By Daniel Bates | 23 February 2016
Christianity is to blame for America’s high crime rates because its followers believe that the Bible gives God’s ‘blessing’ to violence, a controversial new book claims.
The book, by a professor of criminology, claims that at its core Christian ideology is close to Fascism and is ‘criminogenic’, meaning that it actually causes crime.
Fundamentalist Christian ideology has been the inspiration for terrorism and figures like radio host Rush Limbaugh are damaging America by helping ‘promote vengeance seeking’.
The Christian Right do not even love their country as they think that the US is ‘something of a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah’.
The provocative theory is likely to raise eyebrows among Christians who see forgiveness as a key part of their faith.
But it could explain why the Republican party has moved to the right.
One of those who describe themselves as an evangelical Christian is Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who supports the death penalty and has said he would ‘carpet bomb’ ISIS.
The book was written by Elicka Peterson Sparks, an associate professor of criminology at the Department of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, after four years of research.
In ‘The Devil You Know, the Surprising Link Between Conservative Christianity and Crime’ (Prometheus Books), she describes America as a ‘bastion of Christian fundamentalism, despite secular progress’ and says that it is doing terrible damage.
She writes: ‘Fundamentalist Christian ideology is criminogenic – in others words it actually causes [crime].
‘The United States has more fundamentalist Christians than any other nation.
‘The United States also has a very high rate of violent crime, and particularly high rates of lethal violence – compared to other similarly situated nations.
‘This is not a coincidence…this belief system, and the culture it inspires, lends itself to many types of criminal activity including the promotion of violent crimes against a variety of victims, terrorism against those of different faiths, and even crimes against the environment’.
Professor Peterson Sparks argues that Christian fundamentalism has ‘set the United States on a dangerous course’ that is creating a ‘tide of social problems’.
Even the Christian Right’s claim that they love America is based on a lie, the book claims.
It says: ‘The great irony with respect to patriotism is that Christian nationalists do not really love America – in fact they believe that we are something of a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.
‘What they love is a wholesome vision of America as they believe it once was and will be again: A Christian nation straight out of “Mad Men”, but without all the sinning and the angst’.
The book singles out leading figures of the Christian Right such as Limbaugh as having managed to ‘infiltrate American culture’ and now wield disproportionate influence.
Christians who talk about family values are hypocrites as their family values are actually insulating themselves against non-believers, the book says.
Professor Peterson Sparks, who has consulted for several documentaries including some for PBS, says that ‘at its heart, Christian nationalism includes the language of war, theocracy, and even fascism’.
In a chapter titled: ‘When did Christians get so mean (again)?’, She writes: ‘Conservative Christians got mean when they embraced political power as an instrument of religious coercion.
‘They do not play well with others, because a significant feature of their ideology holds that others must convert to their views or perish.’
The consequences of this have filtered through the whole of society and are seen in the effect of ‘get tough’ policies like war on drugs.
These kind of measures ’emphasize punishment as the primary response to crime’. Having a nuanced view about crime in Christian circles is seen as ‘antithetical to true Christianity’.
One effect of this was the 1976 Supreme Court decision in Gregg v Georgia which reopened the door for states to use the death penalty again.
It was passed at a time when the New Christian Right was gaining power and the ‘just deserts’ way of thinking was prevalent, the book says.
Christian beliefs also inhibit funding for programs that deter crime because they do not match up with what the Bible says, especially when it comes to drugs and teenage pregnancy.
Professor Peterson Sparks cites numerous passages from the Bible to show that the it is ‘rife with violence, particularly violent retribution’.
She writes: ‘When viewed as the literal word of God, this conveys God’s blessing on the use of violence in the fact of opposition to anything perceived as being God’s will’.
Among the horrific deaths in the Bible are stoning, rape, being thrown into a lake of fire and being cut up with a sword. The ultimate fate of sinners is eternal damnation.
The book cites the example of 1 John 3:4: ‘Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawless’.
According to Professor Peterson Sparks, this makes it easy to justify harsh punishments as it links sinning with crime. It also suggests that punishment is a form of ‘violent conflict resolution’ that is legitimate.
Noah’s Ark is cited as another example, which the book describes as the ‘mass murder of the entire population’ to save Noah, his family and two of each type of animal.
The book says: ‘We focus on Noah to the exclusion of the entire rest of the population of the world, to the extent that we forget how terrible this story is.
‘What kind of a person would God have to be to drown everyone else, including innocent children, animals without an ark ticket, and well, everybody?
‘Not so cute when you imagine thousands upon thousand of bobbing corpses.’
Among the 45 pages of other examples in the Bible are 1 Samuel 15:3 which reads: ‘Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass’.
Another example is Revelation 2:22-23 which reads: ‘So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of their ways.
‘I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.’
The book uses all this evidence to build up a portrait of a typical fundamentalist Christian, based on their beliefs.
Peterson Sparks, whose published papers include work on domestic violence and sex offender treatment programs, writes that Christians are more likely to admit they get pleasure out of punishing criminals and believe in social dominance, as well as a catalog of other offenses – including behaving ‘like zealots’.
According to figures from the Pew Research Center, 79.5 per cent of the U.S. population considers themselves Christian, with 26.3 per cent of the whole population calling themselves evangelicals – figures that are among the highest in the world.
At the same time there were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870.
In 2014 America executed 35 people, a figure officially beaten only by Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran. China does not release the number of people it executes, but it is thought be far higher.
In the view of Professor Peterson Sparks, Christians in America ‘spend more time in the persecution of others than in being persecuted, and (are) amazingly adept at harnessing feelings of persecution to (their) advantage’.
Those who suffer great wrongs on Earth are promised great rewards in heaven and ‘defeat only strengthens their resolve’, she writes.
Professor Peterson Sparks insists that she is ‘not a rabid hater of Christians’ and said she knows many people who have a ‘reasoned approach to faith’.
She admits that the religious Right are not the majority of the population – but claims they have a ‘tremendous impact’ nevertheless.
The Devil You Know: The Surprising Link between Conservative Christianity and Crime is on sale on Amazon.
Frank Schaeffer: How to Stop Being a Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas): God Wrote The Constitution And Created America
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