Violence as a Theological Problem
We live in a world where all too many people “purposefully contribute to the harm of other human beings, either by action or inaction” (my working definition of violence). In such a world, an absolutely unavoidable moral question then becomes, how do we respond to violence, or more generally, how do we respond to evil?
Almost all violence emerges with some kind of rationale that justifies its use. James Gilligan argues, based on his work with violent offenders, that even seemingly pointless acts of violence usually nonetheless have some justification in the mind of the perpetrator.
Other more rational uses of violence (e.g., warfare, capital punishment) follow a fairly self-conscious logic. At the core of this “logic” rests a commitment to the necessity of retribution; using violence is justified as the appropriate response to violence. When the moral order is violated by wrongdoing, “justice” requires retribution (defined as repayment of violence with violence, or pain with pain).
The legitimacy of retribution seems to be a cultural universal in the United States. Where does this commitment to retribution come from? The affirmation of retribution links directly with Christian theology. We find deeply ingrained in the religious consciousness of the United States the belief that retribution is God’s will. Most Western Christians believe that the nature of the universe requires retribution. We cannot deny the close link between Western Christianity as it has come to be and strong support for retribution (that is, for justifying violence as the appropriate response to violence).
The logic of retribution
A theological framework that I will call “the logic of retribution” underlies many rationales for the use of violence. The logic of retribution understands God as characterized by impersonal, inflexible holiness. God’s law is the unchanging standard by which to measure wrongdoing. This framework sees human beings as inherently sinful. God responds to sin with punishment. Jesus necessarily died on the cross as a sacrifice to provide the only basis for sinful human beings to escape deserved punishment. Americans justify violence as an expression of this deserved punishment (“punishment” defined as inflicting pain in response to wrong-doing).
The theological rationale for retributive punishment rests on the view that God wills such punishment. God simply cannot countenance any kind of sin. If God has direct contact with sin, God must destroy it.
A contemporary evangelical theologian, Millard Erickson, articulates this position in terms that clearly echo epoch-shaping theologians of the past such as Augustine, Anselm, Luther, and Calvin: “The nature of God is perfect and complete holiness. This is…the way God is by nature. He has always been absolutely holy….Being contrary to God’s nature, sin is repulsive to him. He is allergic to sin, so to speak. He cannot look upon it.”
Erickson follows John Calvin in this view. Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion of “a perpetual and irreconcilable disagreement between righteousness and unrighteousness” (II.xvi.3). Hence, Christ has “to undergo the severity of God’s vengeance, to appease his wrath and satisfy his just judgment” (II.xvi.10).
Human beings have been given laws from God that tell us what we must avoid doing in order to keep from violating God’s holiness. When humans sin, violating those laws, we sin against God himself. Erickson writes, “The law is something of a transcript of the nature of God. When we relate to it, whether positively or negatively,…it is God himself whom we are obeying or disobeying. Disobeying the law is serious…because disobeying it is actually an attack upon the very nature of God himself.” When human beings violate God’s holiness, our sin makes God angry. God must (due to God’s holiness) punish sin. Violated holiness must be satisfied.
According to the logic of retribution, then, inflexible holiness (in effect) governs God’s behavior, and human beings invariably violate that holiness. Because of the fundamental nature of this holiness, God may not freely to act with unconditional mercy and compassion toward rebellious human beings. Simply to forgive would violate God’s holiness. Compassion without satisfaction is not possible for God.
“For God to remove or ignore the guilt of sin without requiring a payment would in effect destroy the very moral fiber of the universe, the distinction between right and wrong.” This framework sees justice as working to sustain the balance of the universe. If human beings upset the balance, justice requires recompense to restore the balance, payment to satisfy the requirements of the balance. We make this payment through punishment, pain for pain.
The doctrine of the atonement enters here. Due to the extremity of the offenses of human beings versus God’s law, God can relate to us only if there is death on the human side to restore the balance. This can happen only through the enormity of the death of God’s own son, Jesus, whose own holiness is so powerful that it can balance out the unholiness of all of humanity.
Human beings, when they confess their own helpless sinfulness, may claim Jesus as their savior from God’s righteous anger. Jesus satisfies God’s retributive justice (pain for pain) on our behalf. Within the logic of retribution, salvation (defined as the restoration of harmony with God) as achieved as the result of violence, is consistent with the basic nature of the universe as founded on impersonal holiness. Salvation happens only because the ultimate act of violence—the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ—satisfies God’s holiness. In this view, God is no pacifist. In fact, it is part of God’s plan that God’s own Son be violently put to death.
