Skip to main content

Mere Orthodoxy exists to create media for Christian renewal. Support this mission today.

baby steps on criminal justice reform

December 14th, 2018 | 1 min read

By Matthew Loftus

Emma Green looks at the conservative Christian push for the First Step Act and the pushback from other Christian leaders wary of working with Trump on anything — and leaving the underlying issues unaddressed:

Conservative religious leaders like Colson saw prisoners as a natural audience for outreach ministries “because prisons are theoretically supposed to be spaces of personal transformation,” Griffith said. An opportunity to help people remake their lives fits neatly into the idiom of evangelicalism, which is focused on personal salvation. This logic has been clear in evangelical leaders’ recent calls for Congress to act on the first step Act: Reed called it “a first step to a redemptive justice system.”

Other Christian clergy have been wary of Trump’s push for reform, however. They are skeptical that working with the president on anything, even an issue they care about, will be helpful to the people they serve. In August, Trump hosted a meeting of “inner-city pastors”—mostly black leaders from charismatic or Pentecostal-leaning churches—to talk about criminal-justice issues. “I went because I believe I was sent,” said John Gray, a South Carolina pastor, on CNN. “Alignment, or even speaking, does not mean agreement. Dialogue does not mean agreement. Sitting at the table does not mean agreement.”

Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at