Want to live longer and happier? According to two Canadian studies, it’s a matter of being “spiritual” and “religious”—although not necessarily both.
Researchers at the University of Manitoba recently found that attending worship services can lower the potential for suicide. Results from a study of 37,000 Canadian adults revealed that those who did not attend church or go to a synagogue were twice as likely to have attempted suicide. Those who simply considered themselves “spiritual,” however, were just as likely to have tried.
Oddly enough, a separate study of children showed a converse outcome for those considered either “religious” or “spiritual.” In this report, researchers from the University of British Columbia found that children ages 8 to 12 who are more spiritual tend to be happier, while kids who are simply religious aren’t. Led by Mark Holder, the study defined being spiritual as relying on an inner belief system for strength and comfort, and being religious included such things as attending church and participating in rituals.
“Our finding of a strong relation between happiness and spirituality in children, but not between happiness and frequency of religious practice, suggests that spirituality and religious practice can be empirically separated,” Holder said. “It is somewhat surprising that the relation between happiness and spirituality reported in the present study with children was stronger than that typically reported in adults.” [washingtontimes.com, 1/16/09; christianpost.com, 1/15/09]
QUOTE: “You can’t express views that were common currency 30 or 40 years ago. Arguably, the parameters of what you might call ‘right thinking’ are probably closing. Sadly, along with that has come the fact that it’s almost socially unacceptable to say you believe in God. … It’s difficult if you talk about religious faith in our political system. If you are in the American political system or others, then you can talk about religious faith and people say ‘Yes, that’s fair enough,’ and it is something they respond to quite naturally. You talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you’re a nutter.” —BBC Radio personality Jeremy Vine, on how Christians are increasingly becoming social pariahs in Britain. The longtime host, who says he is a practicing Anglican, believes that talking about his personal faith on-air would be “destructive” because of the increasing intolerance toward expressing religious views in the U.K. “One of the things that I think, which may sound bizarre, is that Christ is who He said He was. [But] I don’t think I’d put that out on my show,” Vine says. “I suppose there’s a bit of a firewall between thinking that and doing the job I do. … Clearly we live in a secular society and that has increased, but I don’t get a sense of being persecuted. There’s a problem for people who are active in their faith in feeling that the society around them ignores them.” [telegraph.co.uk, 1/19/09]
QUOTE: “It’s just part of a 200-year working out of ideas about personal autonomy and equality that are sort of built into the American experience. The notion that someone is going to burn in hell because they have their own beliefs is just not resonant within our larger political ideals.” —Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, responding to the cultural shift toward an individualized, a la carte Christianity—as indicated in Barna’s recent study that showed American Christians are increasingly unwilling to believe their non-Christian neighbors will go to hell [csmonitor.com, 1/14/09]
QUOTE: “As a Christian, I can’t be satisfied knowing there are people living in such a condition. As a Christian, I’m a steward of the image of God. And every person on the face of the earth bears that image. I became responsible for Eka the day I met her.” —former Portland, Ore., youth pastor Mike Mercer, who founded and directs a nonprofit ministry called Compassion First to help individuals such as Eka, a young Indonesian sex slave, not only break free from her life as a prostitute, but also integrate into a rehabilitation and education network. Compassion First is one of the many emerging ministries trying to reach the estimated 27 million-plus slaves worldwide—an effort USA Today columnist Tom Krattenmaker says is indicative of “what evangelical Christianity increasingly looks like in the new century, and in the new paradigm.” [usatoday.com, 1/12/09]
Churches around the world echoed a singular cry last week calling for a cease-fire to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. In the United Kingdom, leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities met and released a statement urging British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to expend greater effort in ending the violence that has killed more than 850 Palestinians—including 230-plus children—and 13 Israelis since it began on Dec. 27. In addition, more than 3,300 people have reportedly been injured amid the conflict.
Both Israel and Hamas leaders have ignored a U.N. Security Council mandate to stop fighting, instead continuing the barrage of rocket fire and bombings throughout Southern Israel and the Gaza Strip. In explaining the massive discrepancy of fatalities between the two sides, Israel claims Hamas is using civilians as human shields.
“Behind all the horrors of death and destruction in Gaza are human faces and human stories,” said the statement released by British religious leaders. “Behind all the statistics for those killed and wounded, on either side, are human beings, each one a child of God.” Among those also officially calling for cease-fire are the World Council of Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Church of the Brethren. Several other parachurch ministries are involved in providing immediate aid to families caught amid the crossfire.
“What you see on television cannot be compared to what is happening,” reported Manuel Musallam, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Gaza City. “The word love is choking in my throat. … We are living like animals in Gaza. We cry and nobody hears us. I am asking God for mercy and pray that the light of Christianity continues to shine in Gaza.” [christianpost.com, 1/11/09; Catholic News Service, 1/5/09]