Crime Surge in the South Sparks Pastors to Take Action
A report from January revealed that the state of Louisiana currently has the second highest homicide rate in the nation. Rising crime across the South has led pastors to become increasingly concerned, and Family Research Council led a gathering of pastors in Baton Rouge Friday to pray for a revival and plan for a renewed focus on reducing crime in the Bayou State.
Louisiana has had a long history of high murder rates, with sociologists and historians attributing the causes to consistently high poverty rates, poor education rates, a cultural distrust of law enforcement, drug trafficking, and a pattern of festering feuds that often end up in settling disputes and scores with violence. But at the Baton Rouge pastors briefing, the underlying cause for rising violent crime and drug use was pinpointed as spiritual in nature.
“[T]here’s a lot of discussion nationally about fentanyl and what it’s doing and how we’ve got to shut the border down,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “But why are people taking drugs? There’s an underlying issue here that is strictly a spiritual issue. And so we can talk about whether we cut off the supply or whether we deal with the demand. And that’s where the church comes in. You know, why are people violent? Why is there anger? Why are these things occurring? Our law enforcement can only do so much. There is a role for the pastors to play in this nation and in this community.”
Perkins encouraged the pastors to increase their spiritual engagement with the crime issue.
“Complacency, I believe, is the worst enemy of the church,” he emphasized. “But when we begin to be stirred and we realize that we have a responsibility in the church, begin to pray in earnest, around the clock, things begin to happen. And I believe that’s what’s going to be required if we’re going to see our city, our state, and this nation changed. And I’m grateful for … those elected leaders who are not telling the church to step back, but to step in. And that’s what we have in Sheriff Gautreaux.”
East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux addressed the gathering by also pointing out the spiritual battle that is raging in America.
“It is no secret that we are constantly embattled in spiritual warfare and that there is a spiritual power behind crime,” he underscored. “The enemy wants us to be distracted by things of this world. He wants to distract us from seeking God’s divine purpose and intervention in our lives and in our communities. … We must be prayerful in our planning, and we must be united in our purpose. … I think that holds true in all categories of life. I believe that prayer is one of the most important steps to unity.”
Gautreaux went on to describe how he felt called to minister to prisoners under his watch despite legal threats.
“[W]hen I remodeled our headquarters … I put a chapel in there for all denominations,” he explained. “… I got the letter from [a] New York [organization] for separation of church and state. We had to ‘decease immediately.’ We got another letter. Well, we never responded. And I told our attorneys, ‘I’m not responding to that. Don’t even let them push the issue because we’re still going forward.’ We never heard back from them. So, you know, God is alive and well in the parish [county] prison.”
Gautreaux further related an analogy to illustrate how the foundational support systems of society have been broken down, which has led to a breakdown in law and order. “[W]hen I was growing up — I’ll use a triangle analogy. The base of that triangle was my home. One side was my church, and one side was my school. And I got the same message no matter where I was in that triangle — right over wrong, good over evil. Do the right thing no matter what the cost. And if I didn’t, I had [to face the] consequences.”
But in today’s culture, Gautreaux noted, that system is often absent. “These young people that we’re dealing with today, that triangle is broken at best. It’s usually a single mother or in many cases, a grandmother who is working two and three jobs just to put a roof over their head and food on the table. They’re not in church. They’re not in school. So where are they getting the message? They’re not.”
The sheriff then related the story of a young man involved in crime who told him that he could make more money in one hour dealing drugs than he could working 40 hours at a fast-food restaurant. “To me, [the societal breakdown] started when we took prayer out of school,” he said. “That was the beginning. Then we had the breakdown of the families. You know, family units [it’s] sad to say, but in so many places, they don’t even exist anymore. … It all starts at home.”
Gautreaux then emphasized the need for community members from all walks of life to pitch in in the fight against rising crime. “[W]ith God, all things are possible. … [W]e can make a difference, and we will make a difference. Evil cannot prevail in this world. It’s always been with us, and it always will be. But it’s because of people such as yourselves, Christians, who stand up against evil and preach the Word of God. … We need y’all’s help so much. [We need] the legislature [to] enact laws … but if you don’t have the people out there in the community that’s doing the work for you, it doesn’t happen.”
The importance of prison ministry was also highlighted by one pastor, who pointed out that if prison ministers are able to engage in one-on-one ministry with prisoners and tie them to a church before they get released, there is only a 20% chance that they will return to prison.
At the conclusion of the briefing, the pastors agreed to organize a prayer event focused on confronting rising crime to be held on October 21 in Louisiana.
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.