One of America's greatest liabilities is crime, not only in the cost of property loss and damage but the lives impacted by lawless acts. The best solution for America's crime problem can be seen when a criminal is transformed through faith in Jesus. In fact, it does quite often, usually under the radar.
Case in point: Hillary Jones of Marysville, California — about two hours north of San Francisco — used to steal. She used to be a heroin addict and was homeless.
Then she became pregnant. Determined to have an abortion, she contacted Planned Parenthood. First, she had to prove she was pregnant.
She told me, "as far as Planned Parenthood goes, if you don't have money or insurance, they won't see you. I needed the verification to get insurance for the abortion."
So she knowingly went into A Woman's Friend clinic, a pro-life center, assuming she could stop up her ears, not hear what they were saying — and walk out with a certificate proving her pregnancy. But once she saw her unborn son on the sonogram, she was sold on giving him life.
The kindness Hillary experienced at A Woman's Friend changed her life in all ways. They really cared about her, and she knew it.
Even after she was arrested when her crimes caught up with her, volunteers from A Woman's Friend kept in touch with her.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then consider the before and after pictures of Hillary Jones — taken within about two years of each other.
Today Hillary is no longer homeless. She lives with her mother with whom she has reconciled.
When she walked into the pregnancy care center, she was an atheist. Today she is a believer in Jesus Christ.
When she came there, she was determined to abort. Today she is so grateful she gave her one-year old son Adam life. He is the joy of her life.
She told me, "I don't even know where I'd be right now without him. I love him so much and he gives me this motivation that I never had and he has changed my life and God has just blessed me with my beautiful boy."
She said, "I know several women, who have been in my situation, and they chose abortion and they regret that now. They go through their lives sad."
Hillary used to be a liability to society. Today she is an asset and on her way toward a career, hopefully, in nursing. The loving, Christian counsel from A Woman's Friend changed her in all ways.
Hillary's story is representative of the fact that Jesus changes sinners. By redeeming them, He sets them on a new path. And we all benefit, even the unbelievers.
Dr. Rodney Stark's book, America's Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists (Templeton Press, 2012), documents the positive impact of religion (for the most part, Christianity) on society. Stark teaches at Baylor University. His colleague at Baylor, Byron Johnson, wrote the 2011 book, More God, Less Crime.
Stark observes, "At all ages, religious people are much less likely to commit crimes."
Stark writes: "Americans benefit immensely from being an unusually religious people — blessings that not only fall upon believers but also on those Americans who most oppose religion. In America, militant atheists are far less likely to have their homes broken into or to be robbed on their way to work than they would be in an irreligious society, because of the powerful deterrent effects of religion on crime."
He said that because of the bias of academics and the media, the benefits of Christianity on society are not well known or articulated. But they are there.
For instance, Stark notes, "those who attend church are less likely to have shoplifted … As for 'violent America,' the assault rate in [irreligious] Sweden is about three-and-a-half-times that of the United States…"
And he adds, "All Americans are safer and their property more secure because this is such a religious nation …. the higher the church membership of a city, the lower its crime rates."
The amazing thing is that Stark even quantifies the blessings of religion at the end of the book. He attempts to put a price tag on it. The biggest savings are in the realms of crime prevention and reduction.
He writes, "Even if individual religiousness contributes more than $2.6 trillion in savings to the United States every year. I suggest that the intangible blessings on American life provided by our unusually high level of religiousness are worth far more."
Hillary is a living reminder that if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. "The old has passed away. Behold, all things are made new."