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Participants' Guide


Leaders' Guide


Leaders' Notes



Criminality, Scapegoating, and Retribution vs. Restoration

(TNJC ch.1, Genesis 3)



The Lockdown

(TNJC ch.2, Leviticus 24:17 - 22 vs.

Code of Hammurabi on equal human rights)



The Color of Justice

(TNJC ch.3, Jewish Law vs.

Western Law on torture and self-incrimination)



The Restoration of Dignity

(TNJC ch.4, Leviticus 25:1 - 55)



How God Restores Our Human Dignity

(Leviticus 25:1 - 55)



Some Problems With Prisons

(Isaiah 59:1 - 21)



Considering Drug Regulation vs. Criminalization

(Isaiah 53:4 - 12) 

Related Resources


(Amazon book, 1996)

An account of the role Calvinist theology played in producing a God of retributive justice - and retributive sentencing - wherever it went. A minority of Calvin scholars argue that Calvin's Institutes can be read as not supporting retributive justice. While I remain skeptical, the tradition is unambiguously retributive. See also Wayne Northey, Book Review of God's Just Vengeance (


(Amazon book, Nov 17, 1999)


Wayne Northey, Presentation on Spirituality of Penal Abolition

(ICOPA IX, May 2000) a paper on, contains a concise summary of Christian history


(Amazon book, Nov 29, 2000)


(Amazon book, 2001)


(Amazon book, 2008)

A sobering account of how Western Christians developed the blood theory of race, taking biblical Israel as a "race" when in reality it was a multi-ethnic faith community; important for Christians to own


(Amazon book, 2008)


(Amazon book, 2010)

A brilliant storytelling of key encounters between Western Christians and African and Native American people; important for Christians to own since colonialism and race (with natural science) went together


(Amazon book, 2010) and Youtube audiobook

Bestselling diagnosis of how constitutional protections and early Supreme Court precedents have evaporated because of the War on Drugs. See also Greg Thomas, Why Some People Like the New Jim Crow So Much (blog, Apr 26, 2012), for Malcolm X style criticism of Alexander's TNJC which is more expansive than her constitutional argument about procedural justice.



(Amazon book, Dec 29, 2011)

This is a remarkable book for its head-on criticism of penal substitutionary atonement and the theory of divine retributive justice. Snyder-Belousek is strong on exegesis, and argues persuasively for divine restorative justice, although it is not as clear as I would like about Scripture as a whole, and also theology in early church history. This book review by Stephen D. Morrison is helpful.


(Amazon book, Aug 31, 2011)

Examines the criminal justice system in broader perspective: different budgetary and funding incentives for law enforcement agencies; the role of the prosecutor; pivotal Supreme Court cases that made racial discrimination acceptable; etc.


(Amazon book, 2012)


(Amazon book, 2014)


(Amazon book, 2014) 


(Amazon book, Jun 10, 2015) 


(Harvard Divinity School, Oct 19 - 20, 2017)


(Amazon book, Feb 6, 2018)


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Catholic Faith and the Urgency of Criminal Justice Reform (America: The Jesuit Review, Jun 27, 2018) 


Vinson Cunningham, How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think (New Yorker Magazine, Jan 21, 2019) is a helpful cultural commentary 

Related Resources


Resources on criminal justice and reform

Resources on various topics related to race

the sociological uniqueness of the Old Testament used throughout this curriculum