One would have to be blind and deaf not to be aware of deep concern within this country about crime. The concern grows with the increasing incidents of crime. Daily news reports speak of crime almost matter-of-factly.
It is of interest, therefore, to observe how often the very signs of the end of this age, as mentioned in Scripture, are of concern also to the men of this age. Timemagazine, in recent months, has featured cover stories on “Earthquakes” and on another occasion, on “The Crime Wave.” Obviously, the signs mentioned in Scripture are clearly apparent. Man refuses to recognize the significance of these signs, but he is well aware of their existence.
The feature story in Time concerning the crime wave contains several interesting presentations and observations. It points out the obvious—but also draws conclusions. The article begins with a quotation from President Ford and comments on that:
“America has been far from successful in dealing with the sort of crime that obsesses Americans day and night—I mean street crime, crime that invades our neighborhoods and our homes—murders, robberies, rapes, muggings, holdups, break-ins—the kind of brutal violence that makes us fearful of strangers and afraid to go out at night.”
. . . Ford’s characterization of anticrime efforts as being “far from successful” is a major understatement. After all the past rhetoric and all the past campaigns against crime, conditions only got worse.
. . . By any measurement, crime has become an ominous national problem. Since 1961 the rate for all serious crimes has more than doubled. From 1973 to 1974 it jumped 17%—the largest increase in the 44 years that national statistics have been collected.
Violent crime has had an even sharper increase. In the past 14 years, the rate of robberies has increased 255%, forcible rape 143%, aggravated assault 153% and murder 106%. Preliminary reports to the FBI this year show that the rate for violent crimes as well as property crimes like burglary is still sharply on the rise. Says a Chicago cop: “you just can’t paint the picture too bad.”
Attempts are made to analyze the problems. Many believe that they can detect reasons for crime—reasons which might also suggest possible solutions. First of all, the suggestion is made that crime is a matter of cycles. Inevitably there should be a turn for the better. It is pointed out that immigration and the Civil War of the 19th century “produced several crime waves.” The implication is that we are going through one more of these cycles of crime.
But the theories concerning the reasons for crime are interesting. Several points are made—some with a degree of validity.
Wolfgang believes that “subcultures of violence” are sometimes created by groups with values at odds with those of the larger society.
. . . Many theorists believe that rapid economic development breeds crime . . . .
. . . Contemporary sociologists blame America’s excessive stress on material gains which are, however, often denied people or the bitterness of being a failure in a society that is supposed to offer equal chances to all . . . .
. . . The rise of crime rates since the early ’60s has paralleled the rise in teenage, and particularly black teen-age unemployment . . . .
. . . America’s post-World War II baby boom has swollen the traditional crime-prone age bracket (14-24) as never before—and possibly never again : . . .
. . . Many psychologists and psychiatrists point an accusing finger at faulty parent-child relationships, particularly early in a child’s life. Studies show that overly lax, overly strict or erratic child rearing contributes to delinquency, while a generally “firm but kind” approach inhibits it . . . .
. . . Children are more likely to turn to crime if parents battle frequently, or if one parent is missing through death, divorce or abandonment . . . .
. . . The mayhem on TV probably has something to do with teen-age violence as well. One study claims that the average American youth can be expected to watch 11,000 TV murders by the time he is fourteen. . . .
But most striking is the fact that the world also recognizes that a more fundamental cause of crime is the lack of any standard of morality. The wicked are not concerned with morality except in-so-far-as this will decrease crime and preserve order among the society of men. Time writes:
“Adults are confused and at a loss,” says Psychiatrist Bernard Yuddwitz. “They don’t know what standards to set for their children or themselves. The bells that used to ring in your head to say no aren’t ringing any more.”
Urbapologist Edward Banfield and others see a slippery morality emerging from the 1960s: the idea that disadvantaged groups “have a kind of quasi right to have their offenses against the law extenuated, or even to have them regarded as political acts reflecting a morality ‘higher’ than obedience to the lax.”
