By Jim Gabbard
Paul tells us in Philippians 4: 6, 7, that religion is good for our mental health. According to current news re-ports, (I’m sure you’ve heard it on TV) religion is also good for the physical health. We have known for a long time, of course, that true religion is good for the health of the total person; what we wonder is, why are scientists just now finding it out? A column appeared February 12, 1996, in the Dallas Morning News, written by Maggie Gallager, who writes for Universal Press Syndicate, parts of which we wish to share, and about which we’ll make certain comments.
But first, let me just say that Christians do not suffer alone. There are many things in this life that we do not understand; much of what we some-times endure goes beyond our comprehension. But God gives us a context in which to put all of these eruptions which plague our lives and are difficult or impossible to cope with. Paul himself was arrested essentially for believing in the resurrection, which was really not contrary to the Roman law, and was sent to jail, a hard fact to swallow. Yet, sitting there in chains, he said, “But I rejoice in the Lord greatly . . . I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in anyand every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Here this innocent man sits in prison, rejoicing. Just about any ordinary man would be moaning his head off and his heart out over the plight Paul was in. And what was he in for? Nothing! Innocent! Then, why is Paul so calm about it and even rejoicing? Because his name is written in the Book of Life (Lk 10: 20). Because he has a context into which he can put his trouble, and so do all true Christians everywhere, anytime.
Recently, a child of a friend of mine was diagnosed with not one, but two very serious physical maladies. In a discussion with the father, I noted quite clearly that he had minimum of anxiety about it, which reminded me that he was a child of God. The very word of Paul to the Philippians came to mind. Forgetting the financial circumstances for the moment and focusing on the part where he said, “… In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Back to Gallager’s column. It starts with a question, “Is God good for you?” and soon gets around to a re-sounding positive report based on a number of research findings primarily from a report by Patrick Fagan of the Heritage Foundation, summarizing his findings in a brief, Why Religion Matters. Ms. Gallager informs us of that which we have known forever, that “thinkers” like Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, and other intellectual elites view faith in three evil ways: first it was an irrational superstition; second a distraction for the oppressed, and finally, a crutch for the weak. She then quoted George Washington, as saying, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
Fagan further suggested, according to Gallager, that people who go to church, synagogue or mosque, on a regular basis reap benefits, in addition to being happier and better adjusted, of a healthier kind. The re-port says “by far” they have lower rates of depression, higher self-esteem and a much less frequency of alcohol and drug abuse or crime. They are also credited with longer, happier marriages, and wouldn’t you know that our sex obsessed media added that women even have bet-ter sex than agnostics.
The report goes on to suggest that religious people have less problems with blood pressure, on average by 5 milli-meters enough to reduce mortality rate by as much as 20 percent. That is a significant amount. One of the odd statistics in the report is one which says that among people who smoke, church attendance decreased the risk of an early stroke by 700 percent.
It seems that there is something for everybody in this report. One of our big problems today is black teenage pregnancies, which, in girls with religious background, is reduced significantly: premarital sex also is greatly reduced. Another provision which begs for attention by black people, shows that black men in prison come almost exclusively from one group: those who never went to church or those who stopped going at about age 10.
Another social benefit of being a careful worshiper is reaped by minority youths who live in the inner-city. Their chances of “escaping” the cycle of poverty there is greatly increased. Also affected is school attendance, work activity, and frequency of socially deviant behavior.
As unlikely as it may seem to many, an analysis of a large national sample found a very positive relationship between religion and prosperity. Among those who at-tended church weekly, the average family income was $37,021 in 1993, while those who attended none or less had an average income of $24,361.
It seems that that the “great” liberals of the past (and present) had (have) it all wrong. We believe, whether or not these reports confirm it, that the dynamic force of religion, and the great value of being a Christian, is the resurrection, and without the resurrection, our faith would be worthless, Be that as it may, it seems that folks reap a very great host of other benefits for their religious efforts. I do not wish to close, however, without saying that, while it may be true as stated in this report that many benefits accrue to church goers, the only benefit that really counts comes from a very careful, fine-tuned study of the Scriptures, and obedience to it precepts. In the final analysis, the only problems that matter are: Who am I? Where did I come from? What does it mean that I’m here? and What will happen to me when this life is over? The answer to these questions will not come from church attendance alone. It will not come from any library, or from science, or any man or men. The only source which speaks positively and correctly to these questions is the Bible, the word of the Living God.
Guardian of Truth XL: 12 p. 1
June 20, 1996