The Clapham Circle, an informal but influential community of about 30 like-minded souls outside London who plotted good deeds together with William Wilberforce, effected the transformation of Victorian England. They first abolished English ships from the slave trade and then slavery from England, founded the British colony of Sierra Leone (a home for ex-slaves), founded schools, reformed prisons, protected Sunday, started SPCA, implemented proper urban drainage systems (probably saving more lives than any medical procedure except vaccination), opened India to missionaries, reformed manners, and helped prostitutes and their children. Their organizations were the first of what are now known as NGOs (non-governmental organizations) throughout the world.

I recently read a blog from a dedicated Christian Ph. D. asserting that research points to the pursuit of the American Dream as a source of criminogenic behavior. In response, I penned this alternative theory:

Although scholars can contribute tremendous, nuanced insights to this important topic, perhaps a deeper, underlying issue is at work. People might commit crimes for reasons other than just psycho/social pressures stemming from the American culture. Perhaps they have a spiritual nature which suffers from an unredeemed imperfection called 'sin'.

Greed, lust, anger and power-addictions, and all their criminal manifestations, might be symptoms of man's desire to be God. If the real creator-God does not fill one's spiritual void because we've repelled Him through sin, we could then reasonably postulate a vacuum within that individual's spirit which hungers to be filled with all the toys and trappings of the American dream.

If I can't have the real thing, and the hunger just doesn't disappear, I'll be driven to accept a man-made substitute. Then, without a legitimate, socialized means to contain those powerful motivations, one might turn to anti-social, impulsive, even criminal behavior to either narcoticize the pain or to corruptly satisfy those illicit cravings. Admittedly, this is not an evidence-based theory, but human history provides powerful anecdotes as a witness to its legitimacy.

America has criminalized father-absence.   Without excusing their bad behavior, we're coming into the jails and prisons to redeem those who made bad decisions because Daddy was never home.

Moses went to Pharaoh to retrieve the children of Israel.  He told the ruler, "Thus says the Lord: 'Let my people go!'"

Likewise, we're going to the Wardens and Sheriffs and District Attorneys and Judges, saying "Let God's people go."

While sitting in the back of a church in the east end of Richmond on a Saturday morning, I listened to about 40 men, many of them former prisoners, all of them fathers, describe the systemic barriers which seemingly conspired to keep them from living a peaceful life. Between the “Baby Mama Drama” and the “Have you ever been convicted?” questions on job applications, these fellows felt deep frustration at their life circumstances.

I am a problem solver by nature, and a consultant by profession, but not too proud to say that the complex problems confronting those men overwhelmed me. I felt trapped by the excruciating detail of their stories and wondered to myself how I might react in similar circumstances.