In light of this understanding of the nature of God and of the fundamental nature of the universe, the logic of retribution indeed leads to acceptance of “justifiable violence.” Violence may be the best response to violence.
Retributive responses to crime
Punishment involves the intentional infliction of pain and the use of coercion. As a form of violence, punishment by the state requires some justification as it involves the state acting in ways normally considered morally and socially unacceptable.
In Western criminal justice, the overriding justifications given for harsh punishments, even to the point of death, are tied to a belief that requires retributive justice when fundamental natural or divine laws are violated. Such “retributive justice” restores the moral balance. In religious terms, retribution is needed to “satisfy” the need God has that violations be paid for with pain.
The close connection between Western political philosophy and Christian theology dates back to early in the fourth century with the first “Christian” emperor, Constantine, and found powerful theological grounding in the work of Augustine at the end of that century. This connection grew as Western concepts of justice were shaped during the Middle Ages through an interaction between Christian theology and emerging concepts of law. The theology/law interaction deeply influenced Western culture as a whole and helped reinforce a retributive view of justice. And this view powerfully shaped criminal justice practices in Europe and North America.
Between the mid-1800s and the 1970s, the practice of criminal justice in the United States, in some important respects, partially evolved away from strictly retributive justice. David Garland, in his important book, The Culture of Control, argues that an approach he calls the “penal-welfare” model gained ascendancy among criminal justice professionals, with a concern for rehabilitation of offenders and a diminishment of focus on strict punishment. This model, however, never received widespread support among the general population. Because politicians for a long time found it disadvantageous to try to intervene in criminal justice issues due to conventional wisdom that criminal justice was a no-win issue with which to be identified, the prison system was allowed to pursue its own agenda.
However, with a significant increase in the crime rate in the United States following World War II, politicians discovered that “law and order” rhetoric actually gained them popularity. Because the modern criminal justice system did not have a wide constituency, and, probably more importantly, tended to be centralized and bureaucratic and not noticeably effective in reducing the incidents of crime. Hence, when critiques were raised in the 1960s and 1970s, the somewhat ineffective focus on rehabilitation was soon significantly lessened.
Garland traces the strong re-emergence of the retributive approach that has led to an extraordinary transformation of the US criminal justice system. One indication of the sea change in consciousness has been the drastic increase in the incarceration rate from about 100 prisoners per 100,000 population in 1970 to a rate more than seven times that high in 2007—even in the face of little evidence that such an increase actually has fostered increased public safety.
The logic of retribution that became embedded in criminal justice practices by the 19th century, even though mitigated against somewhat during the penal-welfare era, returned with a vengeance in the last quarter of the 20th century.
By making the “satisfaction” of impersonal justice (or, of “God’s impersonal holiness”) the focus of our response to criminal activity, the personal human beings involved—victims, offenders, community members—rarely find wholeness. Moreover, the larger community’s suffering often only increases. Instead of healing of brokenness caused by the offense, we usually find ourselves with an increasing spiral of brokenness. Many victims of violence speak of being victimized again by the impersonal criminal justice system. Offenders, often already alienated, become more deeply alienated by the punitive practices and person-destroying experiences of prisons.
Garland portrays the “culture of control” in criminal justice as a new form of widespread social segregation. The focus now is not so much on rehabilitating and reintegrating offenders, as, to the contrary, on criminal justice practices that emphasize identifying and then isolating offenders. “The prison is used today as a kind of reservation, a quarantine zone in which purportedly dangerous individuals are segregated in the name of public safety.”
Present dynamics emphasize the difference between offenders and law-abiding citizens. Being intrinsically evil or wicked, some offenders are not like us. They are dangerous others who threaten our safety and have no call on our fellow feeling. The appropriate reaction for society is one of social defense: we should defend ourselves against these dangerous enemies rather than concern ourselves with their welfare and prospects for rehabilitation.
James Gilligan asserts, “a society’s prisons serves as a key for understanding the larger society as a whole.” When we look through the “magnifying glass” of the United States prison system, we see a society focused on trying to control violence through violence willingly inflicting incredible suffering on ever more desperate people.
Despite our democratic principles in the United States, our belief that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and our self-identification as a “Christian nation,” the United States leads the world in per capita prison rate. And our lead is rapidly growing.
This exploding prison population faces worsening conditions. Gilligan writes that United States prisons have become “cruel, inhumane, and degrading, with severe overcrowding, frequent rapes and beatings, prolonged and arbitrary use of solitary confinement, grossly unsanitary, disease-inducing living conditions, and deprivation of elementary medical care.”
