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The Making Of A Nation by Charles Foster Kent

STUDY III THE CRIMINAL AND HIS RELATION TO SOCIETY.

THE STORY OF CAIN. -- Gen.4:1-16.

Parallel Readings.

Hist. Bible, Vol.1, 42-46.
Jenks, Prin. of Pol.1-16.
August Drahms, The Criminal.

Now in the course of time it came to pass, that Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground as an offering to Jehovah. And Abel also brought some of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat. And Jehovah looked favorably upon Abel and his offering: but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.

Therefore, Cain was very angry and his countenance fell. And Jehovah said to Cain,

Why art thou angry?
And why is thy countenance fallen?
If thou doest well, is there not acceptance?
But if thou doest not well,
Does not sin crouch at the door?
And to thee shall be its desire,
But thou shouldst rule over it.

Then Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go into the field. And while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him.

And when Jehovah said to Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? he said, I, know not; am I my brother's keeper. -- Gen.4:3-9 (Hist. Bible).

And the Scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman taken in adultery; and having set her in the midst, they say unto Jesus, Teacher, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such: what then sayest thou of her? And this they said trying him, that they might have whereof to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground. And when they continued asking him, he lifted himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground. And they, when they heard it, went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And Jesus lifted himself up and said unto her, Woman, where are they? Did no man condemn thee? And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn thee. Go thy way; from henceforth sin no more. -- John 8:3-11.

Every experiment by multitudes or individuals that has a sensual or selfish aim will fail. -- Emerson.

When you meet one of these men or women be to them a Divine man; be to them thought and virtue; let their timid aspirations find in you a friend; let their trampled instincts be genially tempted out in your atmosphere; let their doubts know that you have doubted, and their wonder feel that you have wondered. -- Emerson.

But I still have a good heart and believe in myself and fellow men and the God who made us all. -- Robert Louis Stevenson.

I.

THE MEANING OF THE STORY OF CAIN.

In Arabia and Palestine to-day, as in the past, a man's prosperity or misfortune is universally regarded as the evidence of divine approval or disapproval. Even Jesus' disciples on seeing a blind man by the wayside, raised the question: |Did this man sin or his parents?| Among the Arabs of the desert the tribal mark, either tattooing or a distinctive way of cutting the hair, insures the powerful protection of the tribe. Each tribesman is under the most sacred obligation to protect the life of a member of his tribe, or to avenge, if need be with his own life-blood, every injury done him. Without the tribal mark a man becomes an outlaw. Many scholars, therefore, think that the mark placed upon Cain was not primarily a stigma proclaiming his guilt, but rather a token that protected him from violence at the hands of Jehovah's people and compelled them to avenge any wrongs that might befall him.

In the light of these facts would it not seem possible that Cain's character and conduct are the reason why his offering was not accepted?

What is the meaning and purpose of Jehovah's question, Where is Abel thy brother? Is it probable that in the question, Am I my brother's keeper, the writer intended to assert the responsibility of society for the acts of its members? In China where to-day, far more than in the West, there exists the responsibility of neighbors, those who fail to exert the proper influence over the character and conduct of a criminal neighbor often have their houses razed to the ground and the sites sown with salt. Is society responsible for producing criminals? How far am I personally responsible for my neighbor's acts?

II.

THE MAKING OF A CRIMINAL.

Paul said, |All men have sinned.| Are all men therefore criminals? What constitutes a criminal? Was Cain a criminal before he slew his brother? Legally? Morally?

Was Cain's motive in the worship of God truly religious or merely mercenary? This portrait of Cain illustrates the fact that formal religious worship does not necessarily deter a man from becoming a criminal. Sometimes men prominent in religious work become defaulters or commit other crimes. Does this story suggest the fundamental reason why great crimes are sometimes committed by religious leaders? The motive rather than the form is clearly the one thing absolutely essential in religious worship.

Was the slaying of Abel the result simply of jealousy or a sudden fit of anger or of a gradual deterioration of character? Compare the gradual development of the criminal instincts in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Think of the different influences tending to make criminals! Most criminals are made before they reach the age of twenty-one. The development of the criminal is the result either of wrong education or the lack of right education. Parents by their failure to guard carefully their children's associates and to develop in them habits of self-control, respect for the rights of others, and a sense of social and civic obligation, are perhaps more than any other class responsible for the growth of criminals. In what ways does the State through its negligence also contribute to the making of criminals?

III.

THE CRIMINAL'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS SOCIETY.

Every criminal act is anti-social. Few if any criminals realize this fact. A superintendent of the Elmira Reformatory after years of experience said that he had never seen a criminal who felt remorse; while criminals usually regretted being caught, they always excused their crime. The criminal repudiates his social obligations, not acknowledging the fact that the basis of all society is the recognition of the rights of others. The thief often excuses his acts by asserting that society owes him a living. Is this position right or do you agree with the following statement? |The criterion of what is for the benefit of the community at large must be settled by the community itself, not by an individual. The citizen, then, may and must do what the community determines it is best for him to do; he must stand in the forefront of battle if so ordered. He must not do what the State forbids; he may be deprived of liberty and life if he does.| -- Jenks.

