...so tell us about the last time your church community practiced reconciliation and restoration with a local convict.
How receptive was he or she to the experience?
How did the church community react or respond to the divergences in values, perspective and expectation between itself and its new member?
What was the long-term plan in terms of providing on-going spiritual and social skills development and support? As well as job-skills, not to mention finding an employer who was willing to hire this person?
It's a great concept, the church being the organ of reconciliation, but the bottom line is that the local congregation is made of people. Those same people are members of the same society which has bought into the flimsy "tough-on-crime/soft-on-crime" approach to justice and in the process contributed to the development of a massive prison complex. Those same people who put bumper stickers on their cars that say "meet me in church on Sunday"—they sure as heck don't mean You/Me, the convicted child molester; You/Me, the mentally ill former addict; You/Me, the unkempt; You/Me, the bitter; You/Me, born a wonderfully unique person whose circumstances led You/Me to make choices that seemed as natural and as reasonable as selecting white or whole wheat bread.
If the church truly wishes to be an organ of justice and reconciliation, it should begin at the beginning, before there is a need to reconcile. A congregation which limits its concept of justice and reconciliation to a rescue operation without a serious focus on examining its role in the society which creates criminals is not practicing justice. It's showcasing or grandstanding. It’s playing with Godliness, dabbling in good works. It’s naïve. It’s self-serving.
It's padding the “good-works” side of the ledger with feel-good projects while ignoring the rickety foundation of its own unwillingness to create change where it counts: In our own, personal attitudes; what we teach our children; and the social values we are willing to tolerate in the name of politics.