70 million Americans each year. There are significant indications that faith-based social service programs are more effective than their secular counterparts.”

Crime and religion are an unlikely pair as the progression of one generates the reduction of the other. Many scholars agree that religion should play a stronger role in reducing crime in our communities because of the success rates.

From the emotional standpoint to the economic impact, it is the right thing to do and let the church say Amen!

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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