Our society’s tolerance of these dehumanizing conditions follows from what Gilligan calls the “rational self-interest” theory of violence. According to this theory, human beings decide to use violence based on a rational calculation of costs and benefits. If people understood the costs of wrongdoing to be high enough, they should be deterred from such wrongdoing. It follows from this theory that allowing our prisons to be hellholes will serve to prevent violence by deterring would be wrong-doers.
Robert Hughes, in his account of the settling of Australia, tells a story that illustrates this theory. Australia was founded as a British penal colony in the late 18th century. The British government sought to foster a terrible reputation for Australia, better to help deter crime out of fear of being exiled to the south Pacific—this led to establishing a prison within the prison that would indeed be worthy of even the most hardened criminal’s terror.
Norfolk Island sits in the Pacific Ocean, some 1,000 miles east of the Australian mainland. “Magnificent in scenery, Norfolk Island was also a natural prison, harborless, cliff-bound and girdled with reefs on which the long Pacific swells broke with a ragged, monotonous booming.” Thomas Brisbane, Australia’s governor, under orders from Britain to “prepare a place of ultimate terror for the incorrigibles of the System” made plans to settle Norfolk Island and to establish a prison of last resort from which no escape would be possible.
The settlement of the island began in 1825. The government’s philosophy was concisely expressed by the governor of New South Wales, Ralph Darling: “My object was to hold out that settlement as a place of the extremest Punishment, short of Death.” This object was achieved; Norfolk Island became, in Hughes’ words, “the worst place on earth.”
An indication of the hellishness of Norfolk Island may be seen in the common practice where a group of prisoners would draw straws, designating one man as the murderer, the second the victim, and the rest of the group witnesses. After the killing would happen, since the commander of Norfolk Island did not have the authority to try capital crimes, the murderer and the witnesses had to be sent to Sydney for trial. The prisoners “yearned for the meager relief of getting away from the ‘ocean hell,’ if only to a gallows on the mainland. And in Sydney, there was some slight chance of escape.” After a several years of such murders, the government began sending judges to the Island to try, convict, and hang the murderers there.
The actual purpose of Norfolk Island was not only to punish those unfortunate enough to be sent there but, even more so to make an impression on those who could potentially be sent there. “Norfolk Island held a thousand convicts, but its real use was the intimidation of tens of thousands more. If it was not ‘demonic,’ it would have been as useless a deterrent as a gallows with no rope. Mercy on the mainland needed the background of terror elsewhere.”
Alexander Maconichie, Professor of Geography at University College, London, traveled to Australia in 1837 to investigate the treatment of prisoners. His report condemned the System, which he believed “debased free and bond alike.” This report ended up in the hands of John Russell, the British governmental official in charge of the British penal system. Russell, who himself opposed the System of transportation of convicts to Australia, saw Maconochie’s report as ammunition for his quest to reform, so he had it distributed widely.
As a consequence, in 1840 Maconochie was appointed head of Norfolk Island and given the chance test his philosophy that prisons should rehabilitate more than punish. Maconochie’s initial encounter with the prisoners gave him hope. As Maconachie explained that his role was not to be their torturer but to help the men change their lives, the prisoners began to cheer. According to one witness, “from that instant all crimes disappeared. The Old Hands from that moment were a different race of beings.”
Maconachie dismantled the gallows, which had stood as a permanent emblem of dread outside the gate of the prisoners’ barracks. He threw away the special double-loaded cats used by the floggers. The island had never had a church, but now Maconachie built two, one for the Catholics and the other for the Protestants, each accommodating 450 men… He gave every man a plot of rich soil, set up classes in vegetable and fruit gardening…and encouraged them to sell their surplus to the officers.
Maconochie seems to have met with remarkable success in rehabilitating the “worst of the worst” criminals. Under his administration, 920 prisoners were discharged to freedom in Syndey. As of 1845 (two years after Maconochie’s leadership of Norfolk Island had ended), only 20 of them had been convicted of new crimes.
However, British officials recalled Maconichie in 1843, after only three years as commandant. The increase in crime rates in Britain during the 1830s and early 1840s led to more harsh prison practices, including more support for having a symbol of the threat of extreme terror as a crime deterrent. Norfolk Island filled this requirement.