It seems that every group has caught the knack of rationalizing away violations of the law, from Watergate conspirators to antiwar bombers and young black criminals who define assaults as “political acts.” Says Frederick Hacker, a University of Southern California professor of psychiatry and law: “There have been an increasing criminalization of politics and a politicalization of criminals. It’s reached the point where there are no criminals in San Quentin any more. They’re all freedom fighters.”
It seems clear that some of the old values and restraints have been battered by recent upheavals—war, riots, assassinations, racial strife, situational ethics, the youth rebellion. As disillusionment sets in, fewer and fewer Americans look to the churches, schools or Washington for moral leadership. Stern observers to today’s widespread ethical torpor tend to agree with the 19th century French criminologist Jean Lacassagne: “A society gets the criminals it deserves.”
The article continues by elaborating on certain things which, it is believed, will help reduce crime. Even among the intellectuals of this earth there is basic disagreement concerning solutions. “Liberals emphasize the unjust social conditions that are its breeding ground: slums, unemployment, poor education, racism, poverty amid affluence . . . . Conservatives are more apt to believe that deliberation, not desperation, is the root of crime . . . . To conservatives, man has always been flawed by original sin—or simply human weakness—but is in control of his own fate. To help him control it, the good society is obliged to emphasize a strong moral order, a respect for law and a confidence in punishment as a deterrent to crime.”
Some suggestions for cures are: fewer and better laws; improvement of the police forces; more efficient courts; opportunity of “plea bargain”; a specific and certain sentence; or proper rehabilitation.
Striking, it is, that mention is made of the moral problem of our age. Interesting also is the suggestion that entertainment with its emphasis upon violence seems to have an effect upon society at large and specifically upon the youth.
But after all is said, the world has ignored the heart or root of the trouble. Nor does it see the significance of these things which take place about us.
First, the child of God recognizes in the spread of crime a clear fulfillment of the prophecy of the Word of God which speaks of the “lawlessness” of the last age .and of that “Lawless One” who shall come in the end. Though it is doubtlessly true that there have been cycles of crime, what is evident today is both a world-wide problem and part of the many other signs which also point to the end of time. One must recognize, then, that what takes place today more clearly than ever before points to the end of all things. Remember that—lest we, too, become discouraged by all of these things about us. Our Lord comes back soon.
Secondly, there is the question of that which must be done to improve the situation in the world. Basically, I am convinced, there will be no change. Yet the child of God can point to the proper answers to those who would want to know what our solution would be. Surely, the morality of the Word of God and the consequences of disobedience, as presented in Scripture, must be observed. The “new” morality or “situation ethics” in which one does what is right in his own eyes, surely does destroy the very fabric of society. None who deliberately ignore the laws of God, none who refuse to punish the criminal according to God’s Word can expect a society of peace and tranquility. Man suffers the consequences of his own walk of disobedience. Or, as one of their own. have said, “A society gets the criminals it deserves.”
But there is something more essential, more basic. Outward obedience might improve outward appearance of society. But the root problem has not been touched. The problem is man’s sin. It is not a question of being “flawed” by original sin, nor is it a matter of “human weakness.” Man has rebelled against God. He increases in his sin through the ages. Continually he develops in his sinfulness. He is dead in trespasses and sins. All the attempts of man to “contain” crime and “improve” society represent only cosmetic changes. The physically dead are not changed by the cosmetics which make them “look nice” in the funeral home. So the spiritually dead are not changed by better education, racial harmony, etc. One ends up with a better educated sinner, a more refined criminal, but still the heart remains unchanged.
The only hope is regeneration and conversion. Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God. Except he be born again, he will not love God from the heart nor obey God’s laws to God’s glory. The Word must be preached: “Repent and believe.” Christ crucified must be set forth. The sinner must understand that there must be repentance and confession of sin. Only then will one’s outward walk be properly affected.
But many, most, will not believe. Man turns from God’s Word and rejects His law. Man remains self-serving and self-seeking. He will try to change the course of man’s mad rush to destruction—but he can not. But thanks be to God, a remnant shall be saved. Of His own will, He begat us in order that we might love and serve Him now—and to all eternity. These will flee from every evil way and desire to walk in righteousness for Jesus’ sake. And these, seeing this age of lawlessness, rejoice that the coming of our Lord is at hand.