The headline of the Jamaica Observer of Tuesday, March 20, 2018 shouted ‘Church not a crime fighter! The sub-headline added: Mourners at ex-councillor’s funeral stunned by preacher’s declaration! The headline caught my eye as I drove past a newspaper stand. The comments attributed to Rev Jonathan Hemmings could jolt or mislead some people if there isn’t further dialogue about this idea. We must put the role of the church vis-a-vis crime fighting in its proper context.
In last week’s column on JamaicaEye I began by saying that: “The building of a nation ought to be the shared responsibility of every citizen. Each should be educated by home, school and church to use their gifts, talents and abilities in service to others and nation.” I really believe this to be true, and I invite you to embrace this idea too and begin to engage in your own sphere as a producer, nation-builder and valued contributor. The most resistant persons to this idea of active participation in the process of nation-building seem to be us Christians. However, the record of scripture bears out this position.
From God’s promise to Abraham that through him nations would be blessed; through His special relationship with Israel and His mandate to a criminal and fugitive (Moses) to return to Egypt in a new role as deliverer, this theme of His people actively and righteously participating in nation-building is played out. The final mandate that Jesus, who is called the Christ, gave to those who believe in Him was “make disciples of all nations, teaching them to do all that I have commanded”.
Obeying this command is nigh impossible if you are not up to date and actively engaged in nation-building. Not to mention the fact that the commands include active engagement against murder, theft, rape, and other crimes. So the church is actually mandated to teach the nation not to commit crime.
Is Rev Hemmings wrong?
So what then of Rev Hemmings’ statement? I agree with my reverend brother that the Church is not a crime fighter in the sense of being deployed in the streets to investigate crime and apprehend offenders. However, the church has, for centuries, been involved in aspects of the process, being a place of refuge, and is uniquely positioned to act as a liaison between the official crime fighters (the police) and the citizens who may come into conflict with the law.
I can say from experience that sometimes offenders will present themselves to the Church seeking assistance to surrender to the authorities. Therefore the Church, though not operationally a crime fighter, is best placed to be the greatest crime preventer and crime fighter facilitator.
The Church’s important and fundamental role of crime prevention and crime fighter facilitator, should be supported by all, and the Church must be allowed maximum room to work in this regard, in the best interest of all. What do I mean by this?
All behaviour comes from beliefs. Crime comes from a negative way of believing and thinking that results in negative attitudes, behaviours and actions. This makes what one is taught and what one believes of vital importance to society.
Those who have suggested and taught that it does not matter what is taught to our children, or that everything should be given the same weight, need to think again. There is such a thing as moral clarity or moral certainty, and we must take seriously the need to shape the belief systems of our young people. A reminder, too, especially for those at our Ministry of Education, please be mindful of age appropriateness as we shape young minds.
We sometimes hear it said that the young “shottas” on the street have a ‘dog heart’ or ‘nah nuh head’. What is this really saying?
We are fundamentally saying that they have no moral compass. They lack a belief system that is capable of producing positive personal results and nation-prospering outcomes. This does not happen by accident, and if we are serious about changing the way people behave in Jamaican society, then we must get very serious and deliberate about shaping the beliefs of our country.
We cannot be unmindful of the age of those currently committing much of the crime or of the early sexual activity, promiscuity, teenage pregnancy, and poor schooling, all of which are contributing to the deepening social crisis. This same social crisis is a primary contributor to the crime problem which could have been prevented had we focused on the information that formed the belief system of this generation.
The Church may not be in the assigned role of crime fighter in the streets of our society but she must be actively engaged in the fight against crime and support the fight where crime exists.
Church’s role misunderstood
The fact is, there is no area or situation of life or society where the Church, correctly understood, does not have a role to play. The Church engages with people from birth to death, and even guides them for what is beyond death. Unfortunately, too many people, and even a large segment of the Church itself, do not understand that the Church is not essentially a religious entity, but rather the visible representative aspect of God’s kingdom that touches on and informs every facet of life and human existence. This view of Church as primarily religious has relegated it to narrow confines, thus causing many to miss the mark. However, the Church should, in fact, be addressing every facet of human and societal life, since there is no area of life that is outside of our Heavenly Father’s interest.
The Church a fighter for justice
One of the key areas in which the Church must play a substantial role is the issue of social justice. The Church may not be a crime fighter but it must be a fighter for justice; for injustice is a root cause of crime.
As it relates to this issue, I have stated repeatedly that the true reason we are unable to defeat the growing crime monster is that, as a nation, we are fighting the wrong thing. We must deal with crime where it surfaces, but we must concentrate our efforts on fighting the root causes of crime or else our focus will always be on catching criminals after they have committed a breach, rather than on stopping people from becoming criminals in the first place.
A major root of crime is injustice. Fighting crime as a focus is always going to be a difficult, relentless, and frustrating battle. Why? Because crime is an ever-moving target expressing itself in many ways. What we must fight is injustice. Injustice you can always identify and treat. All crime is connected to injustice, whether received, perceived or perpetrated. Every crime is an injustice done by someone to someone else. Crime is not itself a cause but a result of other factors. Any serious long-term approach to crime fighting has to involve tackling the causative factors which are well known — the most glaring being injustice in its various expressions. Therefore, if we tackle injustice, we will have made a significant dent towards reduction in crime.
Reorient our people’s thinking
If the minds of our people are reoriented towards justice and dealing justly with one another, this change of thinking and behaviour can help reduce crime. If our State representatives (not just our police, but all civil servants) are reoriented to understand that they represent justice, and therefore must not allow their frustrations to deal unjustly with citizens, this change of thinking and behaviour can help reduce crime. If we all understand that we must remove the systems and structures of injustice that dominate the landscape, whether at schools, church, government offices or businesses, then real hope of containing crime can be realised.