Maconochie was succeeded by John Giles Price, “the most notorious of all the commandants of Norfolk Island.” In contrast to Maconochie’s opening words to the prisoners in 1841 that elicited the applause of hopefulness, Price’s opening words surely elicited only despair: “I am come here to rule, and by God I’ll do so and tame or kill you. I know you are cowardly dogs, and I’ll make you worry and eat one another.”
In time, knowledge of Price’s extreme brutality led governmental leaders, who did not necessarily themselves oppose such treatment of prisoners, to fear that Price “might become a serious embarrassment to the Crown” and to remove him from his position in 1853. He moved on to lead another prison, where in 1857 a group of aggrieved inmates murdered him.
The government closed the prison on Norfolk Island shortly after Price left. Britain’s practice of sending convicts to Australia eventually stopped in 1871.
The story of Norfolk Island illustrates the logic of retribution. The purpose of Norfolk Island, as became clear with the rejection of Maconochie’s fruitful efforts to rehabilitate the prisoners, centered neither on the reform of offenders nor on protection of society from the dangers of recidivistic convicts. Rather, Norfolk Island served as the symbol of ultimate terror—regardless of the costs to the actual prisoners who suffered mightily at the hands of the brutal administrators of the Island.
Ironically, it would appear that treating prisoners with brutality actually puts the broader society more at risk. James Gilligan argues that “if the purpose of imprisonment were to socialize men to become as violent as possible—both while they are there and after they return to the community—we could hardly find a more effective way to accomplish it than what we do.” Treating people violently makes them more violent. A large amount of the violence that is part of our criminal justice practices is segregated behind prison walls and invisible to the outside world. However, since nine out of every ten prisoners eventually return to society, treating prisoners violently and thereby making them more violent endangers all of us.
Psychologist Alice Miller makes an analogous point in her critique of the use of corporal punishment on children. Punishing wrong doing, responding to violence with violence, only socializes children to become more violent. Even if violent punishment occurs in the early years of a child’s life and is segregated from the outside world, it sets off ripples that in time foster more violence in general.
Gilligan, too, sees a direct connection between people being treated violently as children and later acting violently themselves. He states that the strongest predictor he has found for men being violent is their own being treated violently, as children. “Violence does not occur spontaneously or without a cause, it only occurs when somebody does something that causes it. Therefore, all we need to do to prevent violence is to stop doing what we have been doing to cause it.” The logic of retribution is not an answer to the problem of violence; it is one of the central causes.
Nonetheless, we remain in the grip of that logic in our criminal justice practices—with many negative consequences:
1) Our culture’s growing social fragmentation is exacerbated by the “othering” of convicted criminals. David Garland calls this the “criminology of the other.” We have incentives not to treat criminals as understandable, for then they would enter into our domain, we would humanize them, seeing “ourselves in them and them in ourselves. The criminology of the other encourages us to be prepared to condemn more and understand less.”
2) We pour an ever higher percentage of increasingly scare governmental resources into our prison system. Ironically, one effect of reducing public investments in education, job creation, and other means of heightening the stake citizens have in our society is to make crime more attractive for ever more needy people.
3) With the growing privatizing of prisons, we foster a more austere system with fewer resources available to make prison life humane and a means for rehabilitation—plus, we make corruption and profiteering more likely.
4) The combination of the extraordinary growth of the imprisonment rate with punitive laws that permanently, in many states, disenfranchise convicted criminals, leads to a rapidly growing segment of the population that has no sense of being vested in the wider society. This sense of alienation, ironically fostered in the name of public safety, actually makes all of us less secure.
5) More broadly, beyond literal disenfranchisement, all convicts are given a lifetime stigma few will escape. They will spend the rest of their lives with the identity of “ex-con” living with a “debt to society” they are never allowed to repay.
6) In general, the prison system increasingly serves as a breeding ground for more violence. We may see a direct relationship between the reduction of the role of prisons as a context for education in usable life skills (apparently the best predictor that convicts will not return to prison after release is if they have earned a college degree while in prison) and the increase in the role of prisons as a context for de facto education in violence.
7) Disturbing evidence is growing to show that our present population of long-term prisoners is becoming a ticking time bomb due to high incidents of communicative diseases that are likely to spread to the wider population in time.
Journalist Wil S. Hylton gives details for one example of the likelihood of a major public health problem within the prisons spreading to the broader society in his article, “Sick on the Inside: Correctional HMOs and the Coming Prison Plague.” Hylton details how health care for United States prisoners has been poor to non-existent, in part due to privatization of the health care and other cost cutting measures. One consequence is a growing risk that a Hepatitis C epidemic in the prisons will spread to the wider society (remembering, again, that nine out of ten prisoners will eventually be released). “Somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of American prisoners are, at this very moment, infected with Hepatitis C, and therefore quite contagious.”
