This blog is about the connections, the links, and the “overlaps” between criminology and theology. These two disciplines of study are not generally associated together. But they are closely associated—in many ways.
Criminology is the scientific study of crime as a social phenomenon, of criminals, and of penal treatment of persons convicted of crimes.
Theology is the study of the nature of God and religious beliefs.
So where’s the connection? You’re still not convinced, are you? Then consider this: what ranks among the top five concerns of most Americans? Crime, and the fear of crime. Criminology studies the extent and nature of crime. How much crime is there? Who are the criminals? Who are the victims? Where do most crimes occur? What are the causes of crime? What are the best responses to crime?
So how does theology connect with criminology? In a number of ways, beginning with the victims of crime, and the families of the victims of violent crimes. To whom do most people turn following a tragic violent crime incident? To God. We question “why God would allow such a senseless, tragic and evil act to occur!” “Why are there such evil people in the world?” “Why did this terrible, tragic shooting happen here, and why is my loved one a victim of this crime?!”
Such questions are appropriate questions to ask. Does theology have all the answers? No, it does not. But theology is very present in those who “practice theology” through pastoral care, a comforting presence, prayer, and those who officiate at the funeral services of loved ones senselessly killed in criminal acts of violence.
But there’s more. Theology plays an important role with criminology in discerning the causes of crime, and the effects of evil and sin that have always been a part of humankind in every generation. Theology offers guidance and support toward the process of justice in holding offenders accountable for crimes. Theology connects with criminal justice in treating convicted criminal offenders with dignity, humane punishment, and restorative justice in place of retributive justice.
This is just a beginning look at the “criminology-theology-connection.” I invite you to join with me in exploring this connection in more depth.