Stocks, Shackles and Pillory Pews

Stocks, Shackles and Pillory Pews

Sunday, September 5, 1999
| Matthew 18:15-20

In Colonial America, offenders were shamed into being ashamed; in postmodern America, offenders are ashamed of being shamed. In fact, shame seems in short supply today. but the latest research suggests that shame as as instrument of correction is an idea whose time has come again.

Prison construction is one of the fastest-growing industries in this country, but jails sitting side by side from Long Island to Los Angeles won't cure all the problems that plague postmodern America. Drunk driving ... child molestation ... deadbeat parents ... these sorts of misbehavior won't be curbed only by jail sentences and other government measures. Something else is needed: something that is personal, subtle and often taken for granted. Can you guess what?

Shame. Yes, shame. Disgrace, dishonor, ignominy. Feelings of guilt, embarrassment or unworthiness. Making people FEEL BAD is one of the cures for what ails us, says James B. Twitchell, author of the book For Shame: The Loss of Common Decency in American Culture (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997). We're beginning to see that not every problem has a legislative or judicial solution, and that there is a social GOOD in making troublemakers feel BAD.

The formal institution of shame as an instrument of government is an idea...

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