IV.

THE WAYS IN WHICH SOCIETY DEALS WITH THE CRIMINAL.

Cain's punishment was banishment rather than imprisonment. What was the fate that Cain specially feared? Cain and Abel in the original story, some writers believe, represented tribes (see Hist. Bible, I, 44). Among nomadic peoples in the early East, as to-day, the punishment of murder was left to the family or tribe of the murdered man. Was this just or effective? The same crude method of avenging wrongs is found in the vendetta of Italy and the family feuds in certain sparsely settled regions in the United States. The survival of this institution is to-day one of the greatest obstacles to civilization in those regions. Why?

In most criminal legislation the chief emphasis is placed on punishment. For example, thieves are punished with imprisonment. Why? A radical change in public opinion is now taking place. The prevailing method of dealing with crimes advocated by penologists to-day is the protection of society if possible by the reform of the criminal. Does this method protect society effectually? Why is it that criminals generally prefer a definite term in prison rather than an indefinite sentence with the possibility of release in less than half the time? Which method of treatment is best in the end for the wrong-doer?

It is important to distinguish clearly between the private and the official attitude toward the criminal. As individuals, who cannot know the motives, we should heed the maxim of Jesus: |Judge not!| As public officials whose duty it is to protect society, we are under obligation to deal firmly and effectively with the criminal. What would probably have been the result had Cain confessed his crime? God was far more lenient even with the unrepentant Cain than were his fellow men. Did God, however, remit Cain's sentence? Cain said, |I shall become a fugitive and a wanderer on the face of the earth.| Was this sense of being an outcast the most painful element in Cain's punishment? All crime thus in a sense brings its own punishment. If in placing upon Cain a tribal mark, thereby protecting him from being killed, God apparently aimed to give him an opportunity to reform, the clear implication is that the divine love and care still follow him. That love and that care never cease toward even the most depraved. Compare Jesus' attitude toward the criminal, as illustrated in his ministry and especially in his dealing with the woman taken in adultery. His forgiveness of the woman's sin did not cancel the social results, but gave her a new basis for right living in the future. She realized that some one believed in her. Is this one of the most important influences to-day in assisting weak men and in redeeming criminals? Henry Drummond when asked the secret of his success with men said, |I love men.|

V.

HOW TO DEAL WITH CRIMINALS.

The purpose of criminal legislation and administration is clearly the protection of society. The criminals are punished, not for the mere sake of the punishment or for vengeance, but to deter them from further crime or to serve as a warning to others. Only on this account can punishment be justified.

To prove an effective warning the punishment for crime should be certain, prompt and just. For these reasons effective police, upright judges and fair methods of procedure are absolutely essential. Efforts should be made not to influence the courts by public opinion, and the pernicious prejudgment of cases by popular newspapers should be discountenanced.

The surest method of stopping a criminal's dangerous activity is to reform him; to give him a new and absorbing interest. Experience at our best reformatories shows that with the indeterminate sentence a very large majority of young criminals can be transformed into safe and useful citizens. This method is both cheaper and more effective than direct punishment for fixed terms.

VI.

THE PREVENTION OF CRIME.

The best method of dealing with crime is that of prevention. The work of protecting society against crime should begin with arousing parents to the sense of their responsibilities and by training them thoroughly in the duties of parenthood. Philanthropic agencies, the church, the schools, the State, may do much both by training character and by removing temptation. The maintenance of good economic conditions, provision for wholesome amusements, improved sanitation, all tend to remove pernicious influences and strengthen the power of resistance to temptation. The public press and the theatre, which are at times exceedingly harmful agencies, may be and should be transformed into active moral forces. In furthering all these reform measures and preventive movements each individual has a personal responsibility, and, as an active citizen, he may render most important service. The home, the school, the church and the State, all touch the individual on every side and create and together control the influences that make or unmake character.

Questions for Further Consideration.

What was the effect of Cain's anger upon his own life?

Gladstone said, |I do not have time to hate anybody.|

In what way do anger and hatred hamper one's greatest usefulness? Do you believe in the modern theories regarding the effect of jealousy and hatred upon the body?

Is capital punishment at times a necessity?

What is the most effective argument which can be used to restore honor and manhood to a criminal?

Is there any particular agency at work in your community to assist men who have committed crimes?

Is the chief object of punishment to avenge the wrong, to punish the criminal, to deter others from committing similar crimes, or to reclaim the wrong-doer?

Subjects for Further Study.

(1) The Effect of the Semitic Law of Blood-revenge upon (a) the criminal, (b) society and (c) possible criminals. Kent, Israel's Laws and Legal Precedents, 91, 114-116; Smith, Religion of the Semites, 72, 420.

(2) Mrs. Ballington Booth's Work for Released Prisoners. After Prison -- What?

(3) The Practical Effects of the Indeterminate Sentence. Reports of the Prison Reform Association.

(4) Influence of Contract Prison Labor. American Magazine, 1912, Jan., Feb., Mar., April.

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