When you are a public figure, in particular a religious one, and you make public comment it is no surprise that people write to you. There are supporters and naysayers which is healthy when considering the issues that confront us. Equally, when it comes to the Church, some praise it while others damn it, which offers a healthy accountability and a sensitivity to the strengths and weaknesses of church or religion. In my experience of correspondence received, when it comes to church or religion, people can fall into the trap of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Wisdom would suggest a little more caution as I discovered recently.
Incoming correspondence encouraged me to follow up an article from a “Better Homes and Gardens” website that spoke of a new study from the Harvard’s School of Public Health. The study investigated the mental health and physical wellbeing of children and teenagers who were raised with religious or spiritual practices and found a lot of benefits.
The research findings, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found the following:
- that those who attended religious services at least once a week as children or teens were 18 percent more likely to report being happier in their twenties than those who never attended services;
- children who went to church were 33 percent less likely to use drugs in their twenties, were less likely to have sex at an earlier age, and less likely to have a sexually transmitted infection;
- people who prayed and meditated daily either at church or on their own reported greater life satisfaction, were better able to process emotions, and were more forgiving;
- children who attended church were less likely to smoke, more likely to vote and 30 percent of kids raised in church were more likely to do volunteer work;
- people who prayed or meditated on their own schedule had lower risks of substance abuse and depression later in their lives.
The author of the article made the comment, “next time you’re trying to get your kids to church on Sunday, go ahead and cite this article—and then maybe bribe them with a trip to get brunch after services.”
It is easy to damn research and we may question the findings but I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There just may be some value in church, having our children in youth groups, encouraging them to get to know God and talk/pray with Him, even choosing to not withdraw them from Special Religious Education classes at School.
As a personal testimony (in line with the testimony of our now adult children), church, youth groups, and prayer make an enormous difference, offering a quality of life that can be missing without them.