We may need to start with expanding our understanding of injustice. I hear people saying, for instance, that poverty does not cause crime. There is a sense in which this is true — poverty, by itself, is not a sufficient condition, and yet the poor are disproportionately more likely both to commit crime and to suffer as the victims of crime. In the US the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that persons living below the poverty line were more than twice as likely to be the victim of a violent crime. (See http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=5137.)
If the Church was fighting, and allowed to fight where and what they ought to fight, there would be less crime to fight. For although the primary role of the Church is crime prevention in nature, it also has a role to play where crime exists and is out of control. When the prevention methods do not work, for whatever reasons, the Church cannot give up; nor must it shirk from playing an active and solution-oriented role alongside our crime fighters.
The church has solutions!
There is always a solution to every problem. The Church can always play a role in the solution of every problem as God is all-mighty and knows all and can do all. The truth is when no one else can find the solution the Church can. If it can’t it ceases to be the Church who is in touch with its God.
God is the revealer of all secrets and the repository of all knowledge. We only need to ask. Joseph solved Pharaoh’s dreams and outlined the solution to save the nation of Egypt. Daniel could reveal the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, and see its future. God does the same today.
The Church can give the wisdom and insight that provides direction toward a solution to any problem. This is why kings of old had advisors in different areas, including the spiritual. And, as history has shown, when the other advisors could not find workable solutions to the perplexing issues it is the spiritual advisors who know their God that gave the solution. This is a missing ingredient for most leaders today, hence the inability to produce the desired transformation.
Crime fighting must be multifaceted. The crime crisis such as we have needs a spiritual strategy, a social strategy, an economic strategy, and a combat strategy with specific elements in each. Different players supply each.
There are aspects that the police cannot handle with their best efforts and intention. Our problem is we have thrown most of it on the police to their frustration and, in addition, we have not even equipped them sufficiently to do their side. If all the strategies from all the players were to be employed, then more resources could be available to the police to be more effective.
The police are really trained to fight crime. It is not really their purview to fight injustice, except to ensure that they themselves are not perpetrators and enforcers of injustice.
Often in this fight against crime we have unfair and unrealistic expectations of the security forces. Prevention ought not to be our primary expectation of the police. Prevention is the primary purview of others in the society, such as home, school, church, Government, and institutions of civil society so established.
Only the church can provide and implement the spiritual strategy which, in my estimation, is the most necessary and important to lasting solutions. What some of us have known and has now been revealed is the spiritual forces of evil that is being employed by criminals.
Colonel Daniel Pryce, Jamaica Defence Force head of operations in the state of emergency in St James, made this startling revelation with supporting evidence recently. This has been the case for a long time and we have ignored it to our own peril. That is not a problem the police can solve. There are spiritual forces at work.
Many in academia, and even the Church, out of their ignorance, may scoff at it, but it is nonetheless real. It is acknowledged that a section of the Church just doesn’t understand this side or level of warfare. I contend that it is the prayers of a few churches in volatile communities and outside that have for decades been minimising the effects of these evil forces. A letter from a learned lawyer of 2000 years ago bears evidence of this experience, even as far back as AD 60 – 62:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” — Ephesians 6:12
Had it not been for the efforts of some of our churches, although imperfect, crime and a bloody revolution would have already swallowed us up. Admittedly more of our churches would do a lot better if they were trained in best practices for this area of spiritual warfare. Only the Church can engage spiritual strategies, they should be in before, or alongside the security forces in the zones of special operations.
The total approach
A total approach is what is needed for a sustainable solution to our crime dilemma. Hence the need for an entity that can pull this total package together allowing each area to concentrate on its strengths. I have suggested before in this column for either a crime czar, special project anti-crime committee or agency of national and social mobilisation that can pull all the necessary facets together to destroy this crime monster and free our people to garner and direct their energies to build the new Jamaica in an atmosphere of peace and safety.
I am getting a gut feeling that our national leadership, on both sides of the political divide, for the first time, is ready to really tackle the crime monster. If I am right, then Hallelujah! However, I cannot but reinforce that the most effective solution cannot be applied without dealing with the root bed that produces the main crime perpetrators — political divisiveness, tribalism, garrisonisation, and donmanship culture.
There has been concern that the ZOSO selections are politically tainted. It is certainly possible in our historic national approach as both parties are known to have acted in this way. However, I am unsure that is the current case; maybe it could be my pure trusting thinking in dealing with people. If that is the case, the first one was a ‘PNP area’, the second JLP, the third PNP, so the next should be JLP. I hope we are maturing past that foolish tribalistic approach to governance. I am sure the security force, with deeper knowledge of all the factors, makes tactical moves. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.
The new commissioner took office last week. We welcome him and pray he will accomplish much. He seems like a righteous man who desires to do a good job. On his first day at work he declared, “I’m here. If I wasn’t ready I wouldn’t be here.”
I would encourage him that, since internal culture change is vital to restore public trust, he carefully selects men and women of proven integrity who love country, love an efficient force, love people, and love justice as his change agents to head the critical sections that will drive change. With this approach, Commissioner, perhaps you could entice me to enlist. I really believe the wind of real change is blowing our way.
I hope and pray that we are about to see the truth of Proverbs 29:2 rolled out in Jamaica, land we love: When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan. It’s time for God’s people of all political stripes — whether in church, business, government, or civil society — to actively engage!
Copyright © 2018 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.