Crimes and Godliness

This idea has been swimming in my head for a very long time. At one point in time, I was corresponding with more than 30 inmates in various correctional institutions around the country. The charges ranged from simple burglary to murder. One was even on death row.

I got to know them as men and women, not as criminals. They wrote about their families and about their dreams and their hopes for the future. They were poets, songwriters and artists. Several times a week, my mailbox would be graced with an envelope that was beautifully decorated by an inmate. I used to have a collage of many of these works of art, but sadly, I lost it in a house fire.

I was inspired by these men and women to rethink my ideas about those who commit crimes. To see them not as someone who got what they deserved, as “low life” who don’t deserve any of the “good things” in life, but as a human being who had made some ineffective choices.

I am aware that most people see the justice system as a means of making sure the criminal “gets what s/he deserves”, but I have long seen the justice system as a means of “rehabilitating” those incarcerated within its prison walls. It long ago ceased to make any sense to me to throw these people into cages, treat them like animals, deny them access to any means of bettering themselves and then, when we release them, to be surprised that they return to a life of crime!

A recent insight that came to me is that most crime is about trying to feel in control in a world that feels out of control on so many levels. Those who work in rape crisis centers have long been aware that rape is not a sex crime: it is a crime about power and control. Those who work in women’s shelters have long been aware that domestic violence is not about uncontrollable anger but about power and control over another. (The other crimes are where people just don’t think—they have a momentarily lapse of judgment and make a “stupid” decision. Like someone who shoplifts a cigarette lighter when they have the money in their pocket to pay for it.)

In the CwG material, God tells us that no one does anything inappropriate given his/her view of the world. And then recently, in What God Said, I read:

  • [T]he Conversations with God theology suggests that the only motivation that makes sense to our Soul is the goal of experiencing, expressing, and demonstrating Divinity. So we will, as enlightened beings, seek to do “what works” to produce that experience from moment to moment.

It was a sort of “Aha!” moment for me. How “enlightened” we are will determine “what works” for us to produce that experience of Divinity. And what, at its base, is the experience of Divinity? That of creating the life that we choose. And for those who are “less enlightened”, this is experienced as being the one who calls the shots. Being “in control.”

This logically leads to one conclusion: a criminal is seeking to express and demonstrate their view and understanding of Divinity! The creative energy that is part of that divinity manifests as taking control of others to create the world they want when they want it! It is “what works” for them to fulfill that drive to experience Divinity. Until they get caught.

It’s already evident that “getting tough on crime” doesn’t work. Rather than seeking harsher penalties and more jail time for those who have violated the social mores of their culture, perhaps it would be more effective to help them find further enlightenment so the next time they choose to express their Divinity, no one else is adversely affected.

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