However, the prison system presently does very little to screen for the disease among prisoners in most states. And even for the few who may be diagnosed, treatment is quite difficult to obtain. As infected prisoners are released, the United States likely will face a drastic increase in Hepatitis C infections in the broader society. Our society’s focus on punishment endangers everyone.
James Gilligan argues, ultimately, that nothing stimulates crime as powerfully and effectively as punishment. “Punishment is a form of violence in its own right, but it is also a cause of violence.” Punishment makes people more violent.
The spiral of violence intensifies. People hurt others, then the state hurts the violator, partly by setting the violator in a culture of extreme violence (the prison) that further socializes the violent person to be violent. Eventually, often more severely damaged than when entering prison, the violator returns to society primed for more violence.
We may begin to break free from these destructive dynamics when we recognize that the notion of ultimate reality that underlies the retributive justice paradigm is a human construct. These ideas about God are human ideas. The notions of God and ultimate reality that underlie the retributive paradigm outlined above are not set in concrete.
The ever-deepening and destructive spiral that results from responding to violence with violence need not be inevitable. The spiral may be resisted, even broken, because its ideological basis has no ontological standing but is simply based on human ideas—ideas that may be challenged and refuted.
For Christians, recognizing the humanness of all theology does not leave us without criteria for ascertaining better and worse theological constructions. Our confession of Jesus as the definitive revelation of God gives us a clear sense of direction concerning which theologies contain truth and which do not.
The source of our problem might actually provide a way to overcome it. Herman Bianchi argues that we should use “homeopathic therapy.” He states that maybe it will take a dose of what made us sick to cure us. Since an interpretation of theology got us into this “illness” we have outlined above, Bianchi suggests that it may well take a dose of theology to heal us.
At the heart of the logic of retribution we find assumptions about God’s holiness and justice that make salvation a matter of sacrificial violence that in some sense balances out the evil human beings have done. In this paradigm, violence is necessary for God to be appeased; God requires violence. In such a world we find inevitable links between the belief that God requires violence in response to violence and the justification of human beings (acting for God) serving as agents of such required violence against other human beings.
As an alternative to retribution-oriented views of salvation that reflect an understanding of God as desiring violence, we may construct an understanding of salvation that has no need for violence (ultimately, even, no place for violence). Then we may be in a better position to refute the logic of retribution as it is applied to criminal justice policies.
While recognizing that the Bible does not offer a simple, totally unified understanding of salvation, we may find less of a gulf between the Old Testament portrayal of sacrifice (as it was intended to be) and the prophetic perspective than many expect. The Old Testament actually presents sacrifice as being fairly analogous to how it presents the law. Both instances are not means to salvation so much as responses to God’s saving initiative.
Salvation in the Old Testament is not linked with a will of God for violence. Rather, salvation in the Old Testament expresses God’s mercy, period. Sacrifice plays the role of helping people show their commitment to God as a response to God’s saving works—just as following the law helps people show their commitment to God as a response to God’s saving works (on this see most clearly Exodus 20:1-2 where Moses prefaces the Ten Commandments with the confession of God’s saving work already expressed).
In the Old Testament, the beginning point in thinking about salvation is God’s purely gracious saving intervention. Nothing needs to be appeased or in any other sense changed within God before God will act to save. The changes that need to happen for salvation to be effected are strictly on the human side. Sacrifice as it was meant to be understood, and the Law as it was meant to be understood, are about the human side of the dynamic.
The prophetic understanding of salvation does not repudiate sacrifice per se, but rather underscores that salvation from the beginning in the Old Testament is strictly a gift from God, initiated by God, and appropriated first by trust in God alone (that is, a rejection of idols) and then actualized through sacrifice and obedience to the law.
We then find in Jesus’ own teaching full compatibility with the Old Testament’s understanding of salvation. Jesus’ teaching did not portray God as needing an act of violence in order to establish a restored relationship with human beings. Jesus reflects the ideas of the prophets (and actually, the ideas of most of the Old Testament) when he is twice recorded as quoting Hosea’s words, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; 12:7)
Jesus’ death is not best understood as being a necessary sacrifice in order to satisfy God’s honor, to placate God’s holiness, or to balance the scales of justice. If the basis for salvation is simply God’s mercy, then Jesus’ death loses much of the theological meaning that traditional theology assigns it.
The basic meaning of Jesus’ death is that his death exposes the Powers that put him to death and reveals that these powers are rivals to the true God. That is, we find in Jesus’ death the bases for anti-idolatry, disillusionment with the central principalities and powers that seek to dominate human life and to separate people from God. The death of Jesus reveals the difference between the reign of God and the rule of evil. Evil uses violence, and God’s reign does not.
The saving significance of Jesus’ resurrection may be found in how it vindicates Jesus’ life, reveals the powers as idols, and promises that trust in God’s love is the source of empowerment to find freedom from idols and restoration of harmony with God.
The Bible portrays the means of salvation as free from sacred violence. Hence, we appropriately affirm that God never desires violence. This affirmation of God’s rejection of violence takes the ground out from the logic of retribution and should lead people of faith actively to seek alternatives to the various justifications of violence as the appropriate response to violence.
1. An earlier version of this essay was published in Justice Reflections 10 (December 2005), 1-25.
2. James Gilligan, Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes (New York: Putnam, 1996).
3. Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984), 802.
4. Cited in John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 120.
5. Erickson, Christian, 803.
6. Erickson, Christian, 816.
7. Erickson, Christian, 804.
8. This evolution was paralleled in Europe. See the story of the gradual movement to abolish the death penalty in Great Britain—Harry Potter, Hanging in Judgment: Religion and the Death Penalty in England (New York: Continuum, 1993). Potter shows that for many years once the movement to abolish the death penalty in Britain emerged in the early 19th century, it was opposed by the hierarchy of the Church of England. The final step that enabled death penalty abolitionists to win turned out to be a change of perspective among church leaders.
9. David Garland, The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).
10. See Howard Zehr, Transcending: Reflections of Crime Victims (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2001).
11. Garland, The Culture of Control, 178.
12. Garland, The Culture of Control, 184.
13. Gilligan, Violence, 185.
14. Gilligan, Violence, 23-24. See also Garland, Culture, 130.
15. Gilligan, Violence, 94-95.
16. Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding (New York: Knopf, 1987), see especially pages 460-551. See also John Hirst, “The Australian Experience: The Convict Colony,” in Norval Morris and David J. Rothman, eds., The Oxford History of the Prison (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 236-265, especially 260-262.
17. Hughes, Fatal, 455.
18. Hughes, Fatal, 456-57.
19. Hughes, Fatal, 468.
20. Hughes, Fatal, 484.
21. Hughes, Fatal, 490.
22. Hughes, Fatal, 502-3.
23. Hughes, Fatal, 510.
24. Hughes, Fatal, 519.
25. Hughes, Fatal, 544.
26. Hughes, Fatal, 549-50.
27. Gilligan, Violence, 155.
28. See Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1984). A similar argument from an anthropological perspective that using violence on people actually makes them more likely to be violent is made by Ashley Montagu, The Nature of Human Aggression (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976). See also, Philip Greven, Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse (New York: Knopf, 1991) and, from an overtly theological perspective, Donald Capps, The Child’s Song: The Religious Abuse of Children (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995).
29. Gilligan, Violence, 25.
30. James Gilligan, Preventing Violence (New York: Thames and Hidson, 2001), 20.
31. Garland, Culture, 184.
32. As Eugene Bianchi writes, “once a crime has been committed there is no forgiveness, and no activity of the offenders can bring them back into the community, not even passive submission to the harm we inflict on them” (Justice as Sanctuary: Toward a New System of Crime Control [Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1984], 29-30).
33. James Gilligan, Preventing Violence (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2001), 98-99. According to Gilligan, separate studies in the Massachusetts, Indiana, and California prison systems all showed that “not one prisoner who had acquired a college degree while in prison had been reincarcerated for a new crime.”
34. Wil S. Hylton, “Sick on the Inside: Correctional HMOs and the Coming Prison Plague,” Harper’s Magazine (August 2003): 43-54.
35. Hylton, “Sick,” 45.
36. Gilligan, Violence, 184.
37. Bianchi, Justice, 2.
38. See Timothy Gorringe, God’s Just Vengeance: Crime, Violence, and the Rhetoric of Salvation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
39 This, of course, is not to claim that the Old Testament explicitly rejects all violence. However, if salvation itself is understood as being nonviolent, the way is cleared to see Jesus’ rejection of violence as in continuity with the core biblical salvation story—in fact, as its logical outcome.
40. See J. Denny Weaver, The Nonviolent Atonement (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001) and Michael Hardin and Brad Jersek, eds., Stricken by God? Